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Who’s Guilty of a Bed Bug Infestation in a Rental Property?

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Bed Bugs and Buy-to-Let Properties

Whether you’re a tenant or a landlord, it’s always best to know your legal rights and obligations, especially if you have to deal with an infestation of bed bugs. This will not only lead to quick problem resolution, but it will also ensure the proper maintenance of the rented property. 

Bed bugs can be easily mistaken for other types of vermin and their bite marks are often disregarded as a skin rash. More often than not, it takes a technician’s expertise to identify them and apply the appropriate bed bug treatment. 

But who is responsible for pest control – landlord or a tenant? 

And who pays for pest control in a rental property? 

Depending on the circumstances, both parties can be liable to pay for the extermination. 

Is It a Landlord’s Responsibility to Control Pests?

According to the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949, landlords, including Housing Associations and Registered social landlords (RSLs), have to pest-proof their properties and provide tenable accommodation. That’s why conducting a property inspection before signing a tenancy agreement is important. If you establish an infestation prior to moving in, it is the landlord’s responsibility to arrange treatment for the vermin. 

RSLs are also liable to handle pest infestations, provided that neglect during on-site repair work has been established or the vermin has appeared in multi-dwelling properties and communal areas.

When is the Tenant Liable?

In some cases, the tenant could also be legally obliged to pay the cost to hire professional eradicators to treat and kill the bed bug infestation without dispute:

  • If the tenant is contractually-bound;
  • If the infestation was caused due to the tenant’s negligence;
  • If the tenant fails to notify the landlord on time;
  • If the tenant fails to arrange the bed bugs’ eradication.

Read the terms and conditions of your tenancy agreement carefully before contacting your landlord and discussing any further actions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Do You Do If You Have Bed Bugs in Your Apartment?

  1. First, you need to make sure that the pest in question is, in fact, bed bugs
  2. Then, you need to identify the possible point of entry and affected areas. 
  3. Make sure to document everything as you go along. Photos and videos are the best proof you can provide to your landlord and your lawyer if the need arises. 
  4. Summarize your evidence in written form and send it to your landlord. 

There are a few other things you need to keep in mind when writing the letter:

  • Including only relevant information and facts;
  • Adding a time progression of the problem;
  • Requesting specific actions from your landlord;
  • Explaining any potential consequences if your demands are ignored.

What happens if your letter is disregarded? Your next step would be to contact your local council or Environmental Health Officer, who will conduct an investigation to determine the liable party. Don’t forget to maintain a good rapport with your landlord, because councils’ first course of action is usually to refer the tenant back to their landlord.

Can You Break Your Lease If You Have Bed Bugs?

If your tenancy agreement states that your landlord is responsible for taking care of any pest infestations and the issue has not been addressed, you are within your legal rights to break the lease. Consult with a lawyer on how to proceed further. Take measures to ensure your well-being as fast as possible. 

Can You Sue Your Landlord for Bed Bugs in Property?

Once the council resolves that it is your landlord’s responsibility to tackle the problem, an enforcement notice will be served to your landlord. In this case, the administrative fees and any pest control service payments will fall on your landlord.

What is the Verdict?

Unfortunately, there is no clear draw here. The responsibility for a bed bug outbreak could fall on any of the two sides in a tenancy agreement and the verdict depends on quite a few factors. One thing is for sure. Whether you’re the landlord or tenant, if signs of bed bugs appear, reach out to professional pest control and do a heat treatment as soon as possible. Bed bugs can spread and spread they do.

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October 2019

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