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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