Discovered pests in your rental property and not sure what to do? Here’s some tips on dealing with vermin and help understanding who should foot the bill.
As pests can be both a health hazard and a safety hazard, no-one wants to find they’ve got vermin lurking right under their noses – or anywhere else - in their rental home.
Worrying figures from housing charity, Shelter, found that one in nine private rented homes had suffered from animal infestations over a 12-month period – the equivalent of almost half a million homes.
Common household pests include ants, bees, flies and wasps, as well as mice, rats – and even squirrels.
And then there’s a whole host of other nasties, such as cockroaches, moths, fleas and bed bugs that could decide they’d like to share their property with you.
If you’ve found any of these baddies in your rental property, you need to take action to get rid of the problem.
There's a rat in the kitchen, what are you gonna do?
Who is responsible for dealing with the problem?
While your first reaction may be to pick up the phone to your landlord, it’s important to understand who is responsible for dealing with infestations in privately rented housing – and who will foot the bill.
Check your tenancy agreement – scour your agreement to see if there is anything relevant in the paperwork. If it says your landlord should make sure the property is ‘in good condition’ and ‘fit to live in’ this should mean your landlord is responsible for dealing with any infestation.
Ask yourself if the infestation was caused by a disrepair issue – if the pest problem was caused by an obvious issue, such as hole in a wall, your landlord should be responsible for tackling it.
Be clear as to whether the property was already infested when you moved in – if you live in a furnished flat or house which was already infested when you moved in, responsibility for dealing with the issue should fall to the landlord.
When might the tenant be responsible?
If your home has become infested due to something you did (or failed to do), then you may be responsible for dealing with the problem.
This may be the case if, for example, you failed to keep the property clean, failed to clear away rubbish properly, or left food out.
How to agree on who should pay
If you and your landlord are struggling to establish who should deal with the issue – and pay the bill – you can seek advice.
- An environmental health officer from the council’s Environmental Health department may be able to work out the cause of the infestation and help pinpoint who is responsible for dealing with it. They can also decide what action needs to be taken. Call out charges vary depending on your area, but should start from around £45.
- Citizens Advice may help you to work out whether there is anything in your tenancy agreement which makes the landlord responsible.
Note that if your landlord is advised that it was your responsibility but you refuse to pay, your landlord may deduct this from your deposit at the end of your tenancy.
Reporting the problem
If you have a problem with pests, you should alert your landlord as soon as possible. While it’s fine to phone or text, you should also write a letter or email to confirm, so you have record of notification. Then make sure you keep a record of all correspondence.
What your landlord should do
Your landlord should take steps to prevent infestations, such as fixing holes in the floor or wall which rats, mice or other pests can crawl through.
They must also fix any problems the pests have caused, such as damage to doors, pipes, brickwork or electrical wiring.
Crucially, they should also deal with the infestation. Once you have reported the problem, you should give your landlord reasonable time to do the work.
Dealing with an infestation if you caused the problem
If you need to get the problem sorted yourself (because you caused it), you should contact your local authority, as some offer pest control services.
Go online and see whether the local authority will treat the infestation you have – and what this will cost.
If your council does not offer such a service, you will need to call in a private contractor. Try an organisation such as the British Pest Control Association.
In many cases, it makes sense to call in the experts.
However, there may be cases when you can tackle the problem yourself with traps or poison.
If you do decide to use traps, only use ones which have been approved for the pest you want to control – and follow the instructions for use.
If you use poison, note that you can only use poison to kill the pests it is intended for – so read the packaging.
It’s also worth familiarising yourself with the red tape, as there are lots of laws around pest control.
For example, there are laws protecting all species of bat found in the UK. By contrast, even though bees are an endangered species, they are not protected.
That said, you are advised to explore all options to try and deal with bees humanely before trying to eradicate them.
How to deal with popular pests
Here are some tips from the British Pest Control Association on how to tackle some of the more common pests:
- Rats and mice
Time to call in the experts?
Prevention: Seal gaps around pipes and under sheds. Remove potential nesting sites by keeping gardens clean and tidy. Close dustbin lids and cover compost heaps.
Cure: Buy poisons and traps from a hardware store or garden centre. Consider calling in the professionals, as they will have access to rodenticides not available to the public. If you're a fan of felines and your landlord will allow it, you could also consider getting a cat.
Wasps are only active in the summer in the UK, so consider whether they really need removing.
Prevention: Keep windows and doors closed, keep bins shut, and check early for nests.
Cure: As treating a wasps’ nest is dangerous, it is worth calling the professional. They will have access to professional-use insecticides not available to the public.
Note that if a wasps’ nest is well away from a building in a rarely used part of the garden, you might just want to leave it alone.
- Bed bugs
Don't let the bed bugs bite... for too long.
Prevention: Avoid taking any second-hard furniture without checking it thoroughly.
Cure: If you find bed bugs, you can try to remove the bugs and eggs from your clothing and bedding by washing everything at 60°C, tumble drying at a hot setting for at least 30 minutes, dry cleaning, or putting everything into a bag in the deep freezer for at least three days.
If self-treatment is not successful, it’s worth using a professional who has access to a range of professional-use products and equipment not available to the public.
You might also be interested in…
- What tenant’s rights do I have?
- 5 documents to expect from your landlord – by law
- Home insurance: what every renter should know
- What will the Government’s three-year tenancy plans mean for landlords and tenants?