26 January 2023

Rats in your rental: what to do about vermin infestations

By Ella Reynolds New Business Account Handler

No one wants to share their home with rats, mice or other vermin. But when you’re renting out a property, it’s a problem you may have to deal with – especially during winter, when a lack of natural food sources sends pests scurrying inside on the hunt for food. But what are your responsibilities as a landlord, and what should you do if your tenants report an infestation? Let’s take a look.

What are landlord’s responsibilities?

Technically, there’s no specific legislation that states that landlords are responsible for getting rid of vermin in a rental property but you do have a very clear legal duty, as per the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 – you must make sure your rental property is fit for human habitation. And that means no vermin.

It’s your responsibility to eradicate an infestation before a tenant moves in, or to deal with the problem if your property has structural defects that enable rodents to get in easily.

What are the risks of an infestation?

Vermin can cause all sorts of problems for you and your tenant. Firstly, they can damage your property – from chewing through wires to harming timber such as floorboards, as well as eating their way through your roof insulation. They’ve even been known to make holes in plasterboard walls!

But more importantly, a vermin infestation creates a health and safety issue. Pests can contaminate food and spread nasty diseases and bacteria that can harm human health. Tenants won’t want to stay in a pest-infested house – which could leave you with no tenants, a let you can’t rent out, and no income.

Worse still, if you don’t take steps to fix the situation, you could be prosecuted by your tenants or the local council. So it’s important to put preventative measures in place to avoid any infestations in the first place, and to take action if your tenant reports a problem.

How can you prevent infestation in your rental property?

To help stop rodents taking up residence in your rental property, there are several steps you can take before your tenant moves in. These include:

  • Filling in any gaps around pipes, cable holes, vents and airbricks (mice can squeeze through holes as small as one centimetre and rats just one inch!)
  • Keeping the garden well-maintained, with grass kept short and plants and vegetation trimmed back near your home
  • Making sure your let has good facilities for managing waste, e.g. wheelie bins and sealable food waste bins
  • Providing your tenant with correct information about the local council’s waste collection times, so waste doesn’t build up and attract pests
  • Fitting bristle or brush strips to the bottom of doors to make it harder for creatures to get in
  • Making sure any damaged roofing is fixed and using wire mesh to seal any gaps where rodents could climb in.

What to do if there’s an infestation

If your tenant reports an infestation, you should treat it as an emergency. Visit your let as soon as you can to work out the root of the problem and make sure your tenants have the tools they need to fix the situation, such as traps and sprays.

If the infestation has been caused by structural defects, i.e. uncovered holes giving rats and mice an easy entry point, then it’s your responsibility to fix the defects and eradicate the vermin, from providing traps to calling in professional pest control.

If it’s more the fault of your tenants, i.e. they’ve let waste pile up which has attracted pests, then you should still help them to get rid of the problem, but you can reasonably expect them to pay for pest control services as part of their obligations as tenants, if this is specified in your tenancy agreement. However, you may have to prove there was no infestation when they first moved in.

You should also contact the local environmental health department to let them know – they may be able to determine if the infestation is part of a wider problem in the community, and, at the very least, will be able to offer advice.

Lastly, don’t forget that many people find pests frightening – you should make sure you’re understanding and calm in your dealings with tenants to avoid the situation becoming more challenging than it needs to be.

How we can help

You don’t have to deal with the pressures of a vermin infestation on your own. At Protect My Let, we’re here to help landlords. We provide cover options that help your tenants get the problem sorted promptly, and keep you protected from spiraling costs.

Landlord Home Emergency Cover offers a 24/7 helpline for your tenants to call, so they can get help as soon as they can without relying on you. There’s no excess and it’s an easy and cost-effective add-on to your landlord insurance.

Plus, we’re specialists in landlord insurance, so we can offer advice and guidance if you need it. Just give us a call on 01206 655 899 for a chat through your options and a quote from our network of trusted insurers – so if you do end up with a vermin infestation in your let, you’ll have the support you need to get it sorted.

House with alarm illustration

Need to speak to someone about Home Emergency Cover?

You can find further useful information, get in touch with a member of our team, or submit an enquiry on our Home Emergency Cover page.



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