Best Pest Control and Prevention Tips for Your Rental Property

Written on November 5, 2014 by , updated on December 3, 2019

Pest Prevention and ControlFall in the northern regions of the United States can cause unwanted furry friends to take refuge in your home or rental property.

While managing properties in the Midwest, I have experienced issues with the following unwelcome visitors:

  • Mice and Rats
  • Birds and Bats
  • Squirrels
  • Roaches
  • Ants and Other Insects

My best advice is to prevent pests from getting into your property in the first place. However, if you are reading this article, it may be too late for prevention.

If you are reading this article, it may be too late for prevention.

Listed below are my tips for prevention as well as the best ways I have found for controlling or eliminating pests that have already found their way in.

Pest Prevention Tips

1. Educate Your Tenants

Finding out what maintenance issues are going on in your properties is much easier when you ask your tenants rather than waiting for them to tell you!

    • Educate them that doors and windows left open without a screen are open invitations welcoming nature in.
    • Inform them of the risk of damage and their financial responsibilities due to negligence on their part.
    • Impress upon them the importance of cleanliness and taking garbage out regularly.
    • Send a monthly or quarterly email updating them on the maintenance schedule and requesting that they inform you if anything seems out of the ordinary with the house or apartment.

It’s much easier to ask your tenants about issues rather than wait for them to tell you!

2. Perform Annual Preventive Maintenance

Before the cool weather arrives, check the exterior of the buildings for entry points and seal them up with steel wool, caulk, cement or caps as needed.

  • An uncapped chimney can be an entry point for squirrels.
  • Small holes in the mortar, foundation, near pipe or vent holes can be entry points for mice.
  • Small holes in your siding or roof can be entry points for birds and bats.
  • Holes and tears in window screens can be entry points for insects.
  • A loose sewer cap can be pushed open by rats.
  • An unprotected exhaust pipe for the dryer can become home for a variety of animals, or a place where a child might decide to stick ping pong balls, which also is not good.

Yes, all of these things have happened at my properties.

Pest Control Tips

Getting rid of rodents and insects once they have gained access is sometimes difficult, but not impossible. Though I’m not a pest-control professional, I’ve certainly had my fair share of standoffs with mice.

Whenever possible, I try to solve the problem myself, which saves me thousands of dollars every year.

Here are the techniques that I have used to rid my properties of pests, without having to hire a pest-control company.

Mice and Rats

  1. Traditional Snap Traps
    I have found that traditional snap traps work best with peanut butter as the bait for mice and rats.  If you catch a rat in a mouse-sized trap, it will typically not kill the rat but will trap it until you are able to dispose of it.
  2. Poison
    Poison is effective for killing pests but can also be harmful to pets and people.  I have used poison successfully for the rats that pushed the sewer line cap open (yuck!!!).  The poison I used was in a pet-proof/child-proof container and I purchased it from our local pest-control expert.
  3. Live Traps
    These are cages meant to trap the pest alive so you can release it back into the wild.  Just be sure you don’t release it anywhere near the home you just caught it in.  It will likely find its way right back in.

Birds and Bats

Sealing up their point of entry will usually trap them in or out.

If you trap them inside, they will likely die due to lack of food which is not only inhumane, but will create a smell that might last for weeks. If you do trap them inside the house, try to capture and release the critter outdoors.


  1. Provide an Exit
    Open doors and windows to see if they will leave on their own.
  2. Chase Them Out
    If they don’t exit on their own, gradually chase/move towards them with a large sheet in the direction of the nearest exit.
  3. Trap ’em
    Still not gone?  Set a live trap and release far from the home they were occupying.

Once the squirrel is gone, immediately identify possible points of entry. If you are not able to quickly seal up possible entry points permanently, use temporary methods until you are able to find a better solution.


According to the Discovery Channel, roaches would survive a nuclear bomb. If this is true, how in the world can you rid them from your rental?

Try these methods, which we detail in the article How to Kill Roaches in a Rental Property.

  1. Boric Acid
  2. Bait Stations
  3. Roach Gel
  4. Petroleum Jelly in a Glass
  5. Professional Exterminator

Ants and Insects

Pesticide is one of the most-effective ways to get rid of ants and insects. However, if children or animals occupy the home, I let my adult tenants decide what, if anything, is sprayed, so they can give informed consent and accept the risk and liability.

