Having a pest problem in your property is unpleasant for you and your tenants and it can quickly become a bone of contention in your relationship.
Therefore, it’s important to be clear on exactly who is responsible for dealing with pests and what action you need to take - both to prevent and get rid of an infestation.
Who is responsible for pest control varies from tenancy to tenancy depending on three main factors:
Your tenancy agreement should clearly state whether it is you or your tenant that is responsible for pest control.
Under the housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS) legislation, landlords must ensure that their rental accommodation is fit for human habitation.
So even if your tenancy contract does state that tenants need to deal with pests, it is still ultimately the landlord’s responsibility.
Tenants are usually responsible for cleanliness and hygiene in a property - factors which will lead to a pest problem if overlooked.
The three factors above mean that both the landlord and tenant usually have some degree of responsibility over pest control.
⚠️Get It Dealt With
As a landlord it’s usually a good idea to deal with a pest infestation on behalf of your tenant as soon as possible. Leaving it to the tenant could lead to delays or half measures that allow the problem to get worse and cause serious damage to your property.
Dealing with it yourself also avoids any disagreements between you and the tenant.
If the tenant’s behaviour is causing the infestation (for example, they are leaving food waste lying around), explain the importance of keeping the property clean and tidy.
Landlords are responsible for the property’s structure. This means if any defect in the property caused the infestation then the landlord must fix it and get rid of the pests.
A good example of this is a hole in the building that is letting pests in. Other situations where the landlord is responsible for removing pests include:
🐀 If the pests were already there when the tenant moved in—this is the law for furnished properties, but is likely to be applicable to unfurnished ones too. It’s more likely that the pests were already there than that the new tenants brought them with them.
🐀 The landlord has previously used pest control measures that ultimately didn’t work.
🐀 If the tenancy agreement says that the landlord will deal with all pest problems.
🐀 If your rented property is in an area with a high level of seasonally returning pests—for example, wasps—then you must have a contract in place to deal with them.
🐀 If your property has an infestation that is putting public health at risk it is your responsibility to deal with that issue. For example, if you have rats that have spread to a neighbouring property you need to deal with both pest infestations.
Tenants mustn’t do anything that could attract pests. Essentially this comes down to good home hygiene and waste management.
If they fail to do these things then the landlord can ask them to deal with the pests themselves.
Here are some other things tenants are responsible for:
🐀 Tenants are responsible if their pets develop fleas or mites that then spread to the property. They must deal with the problem by arranging for the property to be cleaned and for the pet to be de-flead.
🐀 Tenants must inform the landlord as soon as they are aware that pests are in the rented property, regardless of whose responsibility it is to get rid of them.
🐀 It’s a good idea for the tenant to send photos to the landlord as proof, and to show the scale of the problem.
Note that whoever is deemed responsible for the infestation will also have to pay for any damage caused by the pests - for example, chewed cables.
Local councils are subject to the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949. This places a duty on local authorities to control mice and rats. The Act grants enforcement powers to local authorities to compel landlords and occupiers to take action to keep land free from rats and mice.
If you refuse to remove pests in your property then the council will most likely serve you with an enforcement notice. They will arrange for the infestation to be dealt with and you will be legally required to pay all costs for it, as well as an administration fee.
Local authorities can also help if pests are coming from elsewhere, like neighbouring properties or sewers.
If you and your tenant disagree on how the pests got in and therefore whose responsibility it is to get rid of them, you should call your council’s environmental health department. They will be able to tell you how the pest got in or what attracted them.
If it is found to be the landlord’s responsibility, under the Housing Act 2004 they must take steps to remove the infestation as soon as is reasonably possible.
If they don’t then the tenant can report them to the local council, who will serve them with an enforcement notice.
If a landlord is ordered by the council to deal with a pest infestation and refuses they’ll receive a hefty fine. If a rented property doesn’t meet the minimum living standard, the council can order the landlord to close it until the issue is dealt with.
