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Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Pest Control Service in San Diego

Pest infestations not only pose serious health risks for residents of the San Diego area but also have far-reaching economic impacts. Approximately 25 percent of unexplained building fires are caused by rodents chewing on electrical wires, gas lines, and support beams. Hiring a licensed and qualified exterminator to get rid of pests in your home helps you avoid health problems and also potentially saves you thousands of dollars in structural damages. However, to ensure that your pest control services are provided per federally-accepted pesticide application standards, always ask the following questions before hiring any exterminators in San Diego:

Are You Licensed to Practice as an Exterminator in San Diego?

Services that involve controlling the spread of household pests and wood-destroying pests and organisms in San Diego are regulated at the state level by the California Structural Pest Control Board (SPCB). To this end, exterminators in the city are statutorily-required to obtain an appropriate license from this board before offering their services to interested parties. Failure to do this is considered a misdemeanor offense, and exterminators that are found guilty of this offense can receive fines of up to $5,000, county jail time of up to six months, or a combination of both.

The SPCB groups the pest control services that it regulates into three different branches, namely:

  • Branch 1 - Fumigation: This branch of structural pest control involves the use of fumigation with lethal or poisonous gases to control household and wood-destroying pests
  • Branch 2 - General Pest: This branch of structural pest control involves the use of any means or methods except fumigation with lethal or poisonous gases to control household pests
  • Branch 3 - Wood Destroying Organisms: This branch of structural pest control involves the use of insecticides, structural repairs and corrections, and other similar means except for fumigation with lethal or poisonous gases, to control wood-destroying pests and organisms

Pest control licenses issued by the SPCB are equally categorized into three different types, and holders of each of these different license types are only authorized to provide pest control services within the scope of their licenses. These license types are:

  • Applicator Licenses: Applicator licenses are the SPCB's entry-level licenses, and holders of these licenses are authorized to eliminate, exterminate, control, and prevent pest and organism infestations or infections through the application of pesticides, rodenticides, and other allied chemicals or substances. However, this work must be limited to Branch 2 - General Pest and Branch 3 - Wood Destroying Organisms services and must also be done on behalf of a registered pest control company. As such, exterminators that hold SPCB-issued applicator licenses cannot contract for work on their own behalf
  • Field Executive Licenses: Exterminators with field executive licenses are authorized to identify infestations and infections, make pest-related inspections, and provide pest control services within the scopes of all three of the SPCB's structural pest control branches. Note that, while holders of these licenses can also submit bids for work on behalf of registered pest control companies, they cannot contract for pest control work or provide pest control services on their own behalf
  • Operator Licenses: These licenses authorize exterminators to provide any type of SPCB-regulated pest control services and also allows them to own and operate their own pest control companies or act as qualifying managers for pest control companies that they do not own

Exterminators that wish to obtain any of the aforementioned licenses will be required to complete an appropriate Examination Application Form or an appropriate Re-examination Form for applicants that have taken the board's licensing examination within the past six months. The completed forms, along with the stipulated examination fee, should be submitted to the SPCB at

Structural Pest Control Board
2005 Evergreen Street
Suite 1500
Sacramento, CA 95815

The board typically provides applicants with instructions for scheduling a licensing examination time, date, and venue after receiving and reviewing their submitted application forms. Note that exterminators that wish to obtain Operator Licenses are generally required to complete certain SPCB-approved pre-operator courses and submit evidence of this. You can get additional information or make inquiries related to the SPCB's licensing process and requirements by contacting its Licensing Unit at (916) 561-8704.

Also, exterminators in San Diego that wish to offer non-household pest control services or perform any work that involves the application of state or federally-restricted pesticides are generally required to obtain separate state-issued licenses or certifications from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR). Information on this department's licensing and certification process can be gotten by contacting its Licensing and Certification Office at (916) 445-4038.

Confirming that your intended exterminator has been properly licensed by the SPCB is a necessary step to take in ensuring that your home's pest infestation is satisfactorily taken care of. You can do this via the Search for a License webpage that the board provides and maintains for this purpose. In situations where you require the services of exterminators for non-household pest control services, you can confirm that they have been duly licensed or certified by the DPR by accessing its List of DPR Licensees.

Are You Registered with the California State Pest Control Association?

