Photo: Flickr/Michael Wunderli.

Fleas can be a real headache for tenants, especially for those who own pets. As parasites, the biggest concern about the presence of fleas comes from their bites. Here’s how to handle them.

Know your enemy

Fleas are normally a reddy-brown colour and will be about 2mm in length.

You might have a problem with fleas if… 

You can see fleas crawling on your pet’s fur. Look at your dog’s hindquarters and cat’s neck. What can you see? These areas are where you might see signs of flea activity. Fleas also leave flea ‘dirt’ (basically poo) that looks like ground black pepper. You can use a flea comb over a sheet of white paper to see the black small specks.

Why are there fleas in my house?

You don’t necessarily need pets to have fleas in your home. If the previous owners/renters of your property kept cats or dogs and did not have the rental properly fumigated, there’s a chance they could still remain in the property. Fleas can be carried in on other animals like rabbits, rats, mice and foxes.

Steps to take against fleas

Pets are the main source of fleas in your home, but re-homing Fluffy to avoid the problem likely won’t be an option. To prevent fleas from getting into your home, make sure you vacuum regularly and wash your pet’s bedding weekly. Check your pets regularly for fleas using flea combs. If you move into a new property, inspect the carpets and flooring for any sign of eggs or flea dirt.

Are landlords or tenants responsible for a flea infestation?

If the fleas aren’t easily treated with a quick flea treatment on your pooch, get in touch with your landlord/agent. If your tenancy lease doesn’t define responsibility for pests like fleas, who pays for exterminating or removing fleas from your home will depend on whether:
  • the fleas were already a problem when you moved into the property;
  • a problem with the property allowed the pests to enter; or
  • you contributed to the problem.
If the flea infestation was not present at the beginning of the tenancy, and neither the tenant nor landlord did anything to cause it, who remains responsible remains uncertain. Often, you and your landlord may agree to divide the cost of eradicating the pest between the two of you. If you think the flea problem is caused by your landlord not maintaining the house, you can issue a notice to remedy asking for the work to be done.
Infestations caused by your lack of cleanliness, however, could be argued to be your responsibility as a tenant. In this case, a landlord could choose to seek an order from the Tenancy Tribunal in your state for fumigation work to be done and will likely charge you for this.
Landlords – the bottom line with flea infestations is your requirement to provide premises that are fit for habitation. So, if your tenant complains of a flea infestation caused by the previous tenant, you will need to step in and get the property re-sprayed. It’s better to get it done than run the risk of losing the new tenant and having to refund their bond.

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