Is my landlord responsible for pest control?

Who is responsible for pest control during tenancy?

There is not always a straight forward answer to it. The answer may vary depending on the type of tenancy agreement you have, if the landlord is a private person or a housing association. In this article we will provide you with our guidelines for mice, rats, bedbugs, moths and a few more pests.

In general, pest control should never be ground for termination of a tenancy contract, or for a compensation claim. Things happen, and they need to be dealt with promptly and appropriately. The potential distressed caused to tenants should not be factored in when considering who is responsible for the bill.

Landlord responsibilities for pest control

Landlords are sometimes confused about their obligations. They often know that before renting out a property, they must ensure that the premises complies with the Housing & Maintenance and Health & Safety Standards. And this includes providing an environment that is free of pests and clean.

It is also clear that the landlords are not responsible for the daily maintenance of the flat during the tenancy such as changing a light bulb (regular wear and tear).

But it is not so obvious for Pest Control. Normally if a tenant would just come in a property with any kind of pest problem, the tenant should not be held responsible even though the contract mentions that the tenants are responsible for pest control.

It is worth noting than any contract you may sign does not affect neither the statutory right of the landlord or the one of the tenant. Therefore when it comes to establishing who is responsible for pest control one must have a closer look at the type of pest infestation in question and the length of the tenure.

Landlord and tenant responsibilities for pest control

In most of the cases, the landlord would be the one who organise and pay for pest control.

But when the pest problem is noticed well within the tenancy agreement period, the landlord may argue that the tenants are responsible for bringing in or triggering the pest infestation.

So to avoid any dispute, one of the two parties must have enough ground to support their claim.

Mice

  • Mice pest infestations are often the result of a systemic problem that is affecting a terrace of houses, or possibly a block of flats. Simply put, mice do not fly and surely do not come from thin air. The reality is that mice first need to get in a home before it pauses a problem to the tenant.
  • Mice will normally get in through holes and gaps that have been level by the original builder and kitchen fitter. The cause of the mice infestation would then be the building that was not build to sufficient standards as to stop mice from getting in.
  • However the landlord may claim the tenants are responsible if the tenants fail to implement the advice of the Pest Control Company, or that their behaviour may have contributed to the mice infestation (cluttered, unkempt tenancy).
  • Some tenancy agreements place the responsibility of pest control on the tenants. But in any case it should be limited to the treatment only.
  • To remediate to the situation the landlord would then need to make good on the holes that had allowed mice from getting in and have the home mouse proofed throughout.

Rats

  • Before they reach your home they may already have travelled over 300m from the nest. They may have travelled above ground going from one garden to the next. Or they may have come following the sewer system and escaped through some faults.
  • If any faults may be located before the ground of the property, it should be the responsibility of one of the service companies (i.e. Thames Water) or possibly of the one of the London Council to investigate and possibly repair.
  • If the rat activity is found only outdoor, there is probably little that can be done but placing some rat bait stations down. The Council pest control department may have a free rat service, if not the landlord would most likely pay for it.
  • If the rat problem is within the living space of the property, the landlord must implement the rodent pest exclusion work needed to stop rats from getting in as a matter of urgency. It is unacceptable to have rats being able to access freely any part of the living space.

Bed Bugs

  • Bed bugs are introduced into the property by the tenants. It may be by picking it off on the London public transport, at work, during a holiday or a sleepover.
  • Another major route of entry is by introducing infested second-hand furniture or items into the home. If the landlord brought it in, then the landlord is responsible for pest control for sure.
  • So the person responsible for the treatment would normally be the person who has introduced the bed bugs in. But it is not always clear cut as bed bug infestations often go unnoticed for many weeks, possibly even months.
  • If the problem was introduced before the tenancy, you would expect the tenants taking notice there is a problem possibly within weeks, arguably before 6 months, definitely before the year is gone.
  • So the longer the tenancy before the bed bug activity was reported, the more likely the bed bugs would have been introduced during the ongoing tenancy,  the more argument for the tenant to pay.
  • In borderline cases, it would be acceptable to reach a compromise where the tenants would pay part of the treatment (since they introduced it by accident) and the landlord part of it (since she has an incentive in protecting the flat).

Moths

  • Moths are flying insects and could well have flown in from the communal areas or through the window.
  • Tenants would often report moths because they are concerned about their clothes, or because they found damaged items in their wardrobes.
  • Once again time is of the essence. If the tenants just moved in and that there are patches of moth-eaten carpet, it points the finger toward the landlord.
  • If the tenant is a long-standing one, and that moths are not showing patches of moth-eaten carpet, it gives strength to the moths having been introduced during the tenancy.
  • In practice, we see at Inoculand Ltd Pest Control that most of the time landlords pay for moth infestations as they are concerns that moths may damage and depreciate their property.