In addition to confirming your intended exterminator's licensing status, another important step to take in ensuring that you receive satisfactory pest control services in San Diego is finding out if they also belong to the Pest Control Operators of California (PCOC). Membership with the PCOC provides exterminators in the city with several benefits, some of which include:

  • Access to continuous pesticide-related education and training opportunities
  • Better insurance options
  • Regular updates on relevant pesticide laws and regulations
  • Tips on better customer relations

Exterminators that belong to the PCOC are also expected to uphold its Code of Ethics when offering and providing their services to interested parties, which in turn generally translates into professional and satisfactory service delivery.

Note that, while the PCOC is the premier pest control trade association in San Diego, some exterminators in the city may also belong to other organizations, such as the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). You can find exterminators in San Diego that belong to the PCOC or the NPMA via the respective Operator Search and Find a Local Exterminator directories provided by these organizations.

Always request proof of membership from exterminators that claim to belong to trade associations and verify this proof with the relevant organization. Also, if the exterminator claims to belong to any associations other than the PCOC and NPMA, it is a good idea to look up these trade associations online to find out if they are genuine and also get an idea of their reputation within the city.

How Much Do You Charge for Pest Control Services and Why?

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that pest control workers in the San Diego area earn an average wage of $20.67 per hour for their services. However, the overall cost of your required pest control service is largely dependent on several factors, such as:

  • The type of pest infestation in your home
  • The size of your home or infested area
  • The severity of the pest infestation
  • The frequency of the required treatments
  • The exterminator's level of experience and reputation
  • The type of pest control method used
  • Your location within the city

Make sure that you find out exactly how much you will be charged for your required pest control services before your preferred exterminator begins any work. It is also advisable to get and compare quotes from at least three different exterminators in the city before reaching any final hiring agreements. This way, you can get a fair idea of the current going rates for your required pest control services within your vicinity, which in turn helps you avoid being overcharged for these services by fraudulent exterminators. Note that you should also look out for exterminators that offer suspiciously low quotes, as they oftentimes have hidden charges that are revealed once they commence work.

Pest control workers in San Diego earn an average annual wage of $43,000. The list below compares the average hourly wages of this category of professionals in the city with those in other parts of the State of California and other locations across the United States:

San Diego Pest Control Workers Average Hourly Wage
$20.67
San Jose Pest Control Workers Average Hourly Wage
$24.72
Los Angeles Pest Control Workers Average Hourly Wage
$20.91
San Francisco Pest Control Workers Average Hourly Wage
$23.24
Sacramento Pest Control Workers Average Hourly Wage
$19.64
Oakland Pest Control Workers Average Hourly Wage
$23.24
Carlsbad Pest Control Workers Average Hourly Wage
$20.67
Chicago Pest Control Workers Average Hourly Wage
$19.05
Houston Pest Control Workers Average Hourly Wage
$19.30
New York City Pest Control Workers Average Hourly Wage
$21.35

Do You Comply with the City of San Diego Regulations for Pesticide Application?

Hiring an exterminator that is familiar with relevant pesticide regulations ensures that your required pest control services are offered professionally and also protects you from the sanctions that are typically associated with violating these regulations, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. The key regulations that control the use and application of pesticides and other related materials in San Diego are the California Structural Pest Control Act and Division 6 of the California Food and Control Code. Some general requirements of these regulations include:

  • Ensuring that exterminators are properly licensed by either the California Structural Pest Control Board or the Department of Pesticide Regulation before providing household pest control and non-household pest control services respectively. Note that these non-household pest control services include the application of general and restricted pesticides in residential, industrial, and institutional areas
  • Ensuring that homeowners or tenants are provided with clear written notices that state the type of pest to be controlled, the pesticides that will be used, and the active ingredients of these pesticides. In situations that involve Branch 1 - Fumigation structural pest control services, this notice must be issued at least 48 hours before the pest control work is done
  • Ensuring that all single units and rooms within a structure are evacuated before any fumigation is done. Inspections must also be done to determine whether the fumigation may pass to adjacent or adjoining structures and if these structures will also need to be vacated

You can contact the state's Structural Pest Control Board and Department of Pesticide Regulation at (916) 561-8700 and at (916) 445-3976 respectively to get additional information on the provisions of the aforementioned pesticides regulations that may affect your specific pest control work. Inquiries concerning this subject can also be directed to the San Diego City Information Center at (619) 236-5555.

What Type of Pest Control Method Are You Using?

