Landlords have a responsibility to keep the premises they are letting out well maintained and habitable. When it comes to pest control, however, deciding who is responsible can sometimes be a grey area.
If you can prove that the tenant caused an infestation as a result of poor cleaning practices, they can be asked to pay for sorting out the problem. But if the tenant can prove that there were other factors present before they moved in that led to the infestation, such as holes in walls which were later used by pests and vermin to get into the property, then it is likely to be the landlord’s responsibility.
No property can ever be guaranteed pest free and modern building techniques like using stud partitioning, breeze blocks and false flooring often create the perfect harbourages for pests. Keeping on top of pest control is particularly challenging if a property is multi-let and there are different landlords.
A mouse can get in through a gap the width of a pencil, cockroaches can be brought in on cardboard packaging, fleas may be picked up on public transport, pigeons will make the most of those wonderfully designed architectural ledges on the outsides of buildings – and flies will just fly in! As well as the health of your tenants, it’s also wise to think about the long-term implications if there are rats, mice or squirrels in residence. Rodents can cause fires by gnawing through cables and squirrels can weaken roof structures by eating through rafters.
So what should landlords be doing to limit the risk of pest infestations?
1. Have a preventative contract
Make sure that there is a pest control contract in place. Normal contracts for standard premises will include a minimum of eight inspections a year. The contractor should belong to the British Pest Control Association, with all staff qualified to the RSPH Level Two in pest control. The company you choose should have written accreditations in Health and Safety and insurance.
2. Proof your premises
Proofing against mice is never the be all and end all, but should be looked at as part of the overall integrated pest control system. Effective proofing will restrict rather than be a complete ‘NO ENTRY’ to mice. Bristle stripping the bottom of doors should restrict movement.
Checking the external airbricks and weep holes and putting specially designed covers on them, if necessary, should be part of your regular inspection. Bird spikes onto ledges, as well as the girders beneath fire escapes and parapets, will stop pigeons messing on steps and walkways. Netting on light wells prevents birds gaining access into sheltered areas at the back of buildings. This is critical as a host of problems can be caused when pigeon numbers build up. They bring with them other pest problems such as bird mite, fleas and flies. Fouling blocks gutters, downpipes and air-conditioning intakes.
3. When pests get in
Regular pest control inspections should keep good control over the rodent situation. Rodenticides, however, should now only be placed around the outside of the building if there is an active rat infestation. The pest control contractor will give suitable advice and should work in conjunction with the landlord – good pest control is a two-way street!
4. Work with your pest control contractor
Your contractor should complete a fully detailed report at the end of each inspection. Many pest control companies such as Cleankill use digital reporting so the report is available to within minutes of the service being carried out. The reports should be read and acknowledged, not just filed away. They could help when a tenant makes a complaint about the mouse that has just run across her kitchen – forewarned is forearmed!
Top Tips from Cleankill Environmental Services
• Ask your pest control provider to carry out an inspection before new tenants move in – especially if the property has been empty for a while
• Make sure tenants know they will be responsible for pest control charges if they have caused the problem
• Make sure you have a preventative pest control contract in place – this identifies problems before they get serious
• Make sure you get reports from your pest control company after each inspection.
• Make sure you pest control provider is a member of the British Pest Control Association or the National Pest Technicians Association.
Cleankill started in 1995 and is a specialist provider of pest control services to retail, commercial and industrial properties throughout the UK. The company deals with ‘distress’ pests such as wasps and fleas, as well as preventative maintenance against public health pests such as mice and rats. Cleankill can also clear and proof buildings against pest birds. The company prides itself on fast and efficient service delivery and aims to be recognised as a market leader for innovation and new pest control techniques. For further information go to www.cleankill.co.uk or call 0800 056 5477.