pest and vermin control tenancy

The term ‘pest control’ covers a number of types of animal infestations and outbreaks. Pests and vermin may become evident in rental properties at some stage during a tenancy. But who is responsible for managing pest control?

Pests may include:

  • Fleas
  • Cockroaches
  • Ants
  • Spiders (i.e. redbacks)
  • Rats and mice
  • Snakes and possums
  • Bees and wasps
  • White ants

Any (or all) of these pests and vermin may become evident in rental properties at some stage during your lease. But who is responsible for managing pest control? In many states across Australia, the legislation relating to pest control can be unclear, and is often open to interpretation, for example:

  • A tenant is responsible for keeping the property clean
  • The property owner is responsible for maintaining the property in a safe state of repair, fit for a tenant to reside

It’s also worthwhile noting that many local councils across Australia enforce health and safety bylaws for residential property owners to undertake pest control on an annual basis for pests and vermin, namely cockroaches.

As a general rule, however, any outbreak or infestation of pests such as rats, mice, possums, cockroaches, termites, ants, spiders, wasps or bees requiring attention by a pest control operator is the responsibility of the lessor/property manager.

You might also like:
– Bed bugs in your rental: Responsibility and treatment
– Cockroaches in your rental: Responsibility and treatment
– Termites in your rental: Responsibility and treatment

Your responsibilities as a tenant

Generally, as a tenant, you are responsible for pest infestations such as fleas caused by your pets. Prevention of pests by proper storage of food, and by using sprays and baits.

When you first complete your property condition report, you should also check the premises for cleanliness and maintenance issues, including insect pests.

When you vacate a property, it is a condition of your tenancy agreement to undertake flea treatment control.

Your responsibilities as a property owner

Generally, as a property owner, you are responsible for pest and vermin control (such as rats, mice and termites). The exception being that the presence of the pest was caused by your tenant’s poor housekeeping or lack of cleanliness. If your tenant has not been disposing of perishable rubbish or has been undertaking activities which increase the presence of pests, as a property owner you could argue that it is your tenant’s responsibility.

REMEMBER: Many of the listed pests (above) can be eradicated through the use of simple supermarket products (i.e. insect sprays, baits and traps).

If you’re a tenant, and you’re concerned about your safety, make your concerns known to your property owner or property manager.

You might also like:
– Ants in your rental: Responsibility and treatment

– Rats in your rental: Responsibility and treatment
– Fleas in your rental: Responsibility and treatment
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  1. When it comes to pest control, a number of treatments are done to ensure their complete extermination. Talking about the pest control methodologies, both natural and scientific methods are used. No matter which method you prefer but it is always better to get it executed by the professionals as they effectively know how to make it work.

  2. Can I sue the owner if a pool was taken out and the yard wasn’t up to scratch and I had a really bad fall? Regards Carolyn Smith

    • Hi Carolyn, sorry to hear you’ve had this experience. Hope you’re recovering quickly! Not knowing your situation (and tenancy agreement) intimately, we can’t offer you specific advice. However, if you wish to pursue this further, you should contact your state tenancy body for some general advice on how to best proceed. You can find links to these websites on our ‘Get Support’ section. Just scroll down the page until you spot the maps. Hope this helps you out!

  3. As a property owner, the one responsible for pest control is me, but I have a Property Manager that I can trust, and they are usually the ones who deal with it (since they work in close collaboration with pest control contractors). However, if it’s the tenants who caused the infestation due to neglect, then they are the one who is responsible.

  4. I often get asked this question by tenants too. Exactly as you have stated, the tenants are responisble for keeping the property clean and tidy to ensure it doesn’t become a breeding ground for pests. Pests infestations can easily start from food scraps lying near rubbish bins and around the kitchen. Ants and cockroaches thrive in that environment. If you keep your house clean and still have an issues, contact the property manager to organise pest control company to come and spray the house. Great article, we’ve shared on our Facebook page.

