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Mice in aptsMar 21, 2007


Some of our units have a chronic mouse problem. It turns out that with the change of management we have not had an exterminator in almost a year. And the mice are back. While the Board is going to have each unit detailed for mice, and then shareholders must adhere to the monthly schedule, some of the units have huge holes behind the dishwashers that the exterminators say they "do not fill." They suggested getting a contractor to take out dishwashers and close the holes in the walls that were left from the original renovation the sponsor did in 1987. Are individual shareholders in a co-op responsible for this sort of repair work hidden wall areas? There is no way to tell what else lurks behind the kitchen cabinetry, backspashes etc.
Would appreciate knowing how other co-ops handle the repair of walls and filling in holes to prevent mice from getting in.


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Problems with mice - BP Mar 22, 2007


Board Newbie - Funny you mention this. We just went through this after MANY months of dealing with mice. Exterminators will find areas that need to be sealed but they won't move d/w's, fridges, ranges. Shareholders have to do it or get someone to do it (the super?) and pay for it themselves.

The coop is responsible for sealing common areas but you can't require shareholders to move appliances, patch holes, etc. and pay for it unless conditions in their apt cause problems for others and the building. Also can't require them to sign up for monthly service (far as I know).

I'd suggest a few other things:
-- A notice reminding people to discard garbage promptly, tie it tightly in bags, not leave food exposed, put food from open boxes (esp cereals, grains, fatty foods) in air tight containers, and seal holes esp around baseboards, in cabinets and around pipes/gas lines. (Holes around kitchen pipes/gas lines are the most common way mice get in).

-- Check all common areas and building rooms for holes.

-- Check the building exterior, the backyard, the garage, etc. and put bait stations/traps in those areas.

-- Have your super bag loose garbage in your trash areas promptly and get it out of the building asap.

-- Check indoor/outdoor drain holes for blockages. (Mice, bugs and rats look for sources of water as well as food).


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Mice exterminators, continued - Board Newbie Apr 03, 2007


Thanks BP, for all your good info. But I am still not clear on Co-op responsibility for mice in apartment and getting rid of them. As a shareholder in this co-op for 14 years, we never paid for exterminators, Corp. did. Certain apts have more problems than others for no known reason. I am on the Board and one of the owners with a bad mouse problem. We changed managing agents recently and the new one informs us that shareholders are responsible for exterminators and this is news to me. Additionally, it turns out there hae been no monthly exterminator visits to treat the common areas or untis since we changed management over a year ago. So I am on both sides of this and would like to be fair. It seems this would be under the warranty of habitability where one is entitled to a vermin-free apt. Any thoughts?

Thanks,
BN


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Reply to Newbie re: mice - BP Apr 03, 2007


Newbie, sorry if this is long but I don't know how to reply to your questions in 25 words or less.

If your bldg's had no monthly extermination in over a year, I think that's the first thing you should focus on. Find a good exterm company, decide the level of bldg service you need and include service to apts that request it on a sign-up sheet. If a company wants your business, they may give you extras and negotiate on price. Sealing holes/cracks is critical to keep mice out and you likely have more than you did a year ago. Mice are nibblers. They can chew thru wood, plaster, vinyl, and slip through a hole as small as a dime. You should also get sweeps (barrier strips) for bottom of doors for all bldg rooms (boiler compactor, pump, storage) and doors to the outside. Get metal sweeps. Mice can chew through even the hardest rubber.

Most proprietary leases say shareholders are responsible for keeping the apt interior clean and in good repair. Our attorneys say that includes sealing holes/cracks around pipe/gas lines coming into an apt, in baseboards, etc. Have your attorney check your lease. Exterms find areas that need sealing but shareholders have to empty cabinets and move major appliances. Exterms I've dealt with wouldn't do that. They also don't seal holes/cracks, just locate them.
As I understand it, if any work beyond the scope of service covered in a contract with an exterm company is requested, the coop pays for it in bldg areas and shareholders pay for it in apts. Ask the exterms and your coop attorney. Also, look through Habitat's article archives. You can also type keyword "mice" on the Net and find a lot of info on their habits, food-search patterns, how to get rid of them, etc.

Re: mice, you said "certain apts have more problems than others for no known reason." There HAS to be a reason and it's most likely holes/cracks. It could even be a split in a hardwood floor or a "mistake" hole you made in a wall to hang something and never plastered up.

Mice forage fairly close to their nest, usually not more than 10-25 feet, and they're always looking for food or water. If they find even a tiny hole they explore, and if there's food left out, open boxes of food, food scraps in trash cans, etc. in an apt, you're going to have uninvited (and unwelcome) guests for dinner.

I can't tell you too much on the warrant of habitability. It mostly referred to rentals and gets complex with coops. The standard meaning referred to a tenant being deprived of essential functions to which he/she is reasonaby entitled, such as heat, plumbing, electricity, absence of mold or lead paint. A breach of the warrant depends on the extent of the problem, if it affects health and what, if any, corrective measure have been taken. Not sure where, but I read somewhere that a coop proprietary lease has been deemed to be no different than other (rental) leases and "Courts found that a landlord-tenant relationship is created by the proprietary lease thereby rendering the coop corporation liable for breach of the warranty." (I found that in my notes from our dealings with mice last year.)

Again, it would be wise to consult your coop attorney. I'm not an attorney so don't hold me to anything legal-ish I may have written here. :-) I hope some of this helps you.


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