Is my landlord responsible for pest control?

Landlords have a responsibilty to provide and keep a rented property safe and habitable for tenants. As such, the landlord will normally be legally responsible for most pest control issues that may arise.

Who is responsible for pest control during tenancy?

However, for pest control, the landlord’s responsibility varies depending on the pests, the conditions stated in the tenancy agreement and how long you have been living there. So, the answer is not always straightforward. The answer may also vary if the landlord is a private person, a local authority or a housing association. In this article we will provide you with our guidelines for mice, rats, bed bugs, moths and a few other pests.

Landlord pest control responsibility in the UK

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

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). In the same fashion, we must differentiate between public health pests and commensal insects. The presence of one cockroach, one bed bug or one mouse dropping should be enough to get a professional pest control company in. But the same cannot be said for one spider, one silverfish, or one garden ant.

But it is not so obvious for pest control. Normally if at the start of a tenancy there is 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. The difficulty is agreeing on what constitutes the required level of activity to justify wanting a treatment being carried out.

Furthermore, it is worth noting that any contract you may have signed does not affect the statutory rights of the landlord or those 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.

Is pest control the landlord or tenant’s responsibility?

Tenants have a duty to report any issues to the landlord as and when they take place, and a sufficient amount of time should be allowed for the landlord to take action or instruct on the proposed course of action. If tenants take steps without prior consent of the landlord, they run the risk of not being refunded for the cost incurred.

In most cases, the landlord is the one who will organise and pay for pest control. The choice of contractors and methods ultimately lies with the landlord.

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. However, such a claim must be supported with sufficient evidence.

So to avoid any dispute, one of the two parties must have enough ground to support their claim or reach a satisfactory compromise. In practice, most landlords will deal with a pest issue even though they are not legally obliged to do so. It is thus paramount to stay reasonable and civil at all times.

You should attempt to contact the landlord by any means available. If a landlord remains unresponsive, it would then become reasonable to take the necessary steps to solve the issue and presume the landlords will assume the associated costs.

Before considering any form of litigation, there are a number of ports of call that can be explored: go to the Citizens Advice Bureaux, the Housing Ombudsman, your local councillor or your local authority complaint section to fill out the Private tenants – Report a disrepair form.

Are landlords responsible for mice control?

  • Mice 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 appear from thin air. The reality is that mice first need to get in a home before they pose a problem to the tenant.
  • Mice will normally get in through holes and gaps that have been left by the original builder and kitchen fitter. The cause of the mouse infestation would then be the building that was not built to sufficient standards so 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 by arguing that their behaviour may have contributed to the mice infestation (e.g., 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 the situation, the landlord would then need to make good on the holes that had allowed mice to get in and have the home thoroughly mouse proofed.

Are landlords responsible for rat control?

  • Before they reach your home, rats may already have travelled over 300 m from the nest. They may have travelled above ground, from one garden to the next. Or they may have followed the sewer system and escaped through some faults.
  • If a rat infestation is found only outdoors, there is probably little that can be done but place rat bait stations. The council pest control department may have a free rat service; if not, the landlord would most likely have to 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.

Who is responsible for rats in drains?

  • If faults are found below ground on the property, responsibility to investigate and, if necessary, to repair falls on either a service company (i.e., Thames Water) or possibly on one of London’s councils.
  • However, the cost of placing a rat blocker in your inspection chamber to stop the rats from reaching the building will be the responsibility of the landlord or freeholder.

Are landlords responsible for bed bug control?

  • Bed bugs are introduced into the property by the tenants. They may be picked up on the London public transport, at work, a sleepover or during a holiday.
  • 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.
  • So, the person responsible for the treatment would normally be the person who has introduced the bed bugs into the property. This is not always clear-cut, though, 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 to take notice of signs possibly within weeks, arguably within six months, and definitely within a year.
  • So, the longer the tenancy before the bed bug activity was reported, the more likely they would have been introduced during the ongoing tenancy, and therefore the stronger the argument for the tenants having 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 they have an incentive in protecting the flat).
  • If it is established that a building has been contaminated as a whole, then the tenants cannot be held responsible. The landlord will most likely have to pay for the treatment within their flat, and the freeholder will have to pay for the treatment carried out at communal area level.

Are landlords responsible for moth control?

  • 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 there are patches of moth-eaten carpet, it points the finger toward the landlord.
  • If the tenant is a long-standing one, and there are no signs of moth-eaten carpet, it gives strength to the moths having been introduced during the tenancy.
  • In practice, we see at Inoculand Pest Control that landlords often pay for moth infestation treatments as they are concerned that moths may damage and depreciate their property.

Are landlords responsible for cockroach control?

  • Cockroach infestations may originate from a systemic problem, or from an infested neighbouring property.
  • It is also possible that the tenant could have unknowingly brought in some cockroaches with the shopping or other contaminated items.
  • If the neighbouring property has clearly been established as being the origin of the outbreak, it is unlikely that they will pay for your treatment 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 they failed to report the problem at an early stage or if their behaviour contributed to the cockroach infestation (e.g., using residential premises for a catering business without any pest control measures in place).

Are landlords responsible for wasp nest removal?

  • Wasps are seasonal pests. Landlords or tenants cannot be blamed for any wrongdoing. Wasp nests just happen.
  • In this case, the tenancy agreement should determine who is responsible for it. And if there are no specific pest control clauses, the landlord will probably pay without arguing.
  • In case the nest is found within an unauthorised or inappropriate item or structure on the property grounds, such as a mound of rubble or tyres, the tenant will likely have to pay to treat the nest and to remove the offending items from the property grounds.

Are landlords responsible for control of 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. And 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.
  • Unless the landlord is responsible for the issue/situation that triggered or provided the right condition for the flies to thrive, landlords should not be asked to pay for fly control involving fruit flies and house flies.
  • Drain flies are often caused by leaky or blocked drains that would normally need to be fixed by the landlord in the first place. Blue bottle flies result from a dead animal that would have died underneath the home, within the fireplace or the walls. In either case, the tenant should not be held responsible.

Are landlords responsible for flea control?

  • Fleas are mostly associated with pets. And often the landlords will ask the tenants to foot the bill because they own a furry pet (e.g., rodents, cats, dogs).
  • In cases where the tenants do not own pets, it raises the question of how the infestation came about. Foxes in the garden or rodents indoors (mice, rats) can be a reservoir of infestation. If no link to the tenants can be established, then the landlord will normally have to pay.

Are landlords responsible for beetle control?

  • There are many types of beetles affecting either dry food or natural fibres.
  • 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.
  • Responsibility for carpet beetles is similar to that outlined in the moth section.
  • Some Larder beetle infestations can also be linked to bird nests, in which case, the responsibility may fall to the landlord.

Are landlords responsible for ant control?

  • Tropical ants are very much a problem that is endemic to the structure of a building and that is being passed on from neighbour-to-neighbour as satellite nests are 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 depends on the type of tenancy agreement.

Are landlords responsible for squirrel removal?

  • Grey squirrels in the garden area are part of the wildlife and there is very little that can be done in this context. Landlords 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, and landlords should be responsible for this.

How do we answer general enquiries on the subject?

At Inoculand, we’ve 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.

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

There are a number of laws that are relevant to pest control legislation in the UK. If 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 Bureaux, Housing Advice Centre or a solicitor.

When landlords agree 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. And this 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 bugs, we see much of the same. Tenants can pick up bed bugs anywhere by accident. Bed bugs have been reported in the Tube, in offices and in hotels.

In a way, it is not really anyone’s fault if one picked them up. In the same line of thought, landlords are often concerned about protecting their property as well as the 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 has to accept to be made responsible.

Finally, what exactly is a landlord responsible for?

According to legislation, the landlord is responsible for providing a property of satisfactory habitability standards as to allow good, livable conditions for the tenants.

If landlords 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 subject 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.