  5. We have just moved into a house and there are redback spiders everywhere. I have found 5 in 2 days. On the wheely bin, the air condition unit outside and on the back gate and inside the air vents on the render of the building. We have a small baby and I’m worried the spiders may get into shoes and on our bikes etc.
    We contacted the real estate and they said just to use spray on them.
    There are spiders everywhere which is fine but when it comes to redbacks I feel they are a danger. What are our rights?

    • Welcome to australia.
      Try teaching small children to look out for redbacks etc. If on bikes brush them off. Keep shoes etc inside, redbacks rarely come inside.
      If you have seen only 5 in 2 days you are far from having a problem.
      Its cruel to kill something that is just doing what its meant to do in the outdoors where it belongs.
      Glad I’m not a redback

  6. Good day,

    well after 11 months we have given notice at our beloved rented house. We never intended to move out but from day one we have been requesting assistance on the removal of Pigeons roosting in the ceiling. In the beginning it was not very noticeable but move and move pigeons moved in and we can approximate around 15 to 20 are now roosting. At 4am in the morning it sounds like Frank Sinatra and Fed Astaire are tap dancing over my daughters and our room the kitchen lounge and garage. We have ask repeatedly for it to be resolved and the Property Agent said that the Owners have made no plans to get it sorted,
    Now as they were already present when I took over the tenancy was it my responsibility or owners to get rid of the issue.

    What health risks have my 3yo daughter and wife and I been exposed to.
    Did I have rights to call someone during the lease?

    Please advise anyone

    • Hi Stuart, sorry to hear you’re having such an issue with these pigeons!
      In most instances, the landlord is responsible for the eradication of pests (like pigeons) if the infestation is evident at the start of the tenancy. As part of the landlord’s general obligations, the landlord must provide the residential premises in a reasonable state of cleanliness and fit for habitation by the tenant.

      It is also a good idea to notify the landlord in writing and attach a copy of the letter to your condition report. Request that the landlord takes steps to eradicate the pests immediately, including a pest control service if necessary.
      The sooner you contact the landlord with the problem, the less chance they have to claim that the infestation is a result of your tenancy.

      If you believe that the infestation was not caused by your activities or lack of cleanliness then you may not be held responsible for pest eradication if you can show the landlord is in breach of the tenancy agreement (for example, by not offering the property in a clean and safe condition at the start of the tenancy) and that this breach has caused the infestation. Hope this helps!

  7. Hi there, we have a mouse problem in our rented house (Melbourne VIC) that we moved into about 2.5 months ago, and the problem became apparent after 2 weeks. We are very clean tenants, and have tried mouse traps to solve on our own but as this has not worked we have requested pest control to be organised by our real estate agent, who has responded that we the tenants are responsible for organising. Is there something a bit more concrete that I can reference to put this back on the property manager?

    • Hi Kate, a mice problem is never fun!

      You are usually responsible for the eradication of pests if the infestation occurs after you have moved in and if the infestation was caused by your activities or lack of cleanliness.
      If you believe that the infestation was not caused by your activities or lack of cleanliness then you may not be held responsible for pest eradication if you can show the landlord is in breach of the tenancy agreement (for example, by not offering the property in a clean and safe condition at the start of the tenancy) and that this breach has caused the infestation.
      In short, the Landlord is responsible for mice and rats if they were present at the start of the tenancy, but the responsibility falls to the tenant if the mice / rats became present during the tenancy.

      If, as you have discovered, the pests do not appear until after you move in, you should contact the landlord/property manager immediately by phone. It is also a good idea to notify the landlord in writing and attach a copy of the letter to your condition report.

      If you and the landlord can’t agree on who is responsible for pest eradication, you should get in touch with the tenancy body in your state to take the matter forward. Hope this helps!

  8. I have currently have rats moving between an exterior shed and roofspace. When I mentioned the issue to the Property Manager she replied it was my duty to deal with the issue.
    Besides this article is there any relevant legislation I can refer them to when I go back and inform them to the contrary it is their responsiblity?

  9. We’ve had a possum living in the roof for the past 7 weeks. The landlord said it is not important. Who has the right to take action?

