Helpful Tips Property Management

Rats thriving due to mild UK winters-top tips for landlords

Victoria Barker
Written by Victoria Barker

Rats are thriving across the UK, the British Pest Control Association is warning, with milder winters to blame for the increase.

The trade body has developed a new toolkit for landlords on what can be done to help prevent problems with rats.

Here, we have put together some resources for landlords about what to do if a tenant contacts them about a suspected rat infestation.

Who is responsible for tackling the problem?

Rats can cause structural damage to properties, so it is important that any infestation is dealt with swiftly. But, who exactly is responsible for dealing with a suspected rat infestation in a privately rented house? This depends on:

  • Whether there is anything relevant in the tenancy agreement:The tenancy agreement may set out details on who is responsible for dealing with any infestation or may make the landlord responsible for keeping the premises in good condition and fit to live in, which couldmean they have to deal with infestations.
  • Whether the property was already infested when the tenant moved in: If the property is already infested when the tenant moves in, it is likely that the landlord will be responsible for dealing with it. In regard to furnishedproperties, landlords have a contractual duty (implied by common law) to ensure that at the start of the letting there is “nothing so noxious as to render it uninhabitable”.
  • Whether the infestation may have resulted from some act of the tenant. The tenant may be responsible for dealing with the problem if the infestation was caused by something the tenant has done or failed to do; eg, not dealing properly with rubbish, not cleaning the property adequately, leaving food around or keeping pets which have fleas.
  • Whether the property was in disrepair: Infestations may be the result of, or made worse by structural defects or disrepair, such as holes in external walls. Unless the disrepair has been caused by the tenant, it will usually fall to the landlord to carry out the repair and deal with the infestation.

What does the law say?

Rats and mice carry diseases and can inflict a great amount of structural damage. They can cause serious fires by gnawing away the insulation around electrical cables, floods by puncturing pipes and even death by chewing through gas pipes.

The insurance sector has estimated that rodent damage to wiring is responsible for 25% of all electrical fires in buildings. (Andrew can we use this as a pull out quote?)

Property owners have a legal obligation under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 to keep premises rat and mice free, or, if they pose a threat to health or property, to report infestations to the local authority.

Treatment:It is recommended you contact a professional pest control company, which will have access to a range of professional use rodenticides which are not available to the public.

About the author

Victoria Barker

Victoria Barker

Victoria is the Communications Officer for the RLA.

She is responsible for producing articles for our Campaigns and News Centre, the weekly E-News newsletter and media review, and creating social media content. She also contributes to our members magazine, Residential Property Investor.

3 Comments

  • Hi Victoria,
    As a qualified pest controller and landlord I would point out that The Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 states that ‘the occupier’ is responsible however, with my landlord hat on I always ensure that all possible exterior entrant points are tackled, wire mesh over airbricks, mortar sealing around pipes, vegetation cut back or removed within, at least, one metre of the building. I then give the tenant a list of tasks to carry out, internally, to ensure that foodstuffs are properly contained, leftovers and food packaging are disposed of in sealed refuse bins, crumbs are cleared away, carpets are regularly vacuumed and possible nesting sites (piles of bin bags with clothes in are a favourite) are tidied away and monitored regularly. Quite honestly, in my home, this is simply our normal good housekeeping. But try telling that to a tenant!!! I qualified as a pest controller because I was tired of listening to tenants whining about mice (“rats the size of cats”) but I also enjoyed the learning and being able to stand my ground should the local authority become involved.
    Thanks for a good article of useful information. Any landlord operating close to me, who has an issue with pests, I will gladly give advice to on how best to tackle any infestation. There would be no charge for my help.
    Kind regards,
    Philip

    • Hi Philip, many thanks for your comment and for sharing such helpful tips that I am sure will be very useful for our members to know. Best, Victoria

  • Not sure whether it’s true that “professional” rodent control people have access to poisons that landlords cannot buy. I believe this is the current state of play: https://www.hse.gov.uk/biocides/eu-bpr/rodenticides.htm

    Can anyone name a product which a “professional” can buy but a landlord can’t, and if so what qualifications a “professional” pest control operative needs to be able to buy them?

    I ask because we went through this “professional” restriction some time ago with herbicides, then genuine coal tar creosote. But if you represent yourself in the right way you can still buy what you need. The onus is then on you to use the products responsibly.

    There is another field concerning properties where everyone has become convinced that only highly paid “professionals” can do work but it’s a fact that there is absolutely zero policing. I strongly doubt there is very much effective policing of anything these days.

    Of course I personally comply 100% with every law and regulation myself and I wouldn’t want anyone to think otherwise.

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