Infestations in the home – who is responsible for dealing with it?
Occasionally, disrepair in the home can lead to infestations i.e. ants, mice, rats etc
Infestations refer to pests and vermin in the home which cause distress, affect the health and safety of the tenants or are a general nuisance.
It is not always clear who is responsible for the infestations…the landlord? Local Authority? Or you?
If you are experiencing problems with pests and vermin, the first thing to do would be to check your tenancy agreement to see what (and if) it mentions anything about this kind of situation on the agreement. It should say something like an ‘expressed term’ which sets out who is responsible, or it might say that your landlord should keep the property in a habitable state.
Another thing to consider is, did this problem already exist before you moved in, or is it a new problem? If on the day you moved in, you moved in to a furnished property and the problem with vermin or pests was already there (maybe you just didn’t notice until you actually moved in) then the responsibility most definitely lies with your landlord, they have a duty of care to ensure the property is fit to live in before you begin living there.
However, if you moved into an unfurnished home, this duty of care doesn’t apply.
Is this problem with pests or vermin being caused by the state of the home? Are your living conditions inappropriate? Were they like this before you moved in? Have they fallen into disrepair since you have been living there? Has your landlord done anything to rectify any of the issues?
When you look at your tenancy agreement it should say that your landlord is responsible for keeping certain things in repair, such as the structure and exterior of the property.
Disrepair such as holes in walls, gaps in floorboards, which allow rodents to get in, are your landlords responsibility once you make them aware of the problem.
However, if an infestation is caused by leaving rubbish lying around and not disposing of it properly etc then you would be responsible, or if you have a pet that has fleas which then infects the whole house, again this is your responsibility to treat the pet and the house.
Who is responsible and what comes next?
Maybe you have mentioned the pest and vermin problem already to your landlord, but you are stuck in an argument about who is responsible? An Environmental Health Officer (EHO) can figure out who is responsible in these cases.
If you are a local authority tenant (social), usually, they have their own pest control to deal with pests and vermin, so once you have reported the issue to the local authority, they usually would send the pest control team out to deal with it. This pest control team can usually give you advice too in dealing with an ongoing infestation problem.
Usually, the local authority has legal powers to make sure that any homes and surrounding areas are free from rats and mice, they must take action to destroy vermin and pests on their own land and can serve notices on owners or occupiers ordering work to get rid of the infestation
If the issue is being caused by an infestation coming from an adjoining property which is then affecting your home, the local authority can usually take action for this too.
If you are a private tenant, sometimes the local authority’s pest control service can be used by yourself too, but at a charge, there are also privately owned pest control services which can be used too, again this would be expensive too, you can also take some matters into your own hands by using traps and insecticides. But you should always firstly discuss any matter of this kind with your landlord or your housing association.
If an infestation is harmful to your health or safety, then this would come under a hazard under the ‘Housing Health and Safety Rating System’, local authorities have duties and powers to deal with and take action in these cases.
If the infestation is a nuisance, the local authority also has other legal powers to deal with the infestation, it is what is called a statutory nuisance, this means the local authority can force your landlord to deal with the problem.
Sadly, sometimes instead of dealing with the issue, some private landlords decide to just evict a tenant rather than dealing with the infestation or repairs.
In some circumstances, some landlords, private and social will ignore the plights of their tenants causing misery and despair, in these cases we can advise on where you can turn too for help in bringing action against your landlord.
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