Dealing with Pests

Identifying who is resonsible

Many properties suffer from temporary inhabitation by pests on some occasion, whether this is ants, bedbugs, fleas, cockroaches, wasps, mice, rats, bats, squirrels or pigeons. Such infestations cause an inconvenience and may result in damage to the property and a decline in hygiene. A pest problem should be dealt with as soon as discovered, to prevent it developing further and creating more damage and nuisance. The landlord and the tenant are both likely to want to avoid responsibility for dealing with a pest problem for which they are not accountable, as remediation may be time-consuming and expensive. In identifying whether the pest problem is the responsibility of the landlord or the tenant there are a number of issues which need to be considered and these are detailed below.

Terms of the tenancy agreement

Initially the landlord or agent should consider the terms of the tenancy agreement and whether it specifically covers the eventuality of an infestation.  It is important to also consider whether there are any more general obligations which could make the landlord liable.  Clauses giving landlords responsibilities in addition to those implied by statute or common law should be avoided in tenancy agreements.   For example, a provision that the landlord will keep the property in ‘good condition’ (Welsh v Greenwich LBC [2001] 33 HLR 438) or an obligation for the landlord to keep the dwelling ‘fit to live in’ (Johnson v Sheffield City Council [1994] CLY 1445) is likely to make the landlord responsible for pests where it is evident that the problem was not directly caused by the tenant.  Minor adjustments to the wording in tenancy agreements can result in unintended consequences.

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