From the common cockroach or ant, to possums, birds and bedbugs, there are plenty of animals out there that, while innocent enough, are nothing but trouble in your home. And some of them — think spiders, bees and wasps — are downright dangerous (we dare not mention sn*kes).
At some point it’s likely that you’ll have a problem with pests in your share house. How can you handle the situation? And what if it gets out of control?
Here, we walk you through the steps to take when you discover a pest, from the first gasp of horror, to having your landlord foot the extermination bill.
As soon as you spot a pest, talk to your flatmates.
Sure, that stray ant might have just wandered into your kitchen alone for a look around but report anything you spot to your flatmates as a warning. This may be the first time a flea has jumped out of the carpet onto you, but maybe your flatty has been swatting them away for weeks. You’ll only know the extent of the problem if you talk about it.
The one exception to this is common, non-poisonous house spiders, like daddy long legs. But everything else — from a single mouse, to a single roach — should put your household on alert. Why? Because the longer you ignore a pest problem, the bigger (and more disgusting) it becomes. And the more expensive it will be to resolve.
New renters’ note: In all states and territories, pests that are present before the tenancy begins are usually the responsibility of the landlord to resolve, so if you see a creepy crawly when you move in, notify your real state agent in writing, right away.
Most pets