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

More than seven percent of households in the San Francisco area report frequent rodent sightings in their homes, with approximately four percent of these households also reporting frequent roach sightings. Hiring a licensed and experienced exterminator to rid your home of these pests provides you with the assurance that the job will be done properly, professionally, and per the provisions of the EPA's pesticide application standards. To make sure that the exterminator you hire is aptly suited for the task at hand, you should always ask the following questions:

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

The California Structural Pest Control Act stipulates that services related to the control of household pests and wood-destroying pests and organisms in San Francisco must be provided by individuals and businesses that have been licensed by the state's Structural Pest Control Board (SPCB). Pest control services that are regulated by this board are categorized into three branches, which are:

  • Branch 1: this branch of pest control involves using fumigation with lethal or poisonous gases to control household and wood-destroying pests or organisms
  • Branch 2: this branch of pest control involves using any method except fumigation with lethal or poisonous gases to control household pests
  • Branch 3: this branch of pest control involves using insecticides, structural repairs and corrections, and other similar methods except for fumigation with lethal or poisonous gases to control wood-destroying pests or organisms

The SPCB also offers three licensing options to interested exterminators, namely:

  • Applicator License: this is the board's entry-level license, and it allows the holder to apply pesticides, rodenticides, and other allied chemicals or substances to eliminate, exterminate, control, or prevent pest or organism infestations or infections. Note that this license allows holders to provide only Branch 2 and Branch 3 pest control services, and this work must be done on behalf of a registered pest control company. As a result, individuals that hold applicator licenses are unable to contract for work on their own behalf.
  • Field Executive License: holders of SPCB-issued field executive licenses are authorized to conduct inspections, identify infestations or infections, submit bids on behalf of registered pest control companies, and also provide pest control services in all three of the SPCB's pest control branches. Note that individuals with this license type are only authorized to provide their pest control services on behalf of a registered pest control company and they cannot contract or perform pest control work on their own behalf
  • Operator License: individuals with this license type are authorized to perform any type of pest control work in all three of the SPCB's pest control branches. The key distinction between the SPCB-issued operator license and its field executive license is that individuals that hold an operator license can own and operate their own pest control businesses or act as qualifying managers on behalf of another pest control business

Exterminators that wish to obtain any of the aforementioned licenses from the SPCB may do so by completing an appropriate Examination Application Form and submitting this form to:

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

Note that applicants that have taken the board's licensing examination within the past six months will be required to submit an appropriate Re-Examination Form instead. Also, individuals that wish to obtain operator licenses must complete board-approved pre-operator courses, and all applicants must also pay stipulated examination fees. Once the submitted application forms and all necessary additional documentation have been reviewed and approved, applicants are issued instructions on scheduling a time and date for the required SPCB-administered licensing examination. Applicants that successfully sit for and pass this examination are subsequently issued the requested pest control license.

Inquiries concerning the SPCB's licensing process for exterminators that operate in San Francisco can be directed to the board's Licensing Unit at (916) 561-8704. It should be noted that providing structural pest control services in the city without appropriate licensing is a misdemeanor offense and offenders can receive fines of up to $5,000, jail time of up to six months, or a combination of fines and jail time. Likewise, exterminators in the city that wish to offer non-structural pest control services or services that involve state or federally restricted pesticides must obtain separate state-issued certifications or licenses from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR). Queries related to procedures and requirements for obtaining these certifications and licenses can be directed to the department's Licensing and Certification Office at (916) 445-4038.

Always make sure that any exterminators you hire in San Francisco have been properly licensed by the SPCB by verifying their licensing status via the board's Search for a License webpage. You can also verify that the exterminator you intend to hire for non-structural pest-related services has been properly certified or licensed by the DPR via its online List of Licensees.

Are You Registered with the California State Pest Control Association?

In addition to ensuring that your preferred exterminators have valid state-issued pest control licenses or have been state-certified where appropriate, membership with the Pest Control Operators of California (PCOC) is another criterion to look out for before finalizing any hiring arrangements with these individuals. Members of the PCOC are obligated by the organization's Code of Ethics to provide exemplary services, and they also receive continuous educational opportunities and consumer relations training, as well as access to better insurance options. All these not only translate to optimal pest control services for homeowners who hire them but also provides them with an additional route for consumer mediation in circumstances where they are unhappy with the exterminator's work.

