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Rodent Law

Rodent Law


In 1284 the town of Hamelin had a rat infestation so they hired a piper dressed in multi-coloured (‘pied’) clothing to help. The town promised to pay the piper who duly lured the rats to the river where they drowned.

The story has a dark ending when the town later refused to pay up.

Today’s rat catchers prefer poisons over magical pipes, but eradication still comes at a cost.

So who pays for rodent extermination and what are the criminal liabilities if the problem persists?

Contract Law - The relevance of the tenancy

Exactly what has caused mice or rats to enter a home is always going to be a contentious question.

Infestations pre dating tenancies normally fall to the landlord; if mice appear during the tenancy, liability between landlord and tenant becomes more difficult to establish.

Photos taken before and during the tenancy will assist on this issue.

What if the problem persists ?

UK law requires housing to be safe and free from hazard – clear enough at the commencement of the tenancy, less clear for hazards arising after tenants move in.

Infestation is one example of health and safety, an area popular with legislators. So what does Parliament expect from landlords ?

Statute law

[1] Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018

Obliges the landlord to provide a home ‘free from hazard’. The definition of ‘hazard’ includes vermin. Applies to any tenancy with a fixed term of less than seven years.

[2] Housing Act 2004

Established the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). Section C [Protection against infection] requires landlords to provide adequate and hygienic provision for storing and disposing of household waste

[3] Landlord and Tenant Act 1985

Imposes ‘implied’ statutory responsibilities on landlords to maintain building structure, including drains and external pipes, common entry points for vermin. 

[4] Environmental Protection Act 1990

Vermin infestation can become a statutory nuisance under this Act if the landlord neglects his contractual repair obligations.  

[5] The Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 

Allows local authorities to enter private dwellings to carry out pest exterminations. Expenses reasonably incurred can be recovered if enforcement notices were ignored.

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Once the property is clear, prevention is going to be cheaper than dealing with the same issue again later. Consider the following measures:

  • Check outbuildings for access points

·         Fill in gaps around pipes and vents

·         Cover open drains and block off unused pipes and drains

  • Keep gardens tidy and cut back overgrown shrubs and hedges

  • Be wary of storing piles of wood

  • Don’t allow debris and rubbish to accumulate

  • If tenants feed garden birds, ask them to use a bird table or feeder and not to leave food out overnight

  • Replace damaged bins as quickly as possible

  • Discourage tenants from leaving food waste in plastic bags on the kerbside the night before a scheduled collection

  • Keep a pet. Cats and dogs are predators and their scent a powerful deterrent.

And finally - always pay the pest controller … remember Hamelin.


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