  1. Exterior Chemicals
    Spraying a product like Home Defense around the exterior foundation of the home is extremely helpful.
  2. Interior Chemicals
    Spraying the interior floorboards and entry points as well usually completes the job.
photo credit: looseends via cc
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29 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Sandy Adams

    All good advise. Don’t forget to trim the trees and cut back the ivy where small critters like to nest.

  • Angie Toomey

    Those are great additional tips Sandy. Thank you for sharing!

  • Jeff (The MaanLord)

    We had squirrels entering a 1′ inaccessible chase area between our ceilings and flat roof. There was no way to get up there and shoo them, or open a window, or even get a trap in there.

    We got a great piece of advice from an old school landlord: Squirrels absolutely love peanut butter (so do rats and mice, by the way, this works on them, too). Just take some rat poison, and mix it into a tablespoon of peanut butter and put that in a Ziploc bag and toss it wherever they seem to be holed up.

    They will literally lick the bag clean, and must leave the property to die, because the poison creates an irresistible need to drink water (severe diuretic). ONLY AFTER you stop seeing or hearing evidence of their comings and goings, find their entry point and seal it off (or else they could be trapped inside and die –what a smell–, or worse, actually find a way into the property and emerge as a surprise guest in the daughter’s dollhouse).

    Our situation required us to pick a corner of the room, punch a quarter sized hole in the drywall and tuck the bag up through the hole, and place a temporary patch. But in about a month…squirrels no mas!

    The Maanlord (@maanlord)

    • Angie Toomey

      Whoa Jeff, that is a unique situation and I am glad you were able to resolve that challenge. Like you, I have had great luck with peanut butter and I can hardly blame the pests for loving it…it is delicious. On that note, should you decide to lace your peanut butter with poison, be sure that any extra is clearly labelled or disposed of!

  • Sean

    Keeping bugs and rodents away is a MUST! This list is a great starting point for taking care of business. I also found a tool ( that has in-depth tips for many types of pests. I don’t like the way the tips are filtered, but most of the tips look pretty good.

  • Gaston Parizeau

    Our house has an ant infestation, which is bad enough, so reading this article makes me very happy I don’t have to worry about some of the other things mentioned. I’ve worried about using pesticides, especially considering the infestation is almost completely in the kitchen. I’ll have to do some research to find out what kinds of products might be safe to use to get rid of them.

    Gaston Parizeau |

  • Jeff Bridges

    Angie, poison can be very useful to use against mice and rats. You need to be careful with it though. My dog found rat poison and ate a lot of it. Luckily we got him to a hospital to get his stomach pumped and he was fine. Make sure to put the poison where pets and small children won’t be able to get to it.

  • Mark Daniels

    It’s a lot of work to maintain a home being rented out. We haven’t had any issues with squirrels this year, but since there are large trees around me, that means there are birds that are making themselves comfortable in places in my home. Luckily, they are easy to get out, but I will need to find some type of pest control service so they can inspect the home in case there are other critters or not.

  • Serge Duval

    Every pest you listed can be a pretty big nuisance. My brother has pretty consistently had problems with ants. He hasn’t been able to find the way they’re getting into the house. The best solution he’s found is to avoid leaving food out. I appreciate the tip about not trapping a bird or bat inside. I can see why the smell would make this a bad idea. Thanks for the great tips!

  • Callie Marie

    Thanks for the great article about pest control. I wish my landlord had told me some of these tips when we moved into our rental home. We could have prevented a bunch of problems by setting up the proper traps right away. Last year we somehow had a bird sneak in through the pipes. Luckily we were able to catch it and release it without any problems.

  • Virginia Davis

    Thanks for the tips. I get really squeamish around bugs and rodents, so I really appreciate your advice on how to prevent them getting into your home in the first place. That being said, getting rid of them is the issue right now, so your tips for what to do to get rid of them are really helpful. I especially like your idea to hire a professional exterminator. That way, I won’t have to deal with the creepy crawlies myself.