Note that some members of the PCOC may also be members of the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), which gives them access to a broader range of educational and business tools. Nonetheless, you can find members of the PCOC and the NPMA that operate in San Francisco via these organizations' respective Operator Search and Find a Local Exterminator online search platforms. However, it is important to note that any exterminator in the city who claims to be a member of this organization should always provide proof of this membership as well as proof of proper licensing with the SCPB or DPR where applicable.

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

You should always endeavor to find out exactly how much you will be expected to pay for your required pest control services before any treatments begin to avoid misunderstandings with your exterminators later on. According to data published by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, pest control workers in the San Francisco area earn average hourly wages of $23.24. Regardless of this, the total cost of your required pest control services will also be determined by several other factors, such as:

  • The types of pests involved
  • The severity of the pest infestation
  • The size of the infested area
  • The frequency of the required visits and pest treatments
  • Your location within the city

To ensure that you are charged a fair rate for your required pest control services in San Francisco, you should consider getting cost estimates from at least three different exterminators in the city. Compare these estimates and then choose the one that fits your budget best. Note that you should get these exterminators to inspect the infested areas before they come up with their estimates and also provide them with identical task parameters for the job. It is also important to note that you should not blindly pick the exterminator who offers the lowest quote, as some unscrupulous exterminators purposefully offer low rates to defraud unsuspecting homeowners.

Pest control workers in San Francisco earn an average annual wage of $48,330. 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 Francisco Pest Control Workers Average Hourly Wage
$23.24
San Jose Pest Control Workers Average Hourly Wage
$24.72
Oakland Pest Control Workers Average Hourly Wage
$23.24
San Diego Pest Control Workers Average Hourly Wage
$20.67
Los Angeles Pest Control Workers Average Hourly Wage
$20.91
New York City Pest Control Workers Average Hourly Wage
$21.35
Philadelphia Pest Control Workers Average Hourly Wage
$19.66
Houston Pest Control Workers Average Hourly Wage
$19.30
Chicago Pest Control Workers Average Hourly Wage
$19.05

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

The use and application of pesticides in San Francisco is governed by a number of state and local laws and regulations. These include the California Structural Pest Control Act, Division 6 of the California Food and Control Code, and Chapter 3 of the San Francisco Environment Code. Some key provisions of these laws and regulations include:

  • Individuals who provide household pest control services within San Francisco must be licensed by the California Structural Pest Control Board
  • Individuals and businesses that provide non-household pest control services and apply pesticides in residential, industrial, and institutional areas in San Francisco must be properly certified or licensed by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation
  • Pest control services carried out on city property must utilize a city-approved pest management process

It is critical to ensure that your chosen exterminator is familiar with these laws and regulations to ensure that your pest control work is done per all relevant provisions of these laws and also to avoid the penalties that are commonly linked with violating these provisions. You can get additional information or find out the requirements and provisions of the aforementioned pesticide laws and regulations that may apply to your specific pest-related situation by contacting any of the following agencies:

  • The California Structural Pest Control Board - (916) 561-8700
  • The California Department of Pesticide Regulation - (916) 445-3976
  • The San Francisco Customer Service Center - 311 for callers within San Francisco, and (415) 701-2311 for callers outside San Francisco

What Type of Pest Control Method Are You Using?

Another important criterion to look out for when determining the suitability of exterminators for tackling your pest problems is the type of pest control method that they intend to use for the job. The most commonly utilized types of pest control methods in San Francisco are:

  • Biological Pest Control: biological pest control involves introducing another living organism into a target area solely to control its pest population. These living organisms are usually natural enemies of the pests in question and they can be predators, pathogens, or parasitoids. Examples of biological control include the use of cats to control rodent populations and the use of lady beetles and lacewings to control ant, aphid, and mite infestations. While this type of pest control is generally considered environmentally safe, it is largely dependent on introducing the proper organism into the target area and it also requires constant human intervention to ensure proper effectiveness
  • Physical/Mechanical Pest Control: this pest control method involves using devices like baits, traps, and ultrasonic or electromagnetic emitters, as well as organic sprays, to repel or kill pests in a target area or limit the damage caused by these pests without affecting other animals and plants in the area. Examples of these devices and sprays include Rostermark, Pest Soldier, Tomcat Rat Snap Trap, Authenzo Humane Mouse Trap, Eco Defense Organic Home Pest Control Spray, and Wondercide All-Purpose Organic Home & Garden Insect Control
  • Cultural Pest Control: cultural pest control involves using environmental sanitation and hygiene, habitat modifying techniques, and other similar behavioral changes to reduce the growth, reproduction, establishment, and survival of pests in a target area. This type of pest control method is useful in preventing pest infestations from taking place or re-occurring in treated areas but may prove ineffective in getting rid of already established pest infestations
  • Chemical Pest Control: chemical pest control involves using chemical pesticides to get rid of pest infestations. These pesticides typically contain major active ingredients like malathion, fipronil, indoxacarb, boric acid, permethrin, and carbaryl, and they can come in solid, liquid, or aerosol form. Examples of common chemical pesticides used by exterminators in the city include CimeXa Insecticide Dust, Bonide (BND253) - Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew, BioAdvanced 3-in-1 Insect Disease & Mite Control, Termidor SC Concentrate, and Bifen IT Concentrate. However, it should be noted that the improper use or application of pesticides can have hazardous health effects on humans and other living organisms in the target area

