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Who is responsible for pest control?

By George Hadgelias

Pests are never welcome in a home, but an infestation can be an especially sore point in a rental property.

Determining who is responsible for pest control is a common conundrum for tenants and landlords, with no legislation unambiguously stating which party is obligated to fix the issue when an outbreak occurs.

If you are a tenant, it is important to report a serious pest issue promptly, and to consistently keep your property in good condition to limit the chances of an outbreak occurring. Meanwhile, if you are a landlord, you must ensure all pest problems are under control before you put your rental property on the market.

In the rare event that an issue arises mid-lease, it’s important for both parties to negotiate with one another in an open, considerate manner, and to act quickly, to prevent the problem getting out of control.

Common pests

Depending on where you live, pests and vermin may become an issue for your property.

The most common creepy crawlies are: cockroaches, ants, rats, mice and wasps.

In particularly unpleasant circumstances, unwanted tenants may also include: spiders, snakes, termites and possums.

Is it in your lease agreement?

If you are having a problem with an infestation or outbreak, your first port of call is your tenancy agreement (lease).

In some cases, the lease will clearly define whose responsibility a pest issue is.

This is often the case if pets are on the premises, as tenants will be required to fumigate for fleas under the contract.

Before signing a lease, a tenant should inspect the property, and have a clause put into the agreement to protect themselves if they suspect there is a problem.

Tenant responsibility

Generally, as a tenant, you are required to take steps to make sure an infestation does not occur. This includes keeping a premises clean and addressing a pest presence early.

It is recommended you store food properly, clear cobwebs, set mouse traps, and use sprays and baits.

However, if the situation is bad and you suspect it existed before you moved in, contact your landlord and property manager immediately. If your landlord expects you to deal with the issue, consult your state tenant authority first for advice.

Be wary of calling in an exterminator before speaking with the owner, as they may refuse to reimburse the expense later on.

Remember, too, that, if you are moving out, you are required to take the necessary steps to remove all creep crawlies.

Common pest scenarios tenants are responsible for include:

  • removing ants, cockroaches or spiders during the tenancy
    • clearing bees and wasps if they begin building a nest after you have moved in
    • safely dealing with a snake if one is found in the house or backyard.

    Landlord’s responsibility

    If you own a property and you know there are ongoing pest issues, the onus is on you to protect the premises and the tenant.

    The best safeguard is to have the rental inspected and any pests eradicated before the property is rented. Doing so will mean you are less likely to be held responsible if a pest infestation does later occur.

    However, less common pest issues such as possums and termites are usually the responsibility of the property owner.

    It is also important to consider adding pest clauses into your lease agreement if your renter has pets, to ensure fumigation at the end of the contract.

    Common pest scenarios landlords are responsible for include:

    • when ants, bees, wasps, cockroaches, fleas, bedbugs or vermin are present in large numbers before a tenant moves in
    • when birds or possums are nesting in the house or causing damage to the outside of the property
    • termites are the responsibility of a landlord, no matter when the outbreak occurs.

    How to deal with a pest dispute?

    If your pest problem requires costly action or descends into a bitter dispute, it can be difficult to fix, regardless of whether you rent or own. Negotiation is the first step to find an outcome that suits all and during the early stages, action can often be taken to tackle the issue without bringing in the experts. In extreme cases where you cannot come to a resolution, either party can apply to the appropriate state tribunal for a ruling.

    Steps to take if a dispute arises

    1. Set up a meeting or call with to talk through the issue
    2. Document the pest control issue with photographs
    3. Contact the tenancy tribunal in your state if you need further guidance
    4. So, in summary, when it comes to the pest issue, tenants should take care of the property and landlords should ensure a rental is pest-free before they rent it out.

      It’s worth noting, too, that, pest control is a normal part of renting and should be addressed quickly to avoid outbreaks, regardless of who discovers the problem.

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