Disrepair - infestations of pests and vermin
Sometimes disrepair in your home can lead to problems with pests and vermin. Infestation is not in itself disrepair, so it's not always clear if your landlord is responsible for dealing with it.
This page considers in what circumstances your landlord may be responsible, whether the local authority can help, and what you can do if you need help dealing with the problem yourself.
What are pests and vermin?
There's no legal definition of pests and vermin, but they're generally thought to include rats, mice, cockroaches, ants, fleas, mites and bedbugs.
Who's responsible for dealing with infestations?
Working out who's responsible for dealing with an infestation depends on several things, including:
- whether there's anything about it in your tenancy agreement, or
- whether your home was infested before you moved in, or
- if the problem is being caused or made worse by disrepair, or
- if something that you've done or haven't done has led to the problem.
It's not always straightforward working out who's responsible. An Environmental Health Officer might be able to identify the cause of an infestation, which in turn might help work out who's responsible.
Does your tenancy agreement cover the problem?
There may be an express term in your tenancy agreement which sets out who's responsible for dealing with pests and vermin. Or it may say something like your landlord will keep the premises in a good and habitable state, which could mean they have to deal with infestations.
If your tenancy agreement says that your landlord is responsible, then you can remind them of that term when you report the problem to them.
Was there a problem when you moved in?
If you live in furnished rented accommodation and the problem with pests or vermin was there when you moved in, it's likely that your landlord is responsible for dealing with it.
This is because your landlord has a duty to ensure that your home is fit to be lived in on the day they let it to you. An infestation could mean that your landlord has not met this duty, but this only applies at the start of a tenancy and wouldn't apply if a problem developed later on.
This duty doesn't apply if your home was let to you unfurnished.
Is the problem as a result of disrepair?
If there's disrepair in your home that's either causing a problem with pests and vermin or is making a problem worse, it's likely that your landlord is responsible for dealing with it as part of the repair work.
For example, if there are holes in the walls and floors which are allowing rodents to get in, then your landlord would be responsible. This is because there's a term implied into tenancy agreements which says that a landlord is responsible for keeping certain things in repair, including the structure and exterior of your home.
If other repair problems that the landlord is responsible for lead to an infestation, they're likely to be responsible under the tenancy agreement. However, they would only become responsible in these circumstances, when they know about the problem.
Could you be responsible for dealing with the infestation?
You might be responsible for dealing with the problem if the infestation was caused by something that you did or failed to do. For example, if you haven't disposed of rubbish properly and that has attracted rats, then you would have to deal with the problem.
Can the local authority help?
Local authority tenants
In many cases, local authority tenants can contact their landlord to report a problem with pests or vermin and the authority will deal with it through their pest control service.
The local authority has specific legal powers to take steps to ensure that its area is free from rats and mice. They must take action to destroy rats and mice on their own land and can serve a notice on an owner or an occupier ordering work to get rid of the problem.
If you have a problem with rats or mice that are coming from someone else's property, then the local authority may be able to take action using this power.
The local authority also has other legal powers to deal with an infestation in your home. For example, where an infestation is harmful to your health or is a nuisance, then it may be a statutory nuisance. Where there's a statutory nuisance, the local authority may be able to force your landlord to deal with the problem.
Or if the infestation is a risk to your health or safety, it could be a hazard under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System. Local authorities have duties and powers to take action to deal with properties that have certain hazards.
In some cases, a private landlord may decide to evict a tenant rather than do repair work. Make sure you know whether you're at risk of eviction before taking action.
- More about statutory nuisance and the HHSRS for tenants in private rented accommodation
- More about statutory nuisance and the HHSRS for tenants in social housing
- More about private tenants and the risk of eviction
The local authority's pest control or Environmental Health team can give you help and advice in dealing with problems with pests and vermin.
Local authorities will have a pest control service which you might be able to use, although there'll probably charge for it if you're not a local authority tenant. Independent pest control companies can also help, but they may be more expensive than the local authority's service.
In some cases, there's also action that you can take yourself, such as using traps and insecticides.