Pest control in rental properties

May 2015

The RTA regularly answers questions from property managers, owners and tenants about dealing with insects and vermin in rental properties.

Although Queensland tenancy laws do not specifically refer to pest and vermin control, they do set out the general responsibilities of all people involved in residential tenancies.

The property owner or manager must keep the rental property in good repair and fit for the tenant to live in, while the tenant has to keep the place clean and undamaged.

Therefore when a pest problem emerges, the first step could be to consider why the pests are in the property to help work out who is responsible for rectifying the problem.

In some cases, the pests may be caused by one person’s failure to comply with their general tenancy obligations, or the problem may be environmental or influenced by the weather.

People may wish to seek professional pest control advice to determine the cause.

Examples of pest problems include cockroaches or ants being attracted by food the tenant has left out, or a flea infestation caused by the tenant’s approved pet cat.

On the other hand, the property owner may have left a pile of wood and rubbish under the house, which has attracted rats, or the property may be located next to a nature reserve which may be home to rats.

Special terms

Pest control specifications can be included in the special terms of a tenancy agreement – this may help to minimise disagreements over who is responsible for dealing with pests and vermin.

However, special terms cannot require the tenant to use a specific pest control business or nominated pest control products, which is an offence under the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (Section 171).

The tenant cannot be asked to pay a set fee for pest control. This is also an offence under the Act.

When the tenancy ends, the tenant must return the property in the same condition it was at the start of the tenancy.

Case study

Tenants notified their property manager there were rats in the rental property, but the problem was not rectified.

Over a 3 month period the tenants issued several Notices to remedy breach (Form 11) and the property manager eventually arranged for pest control.

However, the tenant found that decaying rats in the ceiling and walls caused a major stench.

The property manager told the tenants to deal with the stench by keeping the windows and doors open, which the tenant felt did not adequately resolve the issue and caused a security risk.

Due to the ongoing smell, the tenants felt they could not longer live in the property and issued a Notice of intention to leave (Form 13). They realised they might be liable for the property owner’s reasonable re-letting costs because they were breaking a fixed term lease, but thought the situation was serious enough to take this step.

The property manager treated it as a break lease situation and after negotiations stalled he submitted a Dispute resolution request (Form 16) to the RTA.

When an agreement could not be reached, the tenants applied to QCAT for overpaid rent and compensation for relocation costs.

The tribunal ordered that the tenancy agreement would end and the agent was required to refund the tenants’ overpaid rent and pay money towards the tenants’ relocation costs.

The tenants were also awarded a reduction in rent for a portion of the period they were inconvenienced.

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