Pest infestations can cause problems for both tenants and landlords. Unlike burnt out light bulbs (tenant’s responsibility) or broken water pipes (landlord’s responsibility), the area of pest control can be difficult to navigate, with ill-defined definitions of responsibility on both sides. Let ACTON shine some light on this confusing situation, by breaking down the responsibilities of home and rental properties defined in the Rental Tenancies Act 1997.
Pest Infestation at the Property
Pests can cause significant damage to a property, as well as being generally unhygienic and unwanted, giving both the tenant and the landlord good reasons to keep a pest free home. Pests may include cockroaches, termites, fleas, ants, bees, wasps, spiders, mice, rats, possums, or snakes. When a pest problem becomes apparent, it is important to identify the type of pest and when the problem occurred. This will be important when determining who holds responsibility for rectifying the situation.
Tenants must be vigilant during open homes and upon first moving in. Thorough inspection should look for signs of damage or current pest infestations, such as rodent droppings or damage to wooden surfaces. Documenting such observations from the beginning can distinguish between pest infestations present before move in, or those caused by tenant activities.
Who Is Responsible?
The first step in determining responsibility for a pest problem is to read through the lease agreement. Some tenancy agreements have a clause added regarding pest control, so in these situations, use the signed agreement as the guide.
If the tenancy agreement fails to reference pest problems, we then look at the Rental Tenancies Act 1997, which is where things get a little hazy, as pest issues are not explicitly discussed. We look at the tenant’s responsibility, which states that “the tenant must take reasonable care of the premises and keep the premises reasonably clean.” Therefore, it is inferred that pest problems arising from uncleanliness (e.g., failure to dispose of rubbish) or caused by the tenant (fleas from pets) are the responsibility of the tenant.
The landlord is responsible for ensuring the premises are fit for habitation, reasonably clean, and in a reasonable state of repair. From this statement, we recognise the landlord to be responsible for pest infestations that arise out of disrepair (e.g., a hole in the roof or wall allowing pest access) or were present before the tenant moved in.
As you can see, these definitions leave quite a bit of room for situations to fall in between, as it can be difficult to prove a pest problem is not the result of untidiness on the tenant’s part. It is generally assumed that pest infestations requiring professional attention will need the attention of the landlord, although this is largely undertaken in good faith, as the Tenancies Act is not explicit in assigning responsibility.
If a Landlord Does Not Want To Pay for Pest Control
It is always best to speak with the landlord in order to find an amicable solution that suits both parties. When this is not an option, and the tenant believes the landlord to be responsible for the pest situation, there are a few options available.
The tenant can serve the landlord with a Notice of Breach of Agreement, a legal form by which the tenant can outline the aspect of the lease the landlord is not upholding, in this case, failing to maintain the property in a reasonably clean state, not needing repair. The tenant may also contact the Environment Health Officer of the local council, and advise them of the situation. Beyond this, taking matters to the Magistrates Court is the next step of recourse.
ACTON Real Estate
Pest problems have the potential to disrupt the liveability of a property, and are best dealt with immediately. It can be difficult to determine who is responsible for pest control between the tenant and the landlord, as no explicit regulations exist. Guidelines can be used to help determine responsibility, and overall is it best to have a good open discussion between tenants and landlords, and a comprehensive lease agreement. ACTON property management understands the complications that can come from Perth rental properties, and we have the experts to help you navigate your rights and responsibilities. Contact ACTON Corporate for any queries regarding your home or rental property management.