  • Nick Mallory

    When my wife and I moved into a new apartment last summer, we had the unpleasant surprise of finding big wolf spiders on out bed nearly everyday. I was merely disturbed, but my wife was petrified. Luckily we were able to get a good pest control company out eventually, but it took a while to find a good one. I wish that our landlord would have helped us out with it. A little annual maintenance, like you said, would have gone a long way. Thanks for the good post!

  • Brett Lewis

    Thanks for the great article about pest control, we love working with landlords that are proactive with their pest control management and we help our clients out by educating their tenants on the importance of pest control.

  • Kathy Renfrow

    Is it normal for the landlord to pay for pest control (spiders)? My tenant just called to tell me she has spiders in the condo and has been bitten.

  • Ethel

    Getting advice from a building inspector on how to setup your building to prevent infestations seems like a good way to start! Providing exits for squirrels to get rid of them without spending money and harming them is smart. Doing the same with bats is a nice way to get rid of the critters but in a nice way. Thanks for all the pest control tips!

  • Lily de Grey

    Excellent article, Angie! I’m glad that I stumbled upon it because I’m looking for some pest control tips. I haven’t ever tried setting up traps for mice, but I’ll be sure to follow your suggestion and try them. I haven’t ever tried poison, so I’ll try doing that too. Thanks for the great tips.

  • Deanna Jones

    I’m really concerned about pests taking over my rental properties, so these tips seem like they would help to keep them away from them. Educating my tenants about keeping the inside of my rentals seems like a great preventative measure. I’ve heard of apartments doing cleaning checks every month. I should do the same to make sure that my tenants are keeping my houses clean so that rodents and bugs won’t invade them anytime soon. Thanks for the tips!

  • Charles Clayton

    Very useful tips. I will surely apply it specially rodent pest control and cockroach killer.

  • Jennifer Andrews

    I like the idea of letting tenants know what to look out for in advance. That way if they do report it it hopefully won’t be too late to get a pest control service out to them in time. For some reason we always have an issue with birds flying in at this time of year no matter what protection I’ve set. Should I have a professional pest control service check out the home and see if they can see something I haven’t?

  • Breck Lewis

    These are some really awesome tips about getting rid of my pest control issue. People don’t realize that there are chemicals we can buy to do it ourselves and save lots of money. Last week I went to home depot and bought some equipment that was kind of expensive, but in the long run it should save me some money. At what point of doing it yourself, do you call in the professionals if you don’t see quick results?

  • pestcontrolaantex

    All the tips mentioned above are quite nice but I want to add that if houses and yards are kept clean, there is no food for pests and nowhere for them to live and breed, and this in turn means that there are few pests.This is the best tip.

  • Sam Wilkins

    I like what you said about checking for holes in window screens. It makes sense that a hole would be a perfect way for something to crawl in when the window is open. My daughter leaves her window open sometimes, so I will make sure her screen doesn’t have holes to prevent any bugs from getting in when she does.

  • Braden Bills

    All of these tips are useful for all home owners, not just landlords! Things like performing annual preventive maintenance and setting out traps can help anyone with a pest problem. Another useful thing to know is the signs of an existing infestation, like a bunch of dead flies in one place or rat droppings. Thanks for the article!

  • David Hawkins

    I had no idea that traditional snap traps were still widely used for dealing with mice. I have seen people use cheese like in cartoons and things, but peanut butter sounds like a much better idea. I’ll have to pass along this article to a friend who is dealing with a lot of rodents on their property right now. Thanks for the awesome advice and tips!

  • avi


    i have a problem we are getting ants in my apt and i didnt have an exterminator come to my apt for the last 8 month. when an exterminator is supposed to come to my apt every month. the problem is that he comes at 9 till 12:30 and no one is home then everyone is going to work. is ther landlord responsable for this?? i know the exterminator can come early when people are home or come after 5 when people are home but is refusing to do this. what should i do??

    thank you

  • Tony

    I have a rental house in Texas. My question deals with doing your own pest control on a rental property. So many things are regulated like plumbing and electrical work. Are there any regulations about a property owner doing their own pest control when using regularly available products, like “Home Defense” which is available at Home Depot?

    Thank you

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