…and other critters other than termites
By: Helsing Admin
It is that time of the year; things are heating up and the insects are showing up. In fact, in many cases they are moving into your home with you. What do you do about them – and is it your responsibility, or the association’s responsibility to address them?
General – Generally, except for the noted exception of termites, if the pest is in your house it is your problem. You can turn them into pets, or eradicate them (eradicating is probably better), but once they enter your home, in most cases they are yours. Do check your governing documents to make sure you are not the rare exception, but in all likelihood they are your pests once they are in the home. (Please note, this article is not going to address termites because they are often handled uniquely – both in the governing documents and in the civil code. Termites are a subject of their own.)
Yes, in the vast majority of associations the pests can’t get to your home unless they come from the common area. The association typically has a duty, as part of their maintenance responsibilities, to use reasonable measures to control pests in the common area and to deal with dangerous pests (bees and wasps), or pests that can cause health concerns (pigeons). Again, however, you should check the association’s governing documents because there are occasionally exceptions to the association’s responsibility in this matter – but most of the time pest control in the common area is an association responsibility.
However, the association typically has no duty to ensure that the common area is entirely pest-free (assuming that would even be possible) or that pests would not enter your home. Basically, once the pest is in your home it is your pest (or pet if you prefer).
Insects – This is the time of year when ants start heading indoors. Not much you can do about it other than eradicate using whatever method you are most comfortable with. However, you should let your association know you have the infestation, because that should signal the association to begin increasing their own pest control service if they have not already done so.
Honey bees are a challenge. The rules for killing or removing honey bees vary y jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions you can kill them if they are in the walls, but not if the hive is outside the walls. In others, you cannot eradicate them at all. In the southern part of the state, Africanized bees have spread to the point that hives may not be able to be relocated because bee keepers are afraid of contaminating their hives. In short, if they are stinging insects you should seek professional advice.
Rodents – Rats and mice, ugh! Nasty creatures and they can spread disease. They are also very prolific, so if you see them or their droppings it is time to do something quickly. You can easily get a rather large infestation that is going to affect your walls, electrical wiring, wiring in your car (if in the garage) – and worse. Like ants, if you are getting a rat or mouse infestation you also need to let the association know. While they may not be able to help you inside your home, they certainly need to be aware and to step up mitigation in the common area if they have not already.
Gophers are another common rodent and while they are not protected, they are both prolific and recurring. They can be trapped, smoked, poisoned, and in rural areas you can even blow up the tunnels. However, they tend to come back again and again, particularly if you live near open fields. If the open fields are common area and are extensive, it may be cost prohibitive for the association to actually control them at all.
Birds and Waterfowl – Pigeons and swallows are the most common bird problem in urban areas. When pigeons move in it is both unsightly and unhealthy. The only good news is they tend not to occupy an entire community at once, but rather pick a specific building or two. When driven off from that building, the other good news is they typically do not move next door but rather move many blocks away. The bad news is they will eventually move back to a closer building as they get forced to move next. Professional advice is recommended (and for you folks who have moved from back east – no, you can’t shoot them with BB guns like we used to – this is California).
Swallows also start nesting this time of the year. Once they begin to build their nest, disturbing them or the nest is prohibited. Once their offspring are born and they all leave the nest (including the adults) to migrate elsewhere (not just because they all went out looking for worms), then you can remove the nest. Be advised they will come back next year to exactly the same spot, so if you don’t want the nest next year, you will need to do something to prevent it before they return.
In some areas ducks, geese and other waterfowl have been known to decide a pool or pond is their new home. If that is where you do not want them, you are going to probably need professional assistance in removing them. Some species are protected.
Lions and Tigers and Bears – Oh my! OK – maybe not the tigers but in many rural communities mountain lions, bears, and other wildlife can be a part of life. The good news is these residents typically accept that as part of rural living, community association or not. Some of it is self-correcting. In one community I am aware of the deer population was becoming a real problem until a cougar moved in for a few months and thinned them out. My experience has been that residents in urban areas with ants and rats are way more upset than residents in those communities with mountain lions and bears, so we are not going to discuss those – I only threw them in to let you know things could be worse if you are upset over your ants. At least you know your kids can go out and play without being bait.