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.