Cockroach

  • Cockroach infestations may originate from a systemic problem, or from a neighbour that is infested.
  • It is also possible that the tenant at anytime could have brought in some cockroaches with the shopping or any other contaminated item.
  • If the neighbouring properly has clearly been established as being the origin of the outbreak, it is unlikely that they will pay for it unless they have some sort of home insurance.
  • In most instances, the landlord would pay for the treatment. Exceptionally the block management company takes responsibility if the infestation affects the building as a whole.
  • The tenants may be held responsible if the tenants failed to report the problem at an early stage of the infestation or if the behaviour of the tenants contributed to the cockroach infestation (using residential premises for a catering business without any Pest Control measures being in place).

Wasp

  • Landlords or tenants cannot be blamed for any wrongdoing. Wasp nests just happen.
  • In this case, the tenancy agreement should hold. And if there are no Pest Control clauses the landlord should probably pay without arguing.
  • In case the nest is found within an unauthorised/inappropriate items/structure on the property grounds such as mount of rubbles or tyres, the tenant will most likely have to pay to treat the nest and to remove the offending items off the property grounds.

Flies

  • The best way to solve a fly problem is to remove the condition that is allowing them to thrive. A treatment will only kill off the flies while the pesticides are active. But if the favourable conditions remain, the infestation will return.
  • House flies and fruit flies are often associated with poor housekeeping that would normally be the responsibility of the tenant.
  • Landlords should not be asked to pay for fly control involving fruit flies and house flies. Unless the landlord is responsible for the issue/situation that triggered or provided the right condition for the flies to thrive.
  • Drain flies are often cause by leaky drains, blocked drains that would normally need to be fixed by the landlord in first place. Blue bottle flies result from a dead animal that would have died underneath the home, within the fireplace or the walls. Hence the tenant should not be held responsible either.

Fleas

  • Fleas are mostly associated with pets. And often the landlords will ask the tenants to foot the bill because they own a furry pet (rodents, cat dogs).
  • In instance when the tenants own no pets it raise the question of how the fleas infestation came about. Foxes in the garden or rodents indoors (mice, rats) can be a reservoir of infestation.

Beetles

  • There are many type of beetles affecting dry food or natural fibres depending on the species in question.
  • Biscuit beetles and other SPI that affect dry food brought in through the shopping and Domestic beetles linked to poor housekeeping should be dealt with by the tenants.
  • Carpet beetles responsibility and similar than the one of the moths section

Ants

  • Tropical ants are very much a problem that is endemic to the structure of building and that is being passed on from neighbours to neighbours as satellite nest are being created. Normally landlords pay for the treatment.
  • Garden ants normally come from the garden areas and are not a public health pest. Responsibility in this case is not always clear cut and depend on the type of tenancy agreement.

Squirrels

  • Grey squirrels in the garden area are part of the wildlife and there is very little that can be done in this context. Landlord would probably not feel obliged to do anything about it.
  • Squirrels in lofts are linked to access points that were left by the roofers/builders. Landlord should be responsible for this.

How we answer general enquiries on the subject?

At Inoculand we built up a bank of standard emails that we forward to our clients. We did our best to include as much relevant information as possible.

Of course some of the information is redundant to the content of the website, but it is written in a more practical way. For this very subject, it may be appropriate to include it.

Of course we are not lawyers, and we do not want stirring up problems. To the contrary, we want tenants and landlords to avoid dispute as they may not always understand the pests’ biology.

In doubt, the landlord and the tenant should look for independent advice from the council’s tenancy relations officer, the Environmental Health department, a law centre, Citizens Advice Bureau, Housing Advice Centre or a solicitor.

When Landlord agrees to solve the pest infestation

At Inoculand Ltd, we often see landlords going the extra mile and putting in place the necessary measures needed to bring peace of mind to the tenant. It is never more true than in the case of mouse phobia.

In many instances it is reasonable to implement a round of treatment that will take care of the ongoing mice activity. Once the stock of mice is depleted, the tenant is likely not to suffer any new episodes for many months, sometimes even years.

Normally we would advise to get on with the proofing as and when needed, possibly at the next instance of mice activity.

But most landlords value the welfare of the tenants, and so, request us to do the proofing right away. Thus tenants suffering from mouse phobia can once again enjoy their home. And happy tenants often make for good tenants.

In the case of Bed bug, we see much of the same. Tenant can pick up bed bug anywhere by accident. Bed bugs have been reported in the tube, in offices, in hotels.

In a way, it is not really anyone’s fault if one picked it up at all? In the same line of thought, landlords are often concerned to protect their property as well as their tenants.

The issue lies when it is a long-standing tenant, or possibly a property that is overcrowded. Understandingly enough, no one likes paying for somebody else mistakes, so sometimes the tenant had to accept to be made responsible.

Finally, what is a landlord responsible for?

The landlord is responsible for providing a property of satisfactory habitability standards as to allow good liveable conditions for the tenants.

If landlord are aware of an existing pest problem, they must treat it before renting the property out.

If the landlord rented out the property without knowing it had a pest control issue, they must make good on it without delay.

Beyond that the regulation is not specific on the matter and we are left subjects to issues of perceptions and opinions that are not always valid grounds for interpretation.

In short, Landlords and tenants should remain reasonable and avoid any dispute that may end up in litigation if not resolved.