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Tenants legal help – vermin, who is responsible?

Rat infestation is not niceLiability for dealing with vermin

Vermin infestation in your home can be very upsetting.  I sometimes get emails from tenants afflicted with all kinds of infestation:-

  • There’s a rat in the house
  • There’s a wasps nest in the loft
  • There are bed bugs
  • Etc

Who bears the cost of sorting this out?

To a certain extend the answer is ‘it depends’.

If you have just moved in, then it is for your landlord to sort out. It is your landlord’s legal responsibility to ensure that the property (assuming it is furnished) is fit for human habitation at the time it is let. In fact if you move in and find the property is (for example) infested with rats and has bed bugs, you are probably justified in moving out (so long as you do it quickly – take advice first).

If the infestation occurs after you have been there for a while, then it depends on whose fault it is. For example

  • If rats get in because there are holes in the external walls or
  • Insects are attracted to damp because of a leak in the pipes

Then, provided the holey walls and leaky pipes were not caused by you, it will in most cases, be down to your landlord to carry out repairs and deal with the infestation.

However

  • If there are flies and maggots because you never clean the property and it is filthy, or
  • Rats are attracted because you leave food lying around and do not deal with rubbish properly

Then the infestation will probably have been caused by you. You will be therefore responsible for dealing with it.

What about infestation where no-one is ‘at fault’?

Well in that case it will depend on when the infestation occurs.

  • If it is there at the time you move in (even if it is not discovered for a while), it will normally be the landlords responsibility to sort it out
  • However if it happens after you have been living there for a while, then you will be responsible. After all it is your property now (until the tenancy ends).

Have you had problems with infestation in  your rented property?  Do you have any practical tips for readers?

See more help for tenants on Landlord Law.

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Important note. If you are reading an old post, remember that the law may have changed since it was written.




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9 Responses to Tenants legal help – vermin, who is responsible?

  1. Hi,

    Further to the useful advice above, are you able to advise what steps I can take to make my landlord deal with an ongoing mouse infestation?
    The landlord has admitted (in writing) that there have been mice in the property for many years and the previous tennents kept the place in an incredibly dirty state. We have kept it very clean but it was the mice’s home before it was ours and they aren’t leaving without a fight!
    We have insisted that the landlord should deal with it because it was clearly a problem before we moved in but they say they wont and we just have to put up with it or catch them ourselves.
    Is there a particular piece of the law that we can quote to them to make it clear we know our rights and will exercise them if we have to?

  2. Probably best if you contact your Local Authority and ask them to do a Housing Health and Safety Rating inspection. If they consider the mouse infestation to be a category 1 hazard (which it may well be) they will serve an enforcement order on your landlord. Failure to comply with this will result in prosecution.

  3. Regarding the vermin article would it be in the landlords interest to get the problem sorted out asap, be it a wasps nest or insect problem as this would limit any damage to the property while the infestation existed. I’ve always thought this a bit of a ‘grey area’ on responsibility as the situation is not necessarily either the landlords or tenants fault. Maybe they could share the cost to eradicate the problem. Also if the tenant was say stung by wasps and the landlord passed the responsibility on to the tenant, would landlord be liable under repair/maintenance obligations?

  4. Many landlords will want to deal with this themselves whatever the strict liability is.

    If the tenant is stung by a wasp and wants to claim compensation this will be a bit difficult. I suspect that the liability for PI damages will depend on who is responsible for the repairs.

    My feeling is that if the vermin infestation was not there at the start of the tenancy and did not occur because of the landlords failure to repair, there will be no claim against the landlord.

  5. Hi, I recently moved to London and moved into a lovely flat. Me and my flatmates have kept it very tidy and found out that the previous owners had not done so. When we first moved in we were greeted by cockroaches and mice. The pest control man came and we finally got rid of the cockroaches but the mice are not leaving. We have poison, traps, sticky boards but they still keep coming we’ve caught 7 mice now and they are avoiding the traps poison etc. We found holes in the kitchen where they are coming from and the landlord keeps sending the same odd job man around, who doesn’t know what he’s doing. We told him when using filler that he needed to use wire wool too to prevent the mice eatting back through the foam and he ignored us. On another visit from the pest man he pulled out our washing machine and found that the wall and floor don’t meet and said it all needed repairing properly. The handy man came again with foam and some MDF and botched up the job, they’re still coming, and after going to the estate agent i was told i live in London and should expect it and if i didn’t like it to move out and find some place else to live. Surely there must be something we can do, and i understand mice/rats are common place in London but surely not in the kitchen.

  6. If there are mice, the kitchen is where they will want to be!

    You could always consult a professional pest removal company. There are some which specialise in rented properties I believe.

    Or you could consider getting a cat, I understand that they are the best mice deterrent around. When I was a child there were mice in our flat, but not after the cat came.

  7. Rats!!

    We have an old terrace house , wooden floor boards , we have a problem with rats, the come in , the run around under the floor boards and the walls of the house , they get trapped they die , maggots and then the house is full of flies… landlord is aware and trying to help , but it;s getting too much we can’t be at the house, what legal right do we as tennants have?

  8. I suspect that you will not have a claim agaisnt the landlord under his repairing covenants (assuming the property is in repair and that is not why the rats are getting in) but you may be able to perusade the local authority to serve an imporvement notice on him.

    Contact your local authority Environmental Health Department and ask them to send someone out to do a Housing Health and Safety Rating System inspection. You can find details of local authorities here: http://www.landlordlaw.co.uk/local-authority-directory




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About the post author:

Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law. She runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 12th year) and is a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. Tessa also sits on the Property Redress Scheme Council. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google



The Landlord Law Blog from Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is an English lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law.


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