A pest infestation in a rental property can cause problems for both tenants and landlords – especially when pest control is required to manage the situation.
When bugs and other pests find their way into a rental property, it can cause conflict between tenants and landlords about which party is responsible for pest control.
What is pest control?
The term ‘pest control’ covers several types of animal infestations and outbreaks. The types of pests you may encounter in a rental property can include, but are not limited to:
Pest control is the process of managing (by using deterrents or repellants) or removing pests. Managing or controlling these pests can be done in several ways.
Of course, preventing a pest issue is much preferred to dealing with one that has happened. But if the problem exists, there is only one way to deal with it: removing the pests.
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Is pest control a landlord or tenant responsibility?
Pests and vermin can become evident in a rental property at any stage of a tenancy. Determining who is responsible for managing the issue is complex. In many states/territories across Australia, pest control legislation is unclear and is often open to interpretation.
In fact, many local councils across the country also enforce health and safety bylaws for residential property owners to undertake pest control every year for pests and vermin.
Check your lease agreement
The first step in determining responsibility for your issue is to read the lease agreement. Some tenancy agreements include a clause regarding pest control. In these situations, use your signed agreement as your guide.
Check the Residential Tenancies Act
If your tenancy agreement fails to address your pest problems, you should look at the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. The Act states that “the tenant must take reasonable care of the premises and keep the premises reasonably clean.”
So pest problems brought about by uncleanliness (e.g., the failure to dispose of rubbish properly) or caused by the tenant (fleas from pets) will be the tenant’s responsibility.
However, as a general rule, an outbreak or infestation of pests or vermin not due to the above will be the landlord/lessor’s responsibility.
Tenants – Your pest control responsibilities
Generally, tenants are held responsible for a pest infestation such as fleas caused by pets. Tenants are also responsible for pest prevention by ensuring food is properly stored and using sprays and baits where necessary.
When you vacate your rental property, it is usually a condition of your tenancy agreement to undertake a flea treatment control if you have had pets living in the property. Check your lease agreement to see what applies to your tenancy.
Landlords/Owners – Your pest control responsibilities
In most cases, property owners/landlords will be held responsible for pest and vermin control on animals such as rats, mice and termites. The one exception here is if the pest’s presence was caused by the tenant’s poor housekeeping or lack of cleanliness.
If the tenant did not properly dispose of their rubbish or undertook activities that increased the pests’ presence, you could argue that this is your tenant’s responsibility.
Hot tip: You can eradicate many of the pests in the list above by using simple supermarket products, such as insect sprays, baits and traps.
Health and safety concerns
If you’re renting a property with a pest infestation and are genuinely concerned about your health and safety, make your concerns known to your property manager or landlord.
Lauren Vardy is the Content Manager at Rent.com.au, Australia's largest company dedicated to renters (ASX:RNT). Lauren has worked with Rent.com.au since 2015 and manages the Rent.com.au Blog. Formerly a journalist with Fairfax Media and Rural Press, Lauren has worked with multiple media groups in Australia and internationally on a freelance basis through publications including the Esperance Express, Southeast Asia Globe, Colosoul Magazine, The Sunday Times, and more.