To this end, you should always confirm the types of pest control methods that will be used for your pest control services and also that these methods can suitably resolve your specific pest problem. Professional exterminators in San Francisco typically make use of an integrated pest management system that combines two or more of the aforementioned pest control methods to ensure the safe and effective reduction of pest populations in infested areas. You can find licensed and professional exterminators in the city via online directories provided by organizations like the Pest Control Operators of California, the National Pest Management Association, and the Better Business Bureau.

What Household Pests Do You Control?

Exterminators in San Francisco typically offer three primary types of pest control services, namely:

  • Pest prevention
  • Pest extermination
  • Pest removal

Pest prevention involves taking actions to deter pests from entering or infesting your home while pest extermination and pest removal involve taking actions to stop the spread of pests in your home and get rid of existing pest infestations. Note that while many professional exterminators in the city are qualified to provide services over a wide range of household pests, some of these professionals may specialize in specific types of pests and tailor their services around these pests.

To this end, before concluding any hiring arrangements with exterminators in San Francisco, always confirm the types of household pests that they specialize in controlling as well as the types of pest control services that they are equipped to offer.

Cost estimates for commonly requested pest control services are provided below. Note that the actual cost of these services will depend on variables like the severity of your pest infestation, your location within the city, and accessibility to the infested areas:

Ant control
$90 - $400
Bat removal
$235 - $345 per visit
Bed bug treatment
$280 - $700
Beehive removal
$90 - $400
Beetle control
$85 - $600
Bug and insect treatment
$180 - $220 (for initial treatment for standard four-bedroom home)
Millipede/centipede control
$100 - $750
Mosquito control
$160 - $240 (for one-time treatment)
Mouse/rat extermination
$70 - $350
Roach extermination
$80 - $395
Rodent inspection and trap setting
$205 - $230
Silverfish extermination
$120 - $400
Small animal removal
$75 - $545
Spider removal
$100 - $230
Termite extermination
$450 - $2,500
Termite treatment
$9 - $12.50 per linear foot (for chemical treatment)
Tick control
$175 - $465
Wasp control
$115 - $815

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

Exterminators in San Francisco are required to meet certain SPCB-mandated insurance and bonding obligations in order to operate legally in the city. These obligations are:

  • They must maintain liability insurance coverage with a minimum limit of $500,000 for any single loss resulting from bodily injury, sickness, disease, or death suffered by any person during the provision of pest control services
  • They must maintain liability insurance coverage with a minimum limit of $500,000 for any single loss resulting from injury or property damage, including the loss of use of the property in question, during the provision of pest control services
  • They must post and maintain an indemnity bond of $12,500

In addition to this, exterminators or pest control businesses in the city that have employees are required by state law to carry workers' compensation insurance for these employees. Note that pest control businesses that hold DPR-issued licenses may also be required to meet separate liability insurance requirements.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, pest control workers across the country recorded a total of four fatal and 2,820 non-fatal work-related injuries in 2020 alone. Hiring exterminators that are properly insured ensures that you are financially and legally protected in the event that any fatal or non-fatal injuries or property damage occur when these exterminators provide your requested pest control services.

Therefore, always ask for proof of insurance and bonding from any exterminators in the city that you intend to hire before they begin any work in your home, and validate this proof with the appropriate insurance or bond issuing organization. Also, endeavor to confirm that the exterminator's coverage limits are adequate for the nature and scope of your required pest control services.

You can direct queries related to San Francisco exterminators' insurance and bonding obligations to the state's Structural pest Control Board and its Department of Pesticide Regulation at (916) 561-8704 and (916) 445-4038 respectively. Queries related to state-mandated workers' compensation insurance requirements for exterminators in the city can also be directed to the California Division of Workers' Compensation's San Francisco District Office at (415) 703-5020.