    • Hi Marie,
      If the possum has entered your roof space because of a structural problem (i.e. there’s an entry point that shouldn’t be there), then your landlord must deal with this situation. Take a photo of any holes/damage and document the times you hear the possum noise. Present these to your landlord. If you don’t have any luck with pursuing this, get in touch with the tenancy body or consumer affairs team that looks after your state/territory for advice 🙂 Hope the issue is resolved soon!

  10. Who is responsible in getting rid of a nest of wasps that seem to have entered in between the plaster in the main bedroom. Tree is next door however they seem to have set up house in our rented unit.

  11. Well, this makes sense. Pests might come into a property even if it is immaculate (it’s just that the chances of that happening are much lower). Hence, a tenant shouldn’t be responsible for this (especially in the case of possums).

    On the other hand, if the tenant doesn’t keep the place the way it should be kept, then it stands to reason should an infestation happen, it’s on them. The landlord shouldn’t be responsible for this. Context matters.

    I think the best practice for landlords is to keep a “pest history record”. This way, if an infestation happens, they will be prepared (especially if it happens often). And if there is no history of pests, then it might be easier to prove it’s the tenant’s fault.

  12. Maybe the landlords? Cause everytime we need a pest control, we just dial his number and they’ll do the job, he’ll set a schedule, then the next day, they’ll do the pest control.

  13. Hi There,
    Me and my husband moved in to an apartment as tenants
    And it’s not even been a week we found out the apartment has a mouse that has made holes in to all our snacks and eatables stored. We are very concerned and we were not informed about this before. What can I do? Can we break lease over this 🙁
    Please suggest

    • Hi Pearl,

      Your rental property should have been in a clean condition when you first moved in. If you rent your property through an agent, contact them as soon as you discover the rat/mice problem, but in the meantime look at getting a few rat traps to contain the problem. If the rodents were in the property when you moved in, it will be the responsibility of the property owner (via the agent, if applicable) to arrange pest control.

  14. Aaaw! I have had a possum living in my roof since I moved in to my place and I love him! I could pet him, feed him cat biscuits and sadly he seems to have vacated now. They arent a problem in my experience! 😀

  15. very interesting read by all post and comments.
    I’m in Sydney nsw and was googling on who’s responsible for for getting a pest control. I have lived in a block of units for over 10yrs and when I have addressed my cockroach issue with them they say because I have been in the property for more then 5yrs then its my $$$ that has too pay for pest control. However not once in the 10yrs has the property been sprayed or any renovations taken place. We are currently in summer and we all know that roaches are more active and while we are very clean people that don’t even own a microwave so the little critters cant hide in it, I have them crawling on me at night while I’m trying to sleep. I suffer from ashma so cant use chemical sprays.
    I’m not sure how to address this with the realestate. As we all know when you start to complain they don’t make things easy.

    • Hi George,

      Generally speaking, the tenant has to keep the filters clean. But if the air conditioner needs fixing, anything provided by the landlord must be maintained and repaired if necessary. This is the landlord’s duty and repairing and maintaining air-conditioning falls under this duty. Here comes the fine print, there are a couple of exceptions:

      1) if you and your landlord agreed in your lease that the air-conditioner was not working and does not form part of the rented premises; or 2) if the air-conditioner was damaged due to your lack of care, and the landlord has given you notice to fix the damage. [Section 68 Residential Tenancies Act].

      If you need further clarification, contact the tenancy support service in your state/territory – Here’s a link that will help you with contacts:

  16. Our tenant for our property just asked who is responsible for pest control. She is saying she have seen a couple of redback spiders lately. Before we moved out we didn’t have any spider issue of some sort. Are we still the one liable for the pest control cost? Even though issue happens 6 months after they moved in? Thank you!

    • Hi Bernie,

      If you can show that a spider problem has come about because your tenant has not kept the property clean and tidy, you may be able to swing this in your favour. Can the spider issue be dealt with a supermarket spray or is it something more serious? Because they’re redback spiders (and slightly more dangerous) and they’ve come about during a tenancy, you may be able to split the cost of pest control if it’s required at the property.