I had a frantic phone call recently from a tenant: “We have a snake in our toilet bowl!  What do we do?”

Well, that’s a good question!  Other than use your neighbour’s toilet until the snake is gone, it raised a few questions around whose responsibility it is to ensure a property is free from pests.

Unfortunately, it can be a bit of a grey area!  The lessor has a responsibility to provide a property that is free of pests at the start of the tenancy and the tenant must ensure the property meets the same standard at the end of the tenancy.  Nowhere in the relevant legislation (Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Regulation 2008) does the word ‘pest control’ appear, nor does it state anyone is responsible for it or under what circumstances. So essentially, pest control is a grey area that requires a little bit of common sense, compromise and negotiation.

We recommend that property owners have their properties sprayed for pests (ants, spiders, cockroaches) every 12 months at their cost. Note that you cannot request tenants to pay for pest control services for preventative maintenance.

If there is an infestation or regular/consistent issues with vermin such as rats or possums in the roof spaces or wall or a wasp nest outside then we’d suggest the owner have this attended do promptly to ensure no damage is done to the property structure or wiring.  Where there is a one off appearance of a possum or a snake or other such animal then we would suggest this is the tenant’s responsibility to attend to.