How to Get Rid of Termites in Your Rental Property

Written on July 17, 2013 by , updated on January 2, 2018

TermitesThere could be something very expensive lurking in the soil or wood of your rental property…

No, it’s not a gold watch, or your tenant’s “lost rent check”.

I’m talking about termites.  These nasty little bugs will eat you out of house and home!

With rental properties, its easy for termites to go unnoticed because tenants often don’t take the time to look for damage.

Why are Termites so Bad?

With their voracious appetite, these silent destroyers can inhale an entire home before they are even discovered.

The queen can produce thousands of eggs at a time, and in a few years, you could be looking at a colony of millions of termites comfortably feasting on your wallet.

Structural Damage

Termites will eat the structural beams that support your house. Damage to a structure depends on the size and species of the termite colony, conducive conditions (moisture and wood grade), seasonal variation and the amount of alternate food sources close by.

Termites will munch through a property’s structural timber: posts, wall studs, floor supports, subfloors and ceiling supports. The bottom line is that termites can cause ceilings or floors to collapse, threatening the lives of your tenants.

But they don’t stop at wood destruction.

A Taste for the Finer Things

Termites will eat many different things. They also consume cellulose-based plant materials such carpet, paneling, drywall, furniture, shelves, firewood, stored food, money and books. The USDA uses this cute interactive kid’s cartoon to educate the public on termites.

Some species don’t stop at single family homes, they will eat boats and even high-rise condos!

Where are Termites Located?

termite map

There are Different Species of Termites

Subterranean Termites

Subterranean Termites

One difference between drywood and subterranean termite colonies is that the latter can be found in the soil beneath or beside a home.

Subterranean termites build elaborate tunnels in order to access your wood.

Drywood termites build nests above ground, inside the wood.

Termites of any kind can sneak through small structural cracks in a home’s foundation, or they can get in through wood that sits both in the soil and near the house.

Drywood termites are the most common termite species in California. They are more leisurely diners and are fewer in numbers than subterranean species, which can grow to a million-member colony.

People in the southeast region of the U.S. need to be especially cautious of the Formosan subterranean termite colony, which can consume 13 ounces of wood a day and destroy a structure in only three months.

What Are the Signs?


Termite Damage in a Door Jam

While damage can range from superficial to major structural damage, a termite infestation can go unnoticed for years. Common signs of termites include:

  • Wood that sounds hollow upon knocking
  • Wood that crumbles easily
  • Bubbling/peeling paint
  • Small pinholes in drywall
  • Sagging/bubbling laminate floors
  • Loose tiles
  • Floors that buckle/sag
  • Discolored/sagging sheetrock on ceilings
  • Mud tubes on walls, beams and crawl spaces
  • Temporary swarm of winged insects (that look like ants) in or around your home
  • Termite droppings and discarded wings

Treatment – How to Get Rid of Termites

Before you Buy a Property

Get a termite inspection when you are buying a property. You can expect a report of the details for eradication, control and/or prevention. The good news is that in most cases, it takes years to grow a colony to a size that can severely damage a home (though if left untreated, even roofs can collapse).

If you’re looking to purchase a property, don’t foot the bill for the seller. Be sure the property is free from termites before you sign. Each year after you take ownership, have a thorough evaluation to avoid unknown growth of a termite colony.

If you Already Own the Property

Get it taken care of, immediately!

If your property is tenant-occupied, it’s best to stay calm and only tell them a minimum amount of information.  Be honest, but simply say “I’m treating the house for termites, to ensure that the property is safe and sound”.

You don’t want them to think that the roof is going to collapse in – which is a rarity that only occurs after many years of termite damage.

Option 1 – Do it Yourself:

Yes, there are many DIY termite solutions on Amazon – all of which promise to kill termites. The problem is that they don’t always kill the colony.  If you have an active infestation of termites, you should make sure that you kill them all.  Now is not the time to go cheap.

Option 2 – Hire a Pro:

Hire a professional termite extermination company to place termite “baits” around the property.  In the last 10 years, there has been some really revolutionary developments in the fight against termites.  The main weapon in this fight is Sentricon.

