cockroaches
Photo: Unsplash/Nowshad Arefin.

Cockroaches can cause major issues for tenants and landlords in rental properties. While they’re usually there to eat left-out food (how kind) here’s how to get rid of this unwelcome pest.

Know your enemy

Cockroaches are omnivores, so they’ll eat just about anything that’s edible. They’re not usually aggressive enough to attack you while you’re awake, but they could while you’re asleep. Few cockroaches are big enough to cause you any damage, but the bigger species could bite through human skin.

You might have a cockroach problem if… 

You spot physical evidence around your home such as cockroach droppings, shed skin, cockroach eggs, smear marks, damage caused by cockroaches, an unusual odour and, most obviously, physical sightings around your kitchen, laundry roof void or basement.

Steps to take against cockroaches

There are many off the shelf DIY products you can pick up at your local supermarket, but typically a professional treatment will be the most effective way to get rid of cockroaches in your rental property. The most effective way to prevent cockroaches is to deny them access to water, shelter and food – the three things that will have attracted them to your home in the first place. They won’t stick around very long if there’s nothing to eat. Have you dropped food scraps under your oven? If your reflexes are good and you’re not a fan of chemical solutions, hitting them with a shoe or rolled up magazine will do the job nicely. If the infestation is serious, make sure you hire a professional.

Are landlords or tenants responsible for cockroaches?

Who pays for exterminating or removing cockroaches may depend on the following:
  • As a tenant, you will typically be responsible for the eradication of vermin (like cockroaches) if the infestation occurs after you moved into the property and, moreover, the infestation can be shown to be caused as a result of your activities or lack of cleanliness.
  • If you have been living in your property for several months and a cockroach infestation occurs, it will generally be you (the tenant) who must pay for the fumigation of your rental property.
  • If you can show that the property owner was in breach of the tenancy agreement (for example, by not offering the property in a clean and safe condition) and this breach caused the infestation, you may not be held responsible for eradication.
  • If you can show that the infestation was caused by a next-door neighbour who kept uncovered rubbish in the backyard, then you could refer this matter to your local council for action.

Read more: Cockroaches in your rental: Responsibility and treatment


Negotiate with the property owner/agent for the rental to be fumigated before or within the first few weeks of your tenancy if you see early evidence of cockroaches. You can also have this written into your tenancy agreement under the ‘Special Conditions’ section of your agreement. If you don’t discover the cockroaches until you move in, then contact your landlord/agent immediately by phone. The sooner you contact them about the issue, the less chance they will have to claim that the infestation was a result of your tenancy.
If you and your landlord cannot agree on who should pay for exterminating or removing the bed bugs, either of you can apply for a determination from your state Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
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