Why is the council no longer providing a pest control service?
The Council has had to make some difficult decisions and unfortunately we are unable to support the provision of a Pest Control Service after 31st March 2012
ESBC used to carry out pest treatments for me. What should I do now?
Firstly, refer to our pages on identifying pests, education & risks, and DIY treatments. You may be able to take steps to solve or reduce the problem yourself. Otherwise, check out our page on choosing a contractor. If you manage a commercial premise, you should read our commercial section so you are familiar with your responsibilities.
Who is responsible for dealing with an infestation?
The Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 requires local authorities to “take such steps as may be necessary to secure so far as practicable that their district is kept free from rats and mice”. The council may therefore enforce against the owner or the occupier of land. The question of who is responsible for dealing with the infestation, and for paying for the eradication, depends on all the circumstances involved:
- Whether the occupier owns the property.
- If the property is rented, whether there is anything relevant in the tenancy agreement.
- If the property is rented, whether the property was already infested before the tenant moved in.
- If the property is rented, whether the infestation may have resulted from some act or omission of the tenant.
If the property is owner occupied the responsibility will generally be that of the owner occupier. There may be unusual circumstances where the infestation has been caused because of the conditions at a neighbouring property or behaviour of a neighbour. In these circumstances the Council will attend to the problems at the property but this may include recovering the costs.
If the cause and timing of the infestation is unclear, it may be possible for a tenant and landlord parties to reach an agreement to divide the cost of dealing with it. There is no legislation or common law duty that specifically requires landlords to rid their properties of vermin thus in the absence of any express term in the tenancy agreement the tenant may have to request assistance from the council. Depending on the circumstances, local authorities may look to tenants/landlords to take action and pay for the eradication of the pests.
How much is hiring a contractor going to cost?
Each situation is different, and ESBC has no control over prices charged by contractors. We recommend getting several quotes before hiring. You can find more advice on our choosing a contractor page.
Is there a registration scheme for pest control contractors?
There is no mandatory scheme, but many pest control contractors are affiliated with the associations listed on our choosing a contractor page. We recommend considering contractors listed or linked from the association sites.
If I have concerns about a pest control contractor, or work they have done, who should I contact?
If you feel that you have not received a good service, or works have not been carried out to your satisfaction, you should discuss this with your contractor in the first instance. However, if you are still dissatisfied, you should get in touch with Staffordshire County Council Trading Standards. ESBC cannot involve itself in such disputes.
Are there any relevant provisions in the tenancy agreement?
The tenancy agreement may include a provision which sets out who is responsible for dealing with any infestation. This may sometimes be more generous to the tenant than would otherwise be the case.
Was the property 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 (although again, much will depend on the circumstances). If a property is furnished landlords have a contractual duty implied by common law to ensure that at the start of the letting period there is “nothing so noxious [about the property] as to render it uninhabitable” – this can include vermin infestation.
Has the property become infested since the tenant moved in?
If the property has become infested during the course of a tenancy, the question of who is responsible for dealing with it will depend in all the circumstances involved, including how the infestation occurred. Sometimes, the reason for the infestation may be clear but at other times it may be caused by a combination of factors.
When is the landlord responsible for dealing with the infestation?
The landlord may be responsible for dealing with the infestation if, for example, it was caused by some structural defect or disrepair, such as holes in external walls (unless these were caused by the tenant). The landlord would also have to deal with any necessary repairs. Unless a tenancy has a fixed term of more than seven years, under section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 landlords are responsible for keeping in repair the structure and exterior of the property and for keeping in repair and good working order the installations in the dwelling for the supply of water, heating, and sanitation.
Vermin infestation can amount to a ‘statutory nuisance’ as it may be prejudicial to health. If it can be shown that the infestation or incursion is caused by the act, default or sufferance of the landlord/agent, the tenants might be able to rely on the processes of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to prosecute the landlord/agent under section 82 of that Act.
When is the tenant responsible for dealing with the infestation?
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; for example, not dealing properly with rubbish or not cleaning the property adequately.
How can a tenant establish who is responsible?
Anyone seeking to establish who is responsible for dealing with a particular infestation should consider seeking specific advice, and possibly an inspection from:
The Council’s Housing Standards team – an officer may be able to identify the cause of the problem and this, in turn, will help to ascertain who is responsible for removing the infestation. A lawyer or a Citizens Advice Bureau or a housing adviser to establish whether there is anything relevant in the tenancy agreement, and whether the tenant might have any right to sue the landlord and/or to end the tenancy.
What can the housing standards team do?
When a housing standards officer is asked to inspect an infested dwelling they will look for any risk of harm to an actual or potential occupier of a dwelling, which results from any deficiency that can give rise to a hazard using the Housing, Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
They judge the severity of the risk by thinking about the likelihood of an occurrence that could cause harm over the next twelve months, and the range of harms that could result. The relevant hazard here would be “protection against infection” and would cover domestic hygiene, pests and refuse. An HHSRS score is calculated following an inspection. Officers use the formal scoring system within HHSRS to demonstrate the seriousness of hazards that can cause harm in dwellings. The scoring system for hazards is prescribed by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (England) Regulations 2005 (SI 2005 No 3208). The department has also issued operating guidance for carrying out inspections and assessing hazards.
If there are risks to the health or safety of occupants that the officer thinks should be dealt with they have various powers at their disposal to ensure that owners and landlords take corrective measures, such as service of an Improvement Notice or Hazard Awareness Notice. If the officer finds a serious hazard (i.e. one in the higher scoring bands A – C, referred to as Category 1 hazards) the council is required to take one of the courses of action outlined in the enforcement guidance. Category 2 hazards (i.e. those in scoring bands D - J) are those that are judged to be less serious. Authorities can still take action to tackle these hazards where it is believed necessary.
You may find the following websites useful: