When it comes to a rental property, tenants may wonder whether it is their responsibility if there is a pest or vermin infestation – or are landlords responsible for pest control?
The issue over who is responsible for pest control is an interesting one if the tenant has only recently moved in.
That’s because there may have been a vermin infestation in the weeks and months before with a previous tenant.
If that’s the case, is a landlord responsible for paying to resolve the current infestation issue?
Or, if the tenant has signed a tenancy agreement, is there a legal obligation for them to assume responsibility for any pests and vermin issues that occur?
Here, we take a closer look at who is responsible for pest control in rental homes in the UK.
What is a pest infestation?
Firstly, we need to look at what constitutes a pest infestation because there is no legal definition to refer to.
However, it is accepted by most people that unwanted insects or vermin living in your property are a pest including:
It’s also important to understand how severe an infestation must be before responsibility is assumed.
For example, you may have evidence that there’s just one mouse in the property and the landlord may dispute this as an infestation.
However, it does count as an infestation and you will need pest control experts to inspect the property.
Will a landlord be responsible for pest control?
The question of whether your landlord is responsible for pest control will come down to two issues:
- Did the infestation exist before the current tenant moved in?
- Is the infestation due to property disrepair?
If yours is a furnished rented property, the landlord has a legal obligation to provide a ‘fit for habitation’ home. To help clarify the rules, the Government has published guidance on the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
To comply with the law, a rental property must be:
- In good repair;
- Be free from pests.
Should the landlord fail to abide by the rules, they must pay for repairs and pest control in their property.
The issue for tenants is complicated as to whether theirs is a private landlord, a social housing landlord or if they are local authority tenants. There is good advice from Citizens Advice about who to contact for pest or vermin infestation help and advice.
There’s no doubt, unfortunately, that there are unscrupulous landlords who will avoid having to pay for repairs and pest control.
One issue is that they may withhold the information about when an infestation began, and this may pose a risk to the tenant’s health.
It’s here that the inventory check will prove invaluable, and all tenants should:
- Thoroughly check a rental property when they move in;
- Take photographs and notes;
- If there is an issue, tell the letting agent or landlord.
This last point is really important because they cannot then accuse you of causing any damage to the property.
And by taking notes and photographs of the rented accommodation, you should be noticing areas that are in need of repair or may be providing access for any pests, particularly mice and rats.
If that access has been created by pests, such as rats chewing through wood or plastic, then the landlord has an obligation to carry out repair work promptly.
Will a tenant be responsible for pest control?
When moving into a rental property, a tenant will sign a tenancy agreement that will have a clause for them to not cause damage to the home and keep it clean.
However, a pest infestation may occur after a tenant has moved in because:
- They fail to dispose of rubbish properly;
- They leave doors and windows open;
- Cause damage to the property which leads to an infestation.
In any of these scenarios, you should contact pest control companies for advice to see how you can manage the infestation.
As a tenant, you could lay poison, set traps or prevent access to the property and food sources.
The bottom line as to whether a tenant will be responsible for the property’s pest control, will be down to their own behaviour.
Tenants will need to:
- Be aware of any pests or vermin entering their property;
- Understand how and why they may be attracted to their property;
- Not do anything that makes a property vulnerable to an infestation.
Should there be a pest infestation, the tenant really should take video footage or photographs as evidence and send this to their landlord or letting agent as soon as possible.
You will need to notify them in writing about the problem and ask for prompt action. If you are writing a letter, keep a copy safe.
Will the council be responsible for pest control?
The simple answer for any landlord or tenant asking, ‘Will the council be responsible for pest control?’, is ‘No’.
A local council will be under no obligation to deliver a pest control service to landlords or tenants, regardless of who is at fault.
That’s the case even if the tenant is in receipt of housing benefit or council tax benefit.
However, if a tenant has approached their landlord to carry out repairs or to eradicate pests, and they have failed to do so, they can contact the local council’s Environmental Health department for their pest control service who will:
- Carry out an investigation into the infestation;
- Determine who is at fault;
- Issue a request for the relevant work to be carried out.
Again, this is where the tenancy agreement will come into force because there may be a clause within it that makes the tenant responsible for dealing with a pest infestation, regardless of when it began.
Should there be an issue between the landlord and tenant about who is responsible for the infestation, the council’s environmental health officer will identify how they have entered the property, and what caused the problem.
Once this responsibility has been established, and it tends to be the landlord’s responsibility, then it is they who must respond quickly and take the steps necessary for dealing with a problem.
Should landlords pay for pest control?
As explained, both the landlord and tenant really need to work together in a bid to identify what is causing the infestation – and then deal with it effectively.
Tenants may then be asking, ‘Should landlords pay for pest control?’, and most good landlords will agree to do so.
That’s because the property must be habitable and well-maintained and if the landlord doesn’t resolve the problem, it could lead to a bigger problem.
It may even lead to landlord struggling to find tenants if there’s obviously an infestation in a property.
And if the landlord has tried previously to deal with a pest of vermin infestation, and that process hasn’t worked, then they need to look again at fixing the problem permanently.
What if the landlord refuses to deal with a pest infestation?
This is an interesting question as to whether the landlord refuses to deal with a pest infestation.
They may decide not to do anything, even after being notified in writing by the tenant or by their letting agent, but this is where the environmental health officer plays a part to deal with the problem.
Should the landlord refuse to be responsible for a rental property’s vermin or pest infestation, a tenant can:
- Apply to their local council for enforcement action;
- The council can serve an enforcement notice on the landlord.
If the landlord refuses to step in, the council may deal with an infestation – and hand the landlord the bill.
In addition to paying the pest control bill from the council, they will have to pay the administration costs the council has incurred as well.
What can a landlord do with a pest-infested property?
When it comes to dealing with pest infestations, prompt action by the landlord is necessary.
That’s because the property must be habitable for a tenant and it’s a good idea to pest-proof their home after an infestation has taken place.
Landlords should also look again at their tenancy agreement to determine who is responsible for dealing with an infestation whenever they arise. This is just one aspect that landlords, and potential landlords, need to understand with an investment property.
It makes sense for a landlord to make clear that is they who is responsible for carrying out the work to ensure it is done properly – rather than risking the tenant avoiding their responsibility – or carrying out the work badly.
It’s also important to appreciate that an infestation of vermin or pests will constitute a health hazard and may lead to extensive property damage.
That’s not in the interests of the tenant and landlord, so dealing with an infestation adequately and promptly is the best advice for all parties.