Who is responsible for pest control during tenancy? There is not always a straight forward answer to it. It may vary depending on the type of tenancy agreement you have, if the landlord is a private person or a housing association.
In general, pest control should never be ground for termination of a tenancy contract, or for claim of refund/compensation. 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 sometime 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 landlord problem remains responsible of the maintenance of the flat during the tenancy (regular wear and tear only). 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 would not be held responsible even though the contract mentions that the tenants are responsible for the pest control.
Landlord and tenant responsibilities for pest control
But if the pest problem is noticed by the tenants well within the tenancy agreement period, the landlord may argue that the tenants are responsible for triggering the pest infestation. As for any dispute, one of the two parties must have enough ground to support their claim.
- Rat infestations are systemic and often the responsibility of the council that may provide a free of charge rat service. If the rat problem is within the living space of the property, I would advise the landlord to implement the rodent pest exclusion work needed to prevent the problem from arising again.
- Mice pest infestations are often the result of a systemic problem and therefore should be paid for by the landlord. 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).
- Bed Bug infestations are difficult because it can go unnoticed or unreported for many months. If the tenants complain 6 months after they moved in, the landlord may suggest that the tenants brought the bed bug infestation in. However it would be impossible to prove beyond any reasonable doubt. Therefore I would always advise landlords to pay for the treatment, the alternative would be just impossible to manage. If the tenants leave the residential unit, the landlord may not be able to rent it out until a course of treatment has been completed, that may result in a bigger loss of income than the cost of the treatment initially. Furthermore the landlord may not even be in a position to put a claim against the deposit. However the landlord would have stronger ground in case the tenants have been living in the property for years, therefore it would be no doubt that the bed bugs have been brought in by the tenants.
- 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.The landlord may claim the tenants are 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).
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 lawyer, 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.
Standard email regarding Bed bugs:
1) the only argument when tenant can request the landlord to pay for the treatment is when the problem was caused by the former tenants, or that the landlord introduced inside the property contaminated item during the ongoing tenancy (2nd hand contaminated replacement bed).
2) 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.
3) So the longer the tenancy before the bed bug activity report, the more evidence the bed bugs gave been introduced during the ongoing tenancy, most likely by the tenants, the more argument for the tenant to pay
4) In border line 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 her flat)
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 depleted, the tenant is likely not to suffer any new episode for many months, sometime even years. Normally we would advise to get on with the proofing only as and when needed,possibly at the next instance of mice activity.
But as I said many value the welfare of the tenants, and so, request us to do the proofing without further delay. The benefit is that the tenant can enjoy the home again. And happy tenant often make for good tenants.
In the case of Bed bug, we see much of the same. Tenant can pick up bed bug any where by accident. They have been seen in the tube, in offices, in hotels. In a way, it is not really the fault of any one specific if you 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 like paying for somebody else mistakes, so sometime the tenant had to accept to be made responsible.
Finally, what is a landlord responsible for?
In short, it comes down to an argument that may end up in litigation if not resolved. 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.
Find out more about Citizen Advise Bureau – Disrepair – infestations of pests and vermin here.