Problems with pests in rented accommodation are a common issue presented to the GLA clinic but who is responsible for the problem?
According to the law landlords are responsible for repairing the following items. Any deterioration of the items is called “disrepair”;
- The structure of the property, including walls, stairs, banisters, roof, external doors and windows,
- Sinks, baths, toilets and other sanitary fittings, including pipes and drains,
- Heating and hot water,
- Chimneys and ventilation, and,
- Electrical wiring.
Pests and vermin generally include rats, mice, cockroaches, ants, fleas, mites and bed bugs. As you can see, they are not featured on the above list and this is because an infestation does not amount to disrepair. A landlord does not have a responsibility to deal with the pests, but may be responsible in certain situations.
First, a tenancy agreement may state that the landlord will keep a property in a habitable state, therefore the landlord may be responsible for pests and vermin (if the cause of the in-habitable state is the landlord)
Secondly, the landlord will likely be responsible if the pests were in the property when you moved in. This would mean the landlord has not met their duty to ensure that the property is fit to be lived in on the day of arrival. However it should be noted that this only applies to furnished rented accommodation.
Finally, if a pest infestation has occurred as a result of an existing disrepair, the landlord is responsible for it. An example of this would be where damage to the structure of the property, has enabled pests and vermin to access the property.
If any of these exceptions cannot be shown then the tenant will be responsible for the pests and vermin.
From a practical point of view, if you believe that the landlord is responsible for dealing with an infestation you should take the following steps;
1. Immediately call your landlord or managing agent ( if the property is a managed one). Outline the issue, and if possible follow up the issue in writing; by email, text or letter ( reported issues should be followed up within a maximum of 14 days)
2. Your landlord/managing agent should then take action to control the infestation
3. If no action is taken, repeat your request to the Landlord/managing agent, again following it up in writing. Call your local authority and report the issue to them.
4. If your landlord/managing continues to ignore the issue you should pay the cost of removing the infestation. You can then attempt to recover that cost from the landlord, ultimately by way of a small claim in the county court if necessary.
Remember that even if you are having repeated issues with pests and vermin you must never withhold rent from the landlord. If you are served with a notice seeking possession from your landlord ( Section 21 or Section 8 of the Housing Act 1988) you should seek legal advice immediately.