Finding out the type of pest control method that your intended exterminator utilizes is another crucial step to take in ensuring that you receive satisfactory pest control services. Professional exterminators in San Diego typically employ several types of pest control methods, which are collectively referred to as Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies, when dealing with pest problems. These strategies are:

  • Biological Control: This involves the use of a pest's natural enemies, such as predators and competitors, to control its growth and damage in an area. Examples of this include the use of cats as both pets and also to control rat and mice populations in a home. While this pest control strategy is largely environmentally safe, its efficacy heavily relies on using the right type of animal or organism
  • Mechanical and Physical Control: This involves the use of items and devices like traps, baits, sprays, row covers, and electromagnetic and ultrasonic emitters like Pest Soldier and MaxMoxie to either kill the pests directly, block the pests out of an area, or make the environment unsuitable for them
  • Cultural Control: This pest control strategy focuses on reducing the pest's chances of establishing, reproducing, dispersing, and surviving in an area. This usually involves establishing better hygienic conditions in the area or changing certain practices that promote pest infestations
  • Chemical Control: This involves the use of pesticides for long-term pest control. Some common pesticide brands used in this method are Bifen IT Concentrate, CimeXa Insecticide Dust, and Termidor SC Concentrate. This strategy is typically only used when absolutely necessary and in combination with other approaches that minimize the possible harmful effects of the pesticides on people and other non-target organisms in the area

Note that while these pest control strategies can be used individually, they are usually more effective when they are used in combination with each other. You can find professional exterminators in San Diego that expertly combine these integrated pest management strategies when providing their services by accessing online directories provided by the Pest Control Operators of California and the Better Business Bureau. Always verify the current licensing status of any exterminators that you wish to hire in the city before finalizing any agreements with them.

What Household Pests Do You Control?

Professional exterminators in San Diego offer a wide range of pest control services across several types of household pests, which include, but are not limited to, mice, termites, bedbugs, mosquitoes, and ticks. These pest control services can be generally grouped into two main categories, which are:

  • Pest Extermination and Removal: This involves getting rid of pests that have already infected an area
  • Pest Prevention: This involves taking measures designed to ensure that a pest infestation never occurs or returns to an area

To this end, always find out the type of pest control services and household pests that your intended exterminator specializes in and make sure that they align with your specific pest problem. Failing to do this can cost you time and money looking for a more qualified exterminator to properly rid your home of its pests.

Listed below are cost estimates for pest control services provided by exterminators in San Diego:

Ant control
$85 - $380
Bat removal
$223 - $323 per visit
Bed bug treatment
$290 - $670
Beehive removal
$90 - $400
Bug and insect treatment
$170 - $206 (for initial treatment for standard four-bedroom home)
Mosquito control
$120 - $220 (for one-time treatment)
Mouse extermination
$80 - $245
Roach extermination
$90 - $375
Rodent inspection and trap setting
$195 - $215
Silverfish extermination
$130 - $385
Small animal removal
$80 - $512
Spider removal
$120 - $210
Termite extermination
$490 - $2,450
Termite treatment
$8.40 - $11.50 per linear foot (for chemical treatment)
Tick control
$175 - $455
Wasp control
$120 - $800

Note that the nature of your pest problem will typically determine the number of visits from your exterminator that will be required to ensure that your pest problem is completely handled.

Do You Carry the Necessary Right Insurance Policy for Exterminators in San Diego?

Considering that over 2,800 work-related injuries were reported amongst pest control workers in the United States in 2020 alone, the importance of hiring insured exterminators cannot be over-emphasized. Failing to confirm your exterminator's insurance and bonding status can make you liable for any injuries that they incur in your home, as well as any property damages that occur when providing your required pest control services.

As such, you should always ensure that your intended exterminators have complied with the SPCB's insurance and bonding requirements for exterminators that operate in San Diego before retaining their services. These requirements include:

  • Carrying minimum liability insurance of $500,000 to cover any single loss due to bodily injury, sickness, disease, or death sustained during the provision of pest control services
  • Carrying minimum liability insurance of $500,000 to cover any single loss due to injury or destruction of property during the provision of pest control services
  • Posting and maintaining an indemnity bond of $12,500

Note that DPR-licensed pest control businesses may be required to carry additional liability insurance with minimum coverage limits ranging from $5,000 to $100,000. Likewise, exterminators in San Diego that have employees are also statutorily required to carry workers' compensation insurance for each of these employees.

You can ensure that your intended exterminators have complied with all applicable insurance and bonding requirements by requesting copies of their insurance and bonding certificates and contacting the relevant issuing organizations to authenticate these certificates. You can also get additional information on these insurance and bonding requirements by contacting the California Structural Pest Control Board, Department of Pesticide Regulation, and Division of Worker's Compensation's San Diego district office at (916) 561-8704, (916) 445-4038, and (619) 767-2083 respectively.

