San Francisco Apartment Association

Notifying Tenants of Pesticide Use at a Rent Property

Existing law requires a registered structural pest control company to provide a written notice to the owner of property, the owner's agent, and tenants of the property when pest control work is to be done at the property. In the case where a contract for periodic service has been executed, the pest control company must only provide the notice at the time of the first treatment. This requirement has been law in California since 1984 (Business and Professions Code Section 8538).

The notice must include the following information: "State law requires that you be given the following information: CAUTION: PESTICIDES ARE TOXIC CHEMICALS. Structural pest control companies are registered and regulated by the Structural Pest Control Board, and apply pesticides that are registered and approved for use by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Registration is granted when the state finds that, based on existing scientific evidence, there are no appreciable risks if proper use conditions are followed or that the risks are outweighed by the benefits. The degree of risk depends upon the degree of exposure, so exposure should be minimized. If, within 24 hours following application, you experience symptoms similar to common seasonal illness comparable to the flu, contact your physician or poison control center and your pest control company immediately.

For further information, contact any of the following: Your Pest Control Company; for health questions, the County Health Department; for application information, the County Agricultural Commissioner, and for regulatory information, the Structural Pest Control Board†(phone numbers must be provided for each of these agencies and departments). This law is structured to provide notice to existing tenants. New tenants who come to the property after the initial treatment may never have received a notice about the pesticide application.

In an effort to correct this legal "oversight" Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach), has introduced legislation that requires the owner of a residential rental dwelling unit to provide each new tenant with a copy of the notice provided by a registered structural pest control company pursuant to the existing Business and Professions Code. This new legislation aside, many members of CAA already provide notice to all existing and new tenants in advance of pesticide application.

While the harm of these pesticides may not pose a significant risk to humans, many rental property owners believe it is in their best interest to provide advance notice to all tenants, especially if the tenants are at home during the day, have small children who may be playing outdoors when pesticides are applied, or if tenants keep animals on the property. Specifically, owners point to Proposition 65. This law, officially known as the "Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act" was approved by California voters in 1986.

Proposition 65 is based on the premise that the public and workers have a right to be informed about exposures to chemicals that are known to the state to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm. Businesses with ten or more employees must provide a warning before knowingly and intentionally exposing their employees or the public to a pesticide that poses a significant risk. Unless the owner can demonstrate that exposure to a chemical poses "no significant risk" a warning must be provided.

Businesses may choose to provide a warning based on the presence of the pesticide without attempting to evaluate the exposure. Because businesses that are found guilty of violating Proposition 65 may face penalties of up to $2,500 per day for each violation, many rental property owners simply provide a notice to all tenants prior to each pesticide application.

Pesticides must not be allowed to drift, run off, or move off target, or be used in any way not approved by the label, law, or regulation. Some agricultural and professional pesticides require that users get a special permit from the county agricultural commissioner prior to application. The California Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment is the lead agency responsible for implementing Proposition 65.

If you have any questions about Proposition 65 or about anyone who you have hired to apply pesticides at your property, you can call the Department of Pesticide Regulation at 916-445-4300 or your local County Health Department. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the SFAA or the SF Apartment Magazine Debra L. Carlton is the vice president of policy and research for the California Apartment Association and is CAA's chief lobbyist, advocating association policies and positions at the legislative and regulatory levels of government in California.