Sentricon uses a special bait system that allows the termites to feed readily on it but never detect the threat of poison — not even while the patented active ingredient is taking away their ability to eat, survive or breed. The result is death to the queen and her colony.

Most major pest control companies, such as Orkin and American Pest are authorized Sentricon dealers, and will be able to install the system in 30 minutes.

There are a few bait station products on Amazon, but I’ve never tested them out personally and have heard they don’t work as well as Sentricon.  Further, these DIY bait stations cost just as much as a professional, so I’d rather have a pro handle it.

Sentricon: How it Works: “Death to the Queen”

Steps to Preventing Termites

Keep firewood away from the house.  Termites often feed off of firewood.

Keep firewood away from the house.
Termites often feed off of firewood.

Save yourself time, money and grief by taking steps to keep your property clear of termites.

  • Keep wood (lumber, firewood, ect) away from the house structure and foundation.
  • Don’t let wood from your home come in contact with soil – wood siding, decking, etc.
  • Put screens on outside vents and windows
  • Check decks for damage
  • Repair leaky water sources
  • Control standing water (on roof, in gutters, in downspouts) and seal entry points near pipes

Other Resources

photo credit: firexbrat, AngloBaptist, cbb4104 via cc
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33 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Erin Bowe

    Hi Lucas!

    Thank you for the article, I will definitely by trying some of the DIY options for elimination!

    In the case of a property being infested (inside and out), is it my responsibility as a landlord to treat the property for the infestation?


    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Erin,

      If the infestation is severe enough, I suggest calling a professional company . Yes, since termites usually aren’t caused by anything that a tenant did, as the property owner, you would be responsible. Regardless of a tenancy, you’d want to get them taken care of ASAP, because they are literally eating you out of house and home. Depending on your area, sometimes terminate exist in a colony underground and topical sprays won’t help.

      If you allow it continue, and a structural hazard is caused because of it, you could be held liable for the harm to the tenants.

  • Deanna R. Jones

    Thanks for the tips! I recently found out that one of my rental properties has termites. You’re right, I need to have it taken care of immediately before the termites do serious damage to my property. Usually, I would try to get rid of the termites myself, but I don’t have time to take care it for the next few weeks. It seems like hiring a professional service to exterminate the termites for me is my next best option. I’ll be sure to get right on that.

    • Patricia Rauls

      I rent an apartment and I believe I have termites they are inside because they have damaged a lot my furniture, clothes, and I find them in my bed and food. My problem is when I try to tell my landlord about it he doesnt believe me and everyone else thinks it’s all in my head and that basically I’m crazy, how can I get them to take me serious.

  • Ted

    I have a question. Im in a rental and it is infested. I have seen up to six termites in a water glass on the table. There are termite tubes under the moulding and around the windows. It is creaping me out so bad I am going to move. What I am conserended about is my FURNITURE. I have hardwood tables, and chainsaw carvings of bears, my tables, couch legs etc. How do I make sure I do not have any termites in my furniture for when I move into my new home?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Ted,

      As far as I know, there’s no sure-fire way to ensure you don’t bring any with you. But termites like to hide in dark places. They rarely move from walls to furniture, and don’t hang out in cushions. I suggest wiping down your furniture, and possibly even treating it with a termite spray. If they were chewing on your table legs, you would see it.

      • Laura Rendako

        You can arrange with an exterminator to have you’re furniture treated along with a house he is treating
        Be certain that way I did it once

  • Paul Dolkas

    We have lived in a small 3 bedroom 2 bath for over 15 year down at the beach and not termite work has ever been done.
    It was showing in door and window jams and now in our kitchen cabinet and under the cabinet.

    What should our landlord be doing and if it’s tenting then is he responsible for a hotel the days we need to be gone and how is a price agreed too?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Paul,

      If the landlord cares about his property, he should hire a terminate professional immediately.

      If a unit is uninhabitable, then the landlord should provide an alternative dwelling. However, rarely does a terminate treatment make a unit uninhabitable. Usually, the treatment is not invasive, and non-toxic to humans and pets. There’s no reason you would have to vacate the home in order to treat it.