How to File a Complaint Against a Bad Exterminator in San Diego

Matters involving bad exterminators and pest control scams that occur in San Diego are typically referred to state agencies like the California Structural Pest Control Board for relevant regulatory action.

When searching for suitable pest control services in San Diego, you should always lookout for signs that you may be dealing with a fraudulent exterminator or a con artist. In the 2019-20 fiscal year, the California Structural Pest Control Board referred more than 60 accusation matters concerning bad exterminators to the state's Attorney General's Office for appropriate legal action. A few years earlier, NBC San Diego reported a story involving a man pretending to be a city pest control worker that had helped burglarize homes in the San Diego area by distracting homeowners with offers of pest inspection and prevention services. Some other common techniques used by fraudulent exterminators and con artists to scam unsuspecting homeowners in San Diego include:

  • Requesting upfront payment for their services and then not performing the required work
  • Downplaying the importance of written contracts or using unclear terms in their contracts so that they can include hidden charges for their services
  • Providing pest control services without an appropriate license
  • Charging premium rates for pest control-related devices and equipment, and then using subpar devices and equipment for the job

The following tips can help you avoid falling victim to fraudulent exterminators and conmen when searching for suitable pest control services in San Diego:

  • Be wary of individuals that go door-to-door offering free pest control services
  • Always research your specific pest problem as well as the best types of pest control methods for this problem before commencing your search for professional exterminators
  • Reach out to friends and family for recommendations on reputable exterminators in the city. You can also get referrals to these exterminators from organizations like the Better Business Bureau and the Pest Control Operators of California
  • Always get and compare quotes for your required pest control services from several exterminators
  • Make sure that your preferred exterminators inspect the pest-infested areas before offering their final prices
  • Always verify that your preferred exterminators have been properly licensed by the SPCB via its Search for a License webpage. If your required pest control services involve non-household pest control, then equally make sure that the exterminators have also been duly licensed or certified by the DPR via its List of Licensees
  • Always confirm your exterminator's insurance and bonding status
  • Always ask your exterminator for references and contact these references to get their reviews on the effectiveness of the exterminator's pest control services as well as their on-the-job professionalism and behavior
  • Make sure that the exterminator informs you of the types of pesticides that will be used for the job and how these pesticides will be applied before they commence any work
  • Make sure that you are given a written contract for the job. This contract should contain the exterminator's contact details, the nature and scope of the pest control services that are to be provided, the cost of these services, and a guarantee of their effectiveness. Ensure that you review this contract properly and understand its terms and conditions before signing it
  • Never make full payments for pest control services upfront

Complaints concerning fraudulent exterminators in San Diego can be filed with the California Structural Pest Control Board either by calling (916) 561-8708 or by mailing a properly completed consumer complaint form to:

Structural Pest Control Board
2005 Evergreen Street
Suite 1500
Sacramento, CA 95815

Note that these complaints must be filed no later than two years from the date of the incident that is being complained about.

You can also file complaints concerning pesticide-related matters in San Diego with the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the San Diego County Department of Agriculture, Weights, and Measures by calling (916) 324-4100 and (858) 694-8980 respectively.

Choosing Between Local Pest Control Firms and Large National Chains: The Pros and Cons

After taking steps like ensuring that your preferred exterminators are adequately licensed, specialize in the types of pest problems that you have, and also utilize proper pest control methods to tackle these problems, you may still be unsure of the most qualified professional to hire. In many cases, consumers in San Diego get stuck between choosing a local exterminator or retaining the services of popular firms like Orkin, Terminix, Ehrlich, Arrow Exterminators, and Truly Nolen. If you find yourself at this point, weighing the pros and cons of hiring local exterminators or going with national pest control firms can help you make the right decision:

Pros

Local Pest Control Firms
Cheap for routine pest treatment and maintenance
Offer affordable and highly customizable pest control plans
Deep understanding of the local environmental conditions and seasonal pest infestations
Quicker service turnaround due to proximity
More personal customer service
Nationwide Pest Control Brands
Suitable for routine pest treatment of large homes, offices, and other commercial places
Standardized Pricing and Plan
Perfect for specialized pest treatments requiring sophisticated tools
Retain the services of a wide range of Pest Control professionals
Broader service offerings

Cons

Local Pest Control Firms
Limited specialized equipment for pest control
Limited manpower and resources to clean large area
Nationwide Pest Control Brands
Expensive pest control plans
Same-treatment approach to all customers