Termites and Arizona Homeowners

The purpose of this article is to provide basic information for homeowners and real estate professionals about termites in Arizona.

The subterranean termite specie that is native to the Sonoran desert of Arizona is known as Heterotermes aureus.  Subterranean termites live in the soil and are attracted to moisture.  The moisture under the foundation of a home provides a potential nesting location.  Therefore, it is critically important that homes built in the Arizona desert be pretreated for subterranean termites.

Pretreatment Provides a Horizontal Barrier Against Intrusion

In Arizona, a pretreatment for subterranean termites involves treatment of the soil with a liquid termiticide, such as Termidor, before the concrete foundation for the home is poured.  This provides a horizontal barrier under the foundation against intrusion into the home by termites.  Purchasers of new homes from a builder or developer should make sure that the soil under the foundation of their home was pretreated with a liquid termiticide before the concrete slab was poured.

The active ingredient in a liquid termiticide is usually very toxic, so it must be diluted with water before being applied.  Therefore, the termiticide concentrate is mixed with water according to the instructions on the product label.  For example, one gallon of termiticide might be mixed with 400 gallons of water in a large tank.  A licensed applicator working for a licensed pest management company uses a hose to spray the termiticide from the tank onto the soil.  A typical pretreatment involves the application of 300 to 800 gallons of diluted termiticide, depending upon the size of the foundation.

Experts familiar with termite problems in Arizona generally consider a pretreatment with liquid termiticide to be a homeowner’s best protection against potential problems with subterranean termites.  Although Arizona law does not require a home to be pretreated, the standard of care for pest management professionals may require it, especially for homes built at desert elevations.  Therefore, if a new home is not pretreated and has resulting termite problems, a new home buyer may have a negligence claim against pest management professionals whose recommendations to the builder or developer did not include a pretreatment.  Also, if the owner of a new home knows that the home was not pretreated, it may be necessary to disclose this fact to a potential buyer of the home, especially if there is a history of termite problems.

New Construction Treatments Above the Slab

Some builders decide to skip the pretreatment and opt instead for a treatment above the slab during construction.  For example, their pest management company may apply a treatment to some of the wood during the framing stage of construction.  In Arizona, termiticide treatments applied above the slab during construction, i.e., after the foundation is poured, are known as new construction treatments.  Regulations promulgated by the Arizona Office of Pest Management require that new construction treatments include the treatment of critical areas that are known to allow intrusion of subterranean termites into the home.  One of these critical areas is the dirt that is found in bath traps.  Bath traps are areas in the foundation that are blocked out around pipes, thereby preventing the concrete from entering these areas.  In other words, they create “holes” in the foundation that extend down to the dirt below.  The regulations require that during a new construction treatment, the dirt in bath traps must be treated with a liquid termiticide.  This is done in order to provide a barrier against termite intrusion into the home through the bath traps.  If an applicator fails to treat the dirt in bath traps with a liquid termiticide during a new construction treatment, this is generally considered to be negligent, and may provide the basis for a claim by the homeowner against the pest management professionals.

Termiticide products that are applied to wood above the slab may state on the product label that they are pretreatments.  However, this is incorrect when the product is used in the State of Arizona.  The Arizona Administrative Code defines a pretreatment in Arizona as a treatment of the soil before the concrete slab is poured.

Sub-Label Rate Applications of Termiticide

New construction treatments may involve spraying or painting a termiticide onto wood during the framing stage of construction.  In performing these treatments, it is important that the applicator properly calculate the amount of termicide needed for the application, properly mix the termiticide, and properly apply the termiticide.  If any of these steps is incorrectly performed, the termiticide may be applied to the wood at a rate below that required by the product label.  This is known as a sub-label rate application, and will not provide the necessary protection against termite attacks on the wood.  If an applicator performs a sub-label rate application of a termiticide, this is generally considered to be negligent, and may provide the basis for a claim by the homeowner against the pest management professionals.

Pest Management Regulation

In Arizona, pest management professionals are licensed by the Office of Pest Management (OPM).  Licensees are required to complete continuing education in order to maintain their licenses.  In addition, every time a licensee performs an application of termiticide, the licensee is required to file a Termite Action Report Form (TARF) with OPM.  The TARF provides the date and location of the treatment, the pest management company and the applicator that performed the treatment, the name and amount of the termiticide applied, and the type of treatment performed.  On OPM’s website (www.sb.state.az.us), homeowners can search their address to find the TARFs relating to treatment at that location.  However, do not rely on this search to be complete, because OPM may include only the most recent TARFs for a particular address, or the TARFs may not have been submitted as required.

Final Grade and Post Construction Treatments

At the conclusion of construction of a new home, the pest management company performs a final grade treatment.  This consists of a perimeter trench around the foundation of the home that is filled with liquid termiticide, and then back-filled.  The amount of termiticide used depends on the length of the perimeter trench, and the concentration of the termiticide mixture.  The final grade treatment provides a barrier around the perimeter of the home.

Post construction treatments may also be needed if the homeowner finds evidence of termites in the home.  The two most common things that indicate the presence of termites are tubes and kick-holes.  Termites form tubes through which they pass from one location to another.  Tubes can appear on both the interior and the exterior of the home.  The Heterotermes aureus termite specie is prolific at building tubes.  Kick-holes are small holes formed in the drywall, and provide evidence of termite activity.  There are a variety of post construction treatments for termites.  One involves the application of foam termiticide into the area behind the drywall, where there is evidence of a termite tube or kick-hole.  Other post construction treatments may involve the use of a perimeter trench, the installation of a termite baiting system such as Sentricon, or injection of termiticide into an area under the foundation.

Warranties

Finally, pest management companies that perform a pretreatment are required to provide a five-year warranty to the new home buyer.  In addition, companies often sell warranties as part of their post construction treatments.  The value of a warranty depends upon its written terms, and upon the reputation and financial stability of the company that provides it.  Warranties usually provide that the pest management company will not return to retreat a property for a certain period of time after a treatment, e.g., 60 or 90 days.  Therefore, homeowners should make sure they understand how frequently a pest management company will retreat an ongoing termite infestation under the warranty.  In addition, warranties that accompany post construction treatments often require the payment of an annual fee for renewal of the warranty.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article provides useful information about termites in Arizona for both homeowners and real estate professionals.  According to experts, the best way to protect a home against termites in Arizona is to pretreat the soil with a liquid termiticide before the concrete slab is poured.  This is the only way to provide an effective horizontal barrier under the slab against intrusion into the home by subterranean termites.

Craig Stephan
Attorney at Law
480-621-8281
website: www.craigstephanlaw.com
email: info@craigstephanlaw.com

Termites and Arizona Homeowners
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