      I hope that helps. Please know that I’m not a lawyer nor is this legal advice. Good luck!

  • Scott N

    Hi Lucas,

    I recently noticed termite damage on the back edge roof of my house near a vine wall.

    Can treatment and work only be done on the outside of the house?

    I do not want any treatment or work done inside the house regardless how safe the pesticides supposedly are.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Scott

      For standard terminates, the most effective treatment (IMO) is the Senticon (or similar) spikes that go in the ground around your house. They are bait stations which don’t require doing any internal treatment to your house.

      A lot of companies will provide a free estimate and plan of attack. If I were you, I’d just call a local pro and see what they suggest based on the type of terminate you have. Good luck!

  • Scare-D Cat

    I am a tenant and we recently discovered termites. The exterminator told us that in a short amount of time, 10’s of thousands will swarm from the nests we found on the ceiling. Do you think this still constitutes ‘livable conditions’? Just your opinion, I know I’m not asking for legal advise!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Mr. Cat :)

      I guess you’ll just have to see what happens. If the house is swarmed, then I would think that it would be difficult to live there. But if the exterminator did his job correctly, he should be able to prevent it.

      I know that if there were 50 thousand flying termites in my house, I would certainly ask the landlord to put us in a hotel until the problem is resolved.

      Just wait to see what happens, and monitor the pests closely. Stay in close communication with your landlord and keep him/her up to date if the condition gets worse.

      Good luck!

  • hardik mehta

    hello lucas,
    i am the owner of my house and i have recently renovated my house by putting tiles on the walls and vitrified on the floors in the last month and plumbing work is also done recently and it is also new but still the termite problem is observed even only 10-15 days have been passed after renovation.. what should i do? and there was the same problem 7 years ago but i called professional and he solved the problem but it begins again.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Hardik

      I suggest following some of the treatment options listed in this article. If you just want to go all-out, hire a professional to lay down the bait stations and have them monitored for a year.

      Good luck to you!

  • hardik mehta

    thus tiles are new and plumbing work is also new thus there is no leakage of water but before renovation there was a problem of moisture in the walls but at that time there was no termite problem for 7 years but how is it possible that termite problem started in the new renovated house? and it is only seen on the edges of the tiles else nowhere but it can strike on the furniture so plz tell me the best and permanent solution..

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi again,

      I suppose anything is possible. If I were in your shoes, I’d have a pro come take a look at the house, and the signs of damage, and see what they suggest (if anything at all).

      The bait stations are the best solution in my opinion (but also the most expensive)

  • Marsha Thomas

    My apt. has a termite infestation. A very competent exterminator explained there is an infestation. He put foam in the walls and say’s in 3-4 weeks he will do surgery on the wall to determine the extent of the damage. They were coming out of the wall, and ate a picture. My question is this: When he removes the wall won’t air born molds etc be released. And, should I relocate until the renovation is complete?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Marsha,

      Do you know for a fact that there is mold in the walls? Mold is usually caused my moisture, which is not directly related with termites. The existence of terminates and the existence of mold are two unrelated things.

      Whether or not ripping that wall down causes your unit to become uninhabitable really depends on the situation. Many families live in a home during a large renovation, let alone a single wall repair. But if it possible that it might make your unit uninhabitable. You’d really have to discuss it with your landlord and come up with a plan.

      Good luck to you! I hope it works out.

  • Me

    So, about a month ago I moved into a new house and found out my old house had termites. I was unpacking things and found a dead termite on my carpet in my new house. My question is, will I now have termites in my new house? Did they decide to up and move with me?
    Help! Thanks!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi there,

      I think its most likely that one terminate got stuck in a box and died during transport. It’s my understanding that terminates need the colony to survive. So, I think you are probably safe, but keep an eye out for any signs of termite damage. If you want to be proactive, you could hire a termite company to place bait in your yard, which will eliminate any potential threat.

      Good luck.

  • Natasha Tolliver

    Hello! I recently purchased a home and got a clean bill of health from the pest company. It hasn’t even been a year and just yesterday I discovered termites within the walls of my guest room. I can see them crawling at the surface. Am I still responsible for the repairing the damage?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Natasha,

      A year is a long time, and termites can pop up fairly quickly.