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

Local authorities in San Francisco do not typically provide direct redress for the unsatisfactory actions of exterminators in the city. Nevertheless, you can file complaints concerning these types of matters with the California Structural Pest Control Board (SPCB).

Even though numerous reputable pest control businesses operate in San Francisco, there are also unscrupulous exterminators and pest control businesses in the city that prey on unsuspecting homeowners. Some common strategies that these scammers use to defraud these unwary homeowners include:

  • Going door-to-door offering free rodent inspections and then discovering proof that the homeowner requires immediate pest control services. However, this œdiscovered proof is usually planted by the exterminator
  • Lying about their licensing status
  • Sending unlicensed or inexperienced exterminators for jobs
  • Downplaying the importance of written service contracts
  • Charging premium rates for pesticides and other pest control devices, and then using subpar materials for the job
  • Requesting full payment for their services and then absconding without doing any work or doing a suboptimal job

In the 2019-20 fiscal year alone, the SPCB referred more than 60 accusation matters to the California Attorney General's Office for appropriate legal action against the offending parties. Similarly, in September 2020, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) reported that it had taken appropriate disciplinary action against a pest control business that had violated various pesticide application regulations while providing pest control services in several counties across the state. To this end, you should consider the following tips when conducting your search for qualified exterminators in San Francisco to avoid falling victim to pest control scams:

  • Research your type of pest problem and suitable methods for controlling this problem before beginning your search for exterminators and pest control businesses
  • Do not hire door-to-door exterminators
  • Reach out to friends and relatives for recommendations on reputable exterminators in the city. You can also utilize platforms provided by organizations like the Better Business Bureau, the Pest Control Operators of California, and the National Pest Management Association to find reputable exterminators and pest control businesses in the city
  • Get and compare costs for your required pest control services from at least three exterminators before making your final hiring decision
  • Make sure that your exterminator has a valid and appropriate SPCB-issued pest control license or has been properly licensed and certified by the DPR if you require non-household pest control services
  • Verify the exterminator's insurance and bonding status
  • Request references and contact them to get reviews on the exterminator's services
  • Find out the types of pesticides, if any, that will be used for the job and how these pesticides will be applied
  • Make sure that you are given a written service contract before any pest control work begins. Review this contract properly before signing it and make sure that it includes the exterminator's contact details, the nature, scope, and cost of the pest control services that will be provided, and a guarantee of the effectiveness of these services
  • Do not pay the full cost of any pest control services upfront and be wary of exterminators that ask you to do this or demand cash payment

Complaints concerning the actions of unscrupulous exterminators and pest control businesses in San Francisco can be filed with the California Structural Pest Control Board, either by contacting this board at (916) 561-8708 or by submitting a completed consumer complaint form to:

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

Note that this board can only handle these complaints if they are filed no later than two years after the incident in question occurred.

Complaints concerning inappropriate pesticide use in San Francisco and other pesticide-related matters in the city can be reported to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation at (916) 324-4100. These types of matters can also be reported to the San Francisco Department of Public Health's Pesticide Use Enforcement Program by calling 311 or (415) 252-3862.

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

Even if you check all of the boxes for the exterminators that you are considering in terms of reputation, licenses, certifications, areas of specialization, and utilized pest control methods, you might still find it difficult to narrow your hiring choice down to one exterminator. Many consumers are usually torn between hiring a local exterminator or a large company like Orkin, Terminix, Arrow Exterminators, Hawx, Ehrlich, Bulwark, Aptive, Mosquito Joe, Truly Nolen, and Viking to provide their required pest control services at this stage. However, assessing the pros and cons of retaining the services of a local or national pest control company in light of the following aspects will help you make an informed decision:

Pros

Local Pest Control Firms
Routine pest treatment and maintenance is usually relatively inexpensive
Typically offer affordable and highly customizable pest control plans
Have a deep understanding of local climatic conditions and seasonal pest infestations
Quicker service turnaround times due to proximity
Customer service is usually more personalized
Nationwide Pest Control Brands
Suitable for routine pest control and treatment of large homes, businesses, and other commercial establishments
Typically offer standardized pricing and plans
Perfect for specialized pest treatments that require the use of sophisticated tools
Access to services provided by a wide range of pest control professionals
Broader service offerings

Cons

Local Pest Control Firms
Specialized equipment for pest control may be limited
Limited manpower and resources to clean large areas
Nationwide Pest Control Brands
Expensive pest control plans
Same-treatment approach to all customers