The three most common causes of pest infestations are:
✔️ Check for signs of pests regularly during each inspection and before each new tenancy. Look out for:
✔️ Ensure you check the loft and the cellar
✔️ Check all pipework and plumbing
✔️ Make sure any holes in the property are fixed promptly
✔️ Make it clear who is responsible for different aspects of pest control in your tenancy agreement
✔️ Explain the importance of household hygiene and waste management to your tenants
✔️ Deal with infestations as quickly as possible
If one of your properties has a pest infestation then you should take action as soon as possible. You have three options, depending on the severity of the problem: do it yourself, contact your local council, or call a private pest controller.
This may be a good idea if you have a small-scale issue to deal with.
Dealing with pests yourself is inexpensive and means you don’t have to wait for someone to visit your property.
But there are a few downsides:
👎 You might not succeed immediately, meaning that the tenant has to live with the problem for longer.
👎 It takes time and effort. You might struggle to fit it in amongst other urgent tasks.
👎 Some pests require specialists - for example, you cannot get rid of bed bugs yourself.
There are also government guidelines on getting rid of pests yourself. It’s imperative to read the guidance before you try removing pests yourself.
⚠️Health and Safety Alert
Using poisons and hazardous equipment for pest control could be dangerous for the occupants—especially if they have children or pets. We recommend contacting a pest control expert if you need to use these kinds of methods.
Flies can infest any place that has a food source and the right temperature. They don’t cause structural problems, but instead present a health risk. They can be safely exterminated using:
Crawling insects that can cause problems include:
More than anything, they are unpleasant to live with but can also present a health risk.
They are usually attracted to food debris or damp conditions. You can deal with these creatures yourself using sprays and electronic pest repellers. Call a professional if the problem persists.
Rats and mice carry diseases and can cause serious property damage. They tend to be a problem during the winter, when they look for a warmer place to live.
They will chew wires, woodwork, plastic, and metal pipes, causing serious damage to your property.
Avoid attracting them by telling your tenants to:
✔️ Make sure dustbins are covered
✔️ Don’t leave food out
✔️ Don’t feed birds using bird tables
✔️ Make sure your food recycling system is used regularly and correctly
You can use traps, electronic pest repellers and poison to deal with rodents.
Pigeons are unhygienic and messy. They carry more diseases than rats and their nests become infested with mites.
The best way to get rid of them is to make sure that they cannot roost.
Around December, install spikes on guttering, high walls and window ledges. This will also deter other large birds like seagulls.
Foxes rip into bins, spread rubbish in gardens and streets and leave behind faeces. Fox repellent spray is a good solution. It creates a territorial marking which they avoid, but is harmless to them.
Spiders are harmless, but they can quickly multiply in a house and leave cobwebs everywhere. Plus many people are scared of them! Spider repellent sprays are harmless but will keep spiders away.
In most situations, it’s best to hire professional pest controllers. They will deal with the problem quickly, safely and effectively.
They may also provide a proofing service to keep the property pest-free in future.
Professional pest controllers will provide excellent customer service, keeping you and your tenants happy.
The only downside is that they can sometimes be expensive.
Many councils don’t have to provide pest control to private landlords. In fact, some councils only provide pest services if the problem will cause health issues to other residents.
Therefore, you should only call your council if there is a complication in dealing with your infestation. This could include:
✔️ The source of the infestation is from outside your property
✔️ You and the tenant disagree on whose responsibility it is to deal with a pest problem
✔️ Your tenant won’t let you or a pest controller in to remove pests
Councils sometimes provide pest controllers. However, they often only provide a limited service. For example:
👎 No service during evenings and weekends
👎 They may only treat certain pest problems
👎 You may have to pay in advance
👎 No emergency service
👎 You may be put on a waiting list
Unless you know that your council provides a good service, you are better off calling a private pest control company.
The EVO platform can assist you in connecting landlords and tenants with the right tradespeople to handle pest control.
PHOTO BY EVO
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