      However, unless you were somehow responsible for introducing the terminates into the property, I don’t see how you could be held responsible for them, or their damage.

      It’s best to notify the landlord immediately, and hopefully he cares enough to take quick action. Good luck!

  • Cameron Mael

    I live in St Petersburg, Florida. We’ve only lived here 4 years, but long enough to see that termites are a bigger problem than we were used to seeing in Kansas. It has been my observation that many people have their houses ”tented”…but is that really the only good way to get rid of them? I’ve heard that tenting does not work nearly as well as people think. Our home we bought is a house that was tented..but it has termites already again and I want to get rid of them…but not at the high cost of tenting. The home is a small wood frame home, it does NOT have a concrete slab…it is built off the ground on wood posts or however they do it. Are the ”spikes” mentioned in this article a better way to go..and cheaper?

  • rita ramirez

    Hi i just moved to kissimnee fl into our studio and with in the first two months the toilet the sink had problems and now termites. My landlord did fix the first two but the termites well he sent his handy man and he claimed he sprayed the attic with some kind of treatment for termites. I dont understand why you would have a handyman doing the job of a pesticide company? Is he trying to treat this situation cheaply? I also have purchased boric acid powders and so many bug sprays and liquids because the termites seem to be flying around at night and coming out of holes in the walls. Am i able to take all ive bought online on these bug termianted sites off my rent due to the termites still being so active? Should i call someone on him? Helllp

  • Sarah Singer

    Hi, I’m looking to purchase a home and just finished inspection. The inspector found termites. Weve been told by some people to stay away as you could never fully destroy termites and it will need to be treated every few years. Others sy a one rime treatment can do it. Please advise. Thanks!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Sarah,

      I’ve had termites before, and I’ve been able to get rid of them (with no sign of return – going on 8 years).

      I think it really just depends on the size of the colony, and the quality of the treatment.

  • Braden Bills

    My friend was complaining about termites in his rental property. I don’t think he realizes how dangerous they can be to the structure of the place! I’ll make sure that he knows to call a good exterminator to help him out.

  • Brian

    Our rental became infested with termites~ landlord did nothing over the years. In the master bedroom, I noticed that the wooden dresser( it’s like woven wood design) well the top of it had been chewed away somewhat by termites. I am now moving and putting my things in an air conditioned storage unit. If termites are transported via the dresser and end table that matches, will all my boxes be eaten etc? Should I get rid of these items?

  • Nellie

    I live in a condo. Five years ago I had my kitchen cabinets replaced with wooden ones. For the past few months I have been finding small white droppings on the counter top as well as what looks like flying insects flying around the kitchen and dinning room lamps. I sprayed them and killed them and thought that was the end of it. Last night my computer stayed on all night. this morning I found a bunch of wings under the monitor, when I picked up the papers inside were like 20 aunt looking insects with no wings and mostly dead. Looking in the internet found your site, any recommendations. Should I keep spraying the outside of the cabinets? Cannot get into the wood…

  • marc

    i am sure that I have termites . originally i thought it was powder post beetles . i did not really know what I was looking for .it took the landlord a year and a half before he would even look at the floors. there were many holes and a lot of discoloration on the floors. l could see larvae in the cracks. it was out of control . the floors were sanded and treated with Timbor. this made the floor worse . the floor has many red marks that look like scars .some of them are swollen . my furniture has been ruined , & i have the creeps. landlord won’t take care of the problem . i have no choice but to move . is he responsible for the damage done? thanks for your help

  • jenni

    Hi, I hope you’re still around to answer questions — you’ve been so helpful to the community so thank you!

    Last year we had hundreds of termites at our window sill. We informed our apartment manager but she insisted they weren’t termites and didn’t bother to come look at them. This summer they are back and the new apartment manager called Orkin who said it looked like we had a colony of 40,000 in our building. A few months passed and I found out our apartment owners have no plans to do anything because it’s too expensive. I’m wondering if we are in danger of floors or walls collapsing. I’m on the third floor. Do we need to do anything else? Thanks.

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