There are few worse words a landlord or private landlord can hear about their property than the fact that an infestation is in the house - but in the reality of modern-day home ownership, the infestation of any number of animals and insects can be a serious concern; though they aren't always caused by what you might think.
So if your tenants come to you with news of an infestation of mice, whose responsibility is it to step up and sort it out? Read on to find out. And we're not suggesting you buy them a cat!
The first thought many homeowners or landlords spring to when they encounter an infestation of mice is that it must be due to the condition of the property. The perception is that a dirty, unclean and untidy house can be a major cause of infestation is, in many cases, not true. A few uncleaned crumbs or messy work surfaces don't cause an infestation to spring up out of nowhere, though the same cannot be said for a very messy or damaged property.
The simple fact of mice is that they've evolved to live amongst us, and are dependant upon human homes and food to live in many cases - so your tenants might be the tidiest people in the world who never leave a single crumb out, but they could still wake up to find mice in the pantry one day. Mice gain entry to properties through the walls and floors, and there's little a tenant can do to prevent this.
Often, the thing that allows mice to enter a property is a structural defect within the home itself, that is allowing them access from outside to get in. There is a very small chance that neglect or failure to report issues could lead to an infestation, but often your tenants are not even aware of the gaps and spaces between the walls or under your property where vermin can find easy access. This is especially the case in older properties, which are far less likely to be mouse-proof.
The responsibility for dealing with any infestations in a property falls firmly to the landlord. It's part of the common law that a property must be inhabitable for you to rent it out, and that includes no mice, rats or other vermin living within the property. In fact, as a landlord, your responsibilities also fall under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949, meaning along with the local authority it is your duty to keep homes pest-free.
The other way to consider the removal of infestations is that it is a type of repair - and the repair and upkeep of the property falls to you, the landlord, under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. That makes you responsible for both getting rid of the mice and also ensuring they can't get back in again by making the appropriate repairs. It may be tempting just to opt for a pest removal service, but the problem will definitely repeat itself if you don't prevent them from gaining access in the first place.
The Housing act in the UK also has rules under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) that explains that those who rent out property and local authorities must 'assess the seriousness of hazards to health and safety arising from deficiencies in the dwelling' - this includes infestations as a result of structural deficiencies, and must be examined as soon as possible.
If a tenant does find an infestation of mice in your property, don't panic - as long as you know the law, and you have the means and ability to solve the problem for your tenant and your property, your house will be back up to scratch in no time - and 100% vermin-free.
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