Are landlords responsible for pest control in rental properties?

A mouse running along the wall of a rental property

Whether it’s a mouse, rat, or bed bugs, finding pests in your home is unpleasant. Getting rid of them can be difficult, especially in big cities where things like vermin are so common.

So, what happens when pests are present in a rental property? Read on to find out when tenants and landlords are responsible for pest infestations, plus how to spot signs and get rid of pests.

What is a pest infestation in a rental property?

There’s no set definition of what counts as a pest infestation in a rental property. However, if it’s clear that a singular pest (such as a mouse or rat) or group of pests (such as bed bugs) are living in your property, then it could be described as an infestation.

According to Rentokil, the top 10 household pests in the UK are:

  1. Mice
  2. Moths
  3. Rats
  4. Bed bugs
  5. Wasps
  6. Flies
  7. Ants
  8. Spiders
  9. Cockroaches
  10. Woodworm

Not only can pests cause damage to a property, but they can cause health hazards and make it uncomfortable for people living there.

That’s why in most instances, landlords and tenants will be keen to get rid of pests as quickly as possible.

Is pest control the responsibility of the landlord or tenant?

Part of a landlord’s obligation is to make sure the property has no hazards listed as part of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). Domestic pests are considered a hazard, so a landlord could face action from their local authority if they rent out a property with a pest problem.

On top of this, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 requires landlords to make sure the property is ‘fit for human habitation’ and ‘free from hazards’ when the tenant moves in, and throughout the tenancy.

However, the landlord won’t be liable if a pest infestation is ‘wholly or mainly attributable’ to the tenant or the tenant refuses them access to the property.

When are landlords responsible for pest control?

According to the Fitness for Human Habitation Act, if the property is more susceptible to a pest infestation due to its ‘poor design, layout, and construction’, then it’s the landlord’s responsibility to solve the problem.

One of the most common reasons pests get into properties, particularly mice, is through holes in walls. It’s therefore important for landlords to check walls regularly to fix any problems that could allow pets in.

Other things to think about include the cleanliness of the property before the tenancy and making sure there are enough bins for tenants to get rid of waste.

When are tenants responsible for pest control?

The tenant is responsible for a pest infestation if they do things that attract pests.

Usually, this is to do with rubbish. For example, allowing bins to overflow or putting the wrong bins out so they don’t get collected.

Another reason could be cleanliness. If the property is very dirty, and particularly if food is left out, it could attract pests.

If the tenant is doing things that could cause a pest infestation, in the first instance the landlord should ask them to make changes to their behaviour, warning them that they could be liable to pay for pest control if it’s required.

Do tenants or landlords pay for pest control?

Whoever is responsible for a pest infestation should be liable for the cost of getting them removed.

For example, if there aren’t enough bins at the property and it leads to an infestation of maggots, the landlord should pay to solve the problem.

On the other hand, if the property is very dirty with bins being left to overflow and it attracts rats, the tenant would be liable.

The tenant should only pay for pest control if they break their tenancy agreement or are responsible for the property not being fit to live in.

Even if the tenant is responsible for a pest infestation, the landlord should pay for and organise pest control as soon as possible to reduce the chances of health hazards and long-term damage to the property. The cost can be claimed back at a later date.

Sometimes it’s not clear who’s responsible for a pest problem. When this happens, you’ll need to have an open conversation with your tenant and try to come to an agreement. If this isn’t possible, the issue should be raised at the end of the tenancy when it can be mediated by a third party.

How to spot signs of a pest infestation

If you or your tenants spot the signs of a pest early, it could save a lot of time, money, and hassle in the long run.

The most obvious sign of a pest infestation is if you see the pest alive or dead in the property, but here are some other things you and your tenants should look out for:

  • damage and gnaw marks: holes in the walls, cupboards, or floors could be used by pests to get into the property. You may also see gnaw marks on things like electrical wires or food packaging which are a telltale sign of a rodent
  • bad smells: musty, unpleasant smells could be a sign of an infestation of maggots or lice. Meanwhile, if you can smell ammonia, you may have rodents
  • droppings: you’ll often find rodent droppings in small groups under sinks or in cupboards. Rodent droppings tend to be small, dark and circular, while cockroach waste is more similar to black pepper or coffee grounds
  • nests: a collection of shredded materials could be a sign of a nest being built by rodents. Or if you see lots of wasps or flies in your property, they could be nesting somewhere like a loft, attic, or unused cupboard
  • eaten food: if food packaging is damaged or the food itself has bite marks, it’s likely you have a rodent problem. One of the most common foods to be targeted by pests is cereal

What to do when your rental property has pests

If you or your tenants spot the early signs of pests, they should make an extra effort to clean the property and clear rubbish. At this stage, there are also some DIY options like humane traps or gadgets that deter pests.

However, if it’s clear that there’s a problem you’ll need to act quickly and contact a professional pest control company.

Although this may cost more, you’ll have a much higher chance of getting rid of the pests completely.

In some cases your local council may be able to help with pest control, so it’s worth contacting them too.

How much does pest control cost?

The cost of pest control varies depending on the type of pest and the scale of the problem.

According to Checkatrade, most pest control will cost between £150 and £500. Sometimes the pest removal company will need to visit the property on several occasions to get rid of the problem, which could cost more.

Moths and bed bugs are two of the more expensive pests to completely eradicate, costing between £500 and £1,000. This is because you may need to remove or replace carpets or pay for specialist heating treatment.

Getting rid of mice or rats is likely to need several visits and could cost around £200.

How much do the council charge for pest control?

The costs for council pest control will depend on where you live and the scale of the problem.

However, if you go through the council it’s likely to be a bit cheaper than using a private company. It’s important to bear in mind that this could take longer to organise.

How to prevent pest infestation in a rental property

Keeping a rental property free from pests is a joint effort between landlords and tenants. It’s up to landlords to make sure the property is in good condition throughout the tenancy, while tenants should keep the property clean and notify their landlord if they spot signs of pests.

Here are five tips to prevent pests getting into your property:

  1. Dispose of rubbish properly: make sure there are enough bins and waste isn’t sitting around for too long. Bin bags and bins should also be well sealed
  2. Ventilate the property: a damp property with poor ventilation could attract pests like cockroaches and maggots. Open windows regularly and use the heating system properly
  3. Seal entry points: look for cracks, gaps, or holes in walls, floors, and around pipes. Seal any openings with wire wool to deter pests
  4. Clean the kitchen regularly: a dirty kitchen with leftover food can encourage pests to stick around, so make sure tenants are cleaning regularly and putting food away securely
  5. Schedule regular inspections: As well as encouraging tenants to look after the property, scheduling regular inspections allows you to spot any signs of pests and take the relevant action

What are your top tips for preventing a pest infestation in a rental property? Let us know in the comments below.

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Conor Shilling

Conor Shilling is a professional writer with over 10 years’ experience across the property, small business, and insurance sectors. A trained journalist, Conor’s previous experience includes writing for several leading online property trade publications. Conor has worked at Simply Business as a Copywriter for three years, specialising in the buy-to-let market, landlords, and small business finance.

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