Pests in rentals - who is responsible for pest control in Australian tenancies?

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 as to who is responsible for pest control.

What is pest control? 

The term ‘pest control’ covers a number of 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 from the home. Managing or controlling these pests can be done in a number of ways.

Of course, preventing a pest issue is much preferred to having to deal with one that has happened. But if the problem exists, there is only one way to deal with it: removing the pests from the property.

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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, the legislation around pest control 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 properly dispose of rubbish) or that are caused by the tenant (fleas from pets) will be the tenant’s responsibility.

As a general rule, however, any outbreak or infestation of pests or vermin that was not as a result of the above that will be the responsibility of the landlord/lessor.

Tenants – Your pest control responsibilities

Generally, tenants are held responsible for a pest infestation such as fleas, which are 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 complete your first property condition report, make sure you check the premises for cleanliness and maintenance issues, including insect pests like cockroaches, ants and spiders.

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.

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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 presence of the pest 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 which increased the presence of pests, you could argue that this is your tenant’s responsibility.

Hot tip: Many of the pests in the list above can be eradicated through the use of simple supermarket products, such as insect sprays, baits and traps.

Health and safety concerns

If you’re renting a property that has a pest infestation and you are genuinely concerned about your health and safety, make your concerns known to your property manager or landlord.

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Lauren Vardy
Content Manager at | Website

Lauren Vardy is author behind the Rent.com.au Blog, a site built to help renters find a home and navigate their renting journey. She is the Content Manager at Rent.com.au. Outside of work, she dabbles in all things health, fitness and houseplants.