Are landlords responsible for pest control in the UK?
Are landlords responsible for pest control UK
No one wants to share their home with pests. Whether you’re dealing with creepy crawlies like cockroaches, ants, and bedbugs or tiptoeing around the kitchen for fear of rats and mice — we don’t blame you for wanting to evict those unwanted house guests asap.
But is pest control a landlord’s responsibility in the UK? While there isn’t one answer as to this question, rest assured, we’ve gathered all the info you need to know below:
When is a landlord responsible for pest control?
By law, a landlord must make sure their property is fit to live in. That means taking care of the building’s structure and making sure the home can provide all those necessary bits like water, heating, and electricity.
With this in mind, a landlord is responsible for dealing with an infestation if:
- They failed to make repairs to their property which has led to an infestation
- Their property was furnished and already infested when the tenants moved in
- The tenancy agreement says they’re responsible or else that the rented property must be ‘maintained to a liveable standard’ or similar
Ultimately, a landlord’s responsibility for pest control also depends on their tenants letting them know asap that there’s a problem. Renters should get in touch, with photos as evidence if possible, so that the infestation can be managed right away.
How can delayed repairs lead to infestations?
Pests can get into homes through all kinds of disrepair. If a landlord has been told about an issue that needs fixing and fails to act? Then it’s up to them to deal with any invading creatures that may take up residence.
The 2 most common kinds of disrepair that can lead to infestations are:
- Holes or gaps in external walls
- Leaking pipes
The problem with a hole or gap in a property is that it’s pretty much a welcome sign for all manner of pests. A home provides warmth, shelter, food, and water — so why wouldn’t they accept the invitation? If you have a mouse or rat infestation in a rented property, this could be where things began. In this case, the landlord has a responsibility for the mice.
The connection between pest control and leaking pipes is maybe a little less obvious. You see, leaking pipes lead to mould, rot, and damp living conditions. Insects like silverfish thrive in such moist, humid environments.
When these kinds of disrepair lead to infestation — the responsibility for pest control sits solely with the landlord.
To learn more about tenants rights on repairs, check out: ‘UK tenants rights on repairs - things you should know while renting’.
Moving into a furnished property with an infestation
When furnished properties are rented, there are set tenant rights if a pest infestation is discovered on day 1. That’s because landlords are required by law to ensure that the place is ‘ready to live in’ when they hand over the keys. That means if a tenant finds bugs nestled in the furniture on move-in day, it’s their landlord’s responsibility to organise pest control.
This rule only applies at the beginning of a tenancy, however. After that point it would need to be worked out where the infestation came from — maybe it’s a problem with keeping the house clean, for example, which would place the responsibility with the tenant.
Things are a little different if a property is unfurnished and infested upon move-in. When it comes to tenant rights and rat infestation in the UK, for example, it doesn’t make much difference when the rodents were discovered. It would still need to be properly established where the problem came from to determine who’s responsible.
How to tell if pest control is covered in a tenancy agreement
Sometimes, tenancy agreements will specifically mention who is responsible for dealing with an infestation, landlord or tenant. More often than not, they will mention the landlord’s responsibility to keep the premises in ‘good condition’ and ‘fit to live in’ or something similar.
While pests are a serious nuisance in the home, they can also spread disease and cause flare-ups of asthma, eczema, or mental health conditions. That means if your home isn’t safe for you to live in due to infestation, your landlord might also be responsible for getting it sorted.
When is a tenant responsible for pest control?
Tenants are responsible for dealing with an infestation when it was caused by something they did or even didn’t do.
For example, maybe that armchair you found on the pavement seemed like a good idea at the time, but now the carpet’s crawling with bugs. Or maybe the dishes have piled up in recent weeks or bin bags have been sitting on the floor — mice will nibble at pretty much anything that’s left out (and then tell all their friends).
In cases like these, it’s the tenant’s responsibility to handle pest control.
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Can you withhold rent for mice?
While withholding rent for any infestation may seem like a satisfying solution if you’re a frustrated tenant — it will likely just cause more problems and it could even get you evicted.
If a tenant is sure that they are not to blame for an infestation, the best course of action is to write to their landlord requesting pest control and/or any repairs needed to prevent future issues. Their landlord might even be open to reducing that month’s rent too, for example if fumigation (using chemical smoke to kill insects or rodents) needs to take place — this usually takes 3 days to a week.
For more advice on rent deductions, read our blog on ‘How to ask for a rent deduction due to disrepair’.
But if after that the landlord is still unwilling to deal with the infestation, maybe emails go ignored and the problem worsens, then it might be time to get outside help.
How can the local authorities help with pest infestations?
Tenants have rights and if their landlord isn’t listening, then the Environmental Health Department of the local council can help. This department is responsible for enforcing proper living standards in rented accommodations.
After a tenant makes contact, they’ll organise a property inspection to see how bad things are and suss out where the problem originated. If a landlord is found to be at fault, they’ll be ordered to make improvements with a fixed time period for any repairs.
If the landlord ignores this or refuses, they’ll receive a hefty fine, or worst-case scenario, be ordered to close the property if it doesn’t meet the minimum living standard. The local authorities can also help if pests are coming from elsewhere, like neighbouring properties or area sewage, for example. Pest problems can quickly become a public nuisance and that’s why it’s best to call in a professional asap.
A few final tips…
If you’re a tenant, then always keep your landlord in the know. And if you’re a landlord, then let your tenants know they’re being heard. An open line of communication is great for both parties — after all, you’re both invested in that property so it makes sense to work together to look after it.
If your landlord is ignoring your emails and refusing to fix the problem, head to Citizen’s Advice for help.
Wondering what rights tenants have? Get in the know by reading ‘Your rights as a renter’.