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Pest and Rodent Control Laws for Property Owners and Occupiers
11 Nov 2016

With the onset of winter residential and commercial properties once again become more vulnerable to infestations from rodents and pests.  

Mice, rats, rabbits and squirrels will seek out the shelter to be found in dwellings and outbuildings together with the potential food source.Landlords and tenants often have to consider who is responsible for the cost of dealing with pests and vermin which can also extend to infestation by insects, ants, fleas, mites, cockroaches, etc. 

In the case of residential property the Tenancy Agreement may set out who is responsible for pests and vermin. Most residential tenancies are in accordance with statute on the basis that the landlord is responsible for the structure of the building. If the infestation is being caused by problems with the structure allowing pests access then the liability for repairing this is likely to be the landlord’s. 

If this is commercial property then it is equally possible that the tenant will be responsible for maintaining the structure of the property in which case it is likely that the tenant has to deal with pests and infestation. 

In both cases where the responsibility may initially lie with the landlord but this can be turned on its head if the tenant’s actions have significantly led to an increase in the risk of the infestation. This usually arises where food stuffs are left around or other waste not disposed of properly at the property which then acts as a draw to pest and vermin.

A recent unreported case involved a landlord’s property being besieged by rats from an adjoining property.  In that case the family in the house had to be put into a hotel and action had to be taken against the adjoining owner via public health department to have waste cleared from the site and rid it of rat infestation.  

Similarly on one occasion a building company allowed their site to become infested with rabbits which were damaging the crops in the farmer’s adjoining field.  In that case the owner of the building site took steps to clear it up pursuant to the threat of legal proceedings for the nuisance and damage being caused. 

There is also legislation dealing with pests specifically such as the Pests Act 1954 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 but this article does not deal with those aspects. Local Authorities are very helpful with queries via pest control or environmental departments. If a Local Authority has to step in to deal with the infestation it is most likely the full costs for this will be passed onto the property owner or occupier.

If a tenant is not responsible or cannot afford to pay the landlord is likely to receive the bill. Environmental departments have legal duties to ensure properties are fit for human habitation which can apply in bad cases of pest and rodent infestation. 

If houses are designated unfit for habitation it can prove difficult and expensive for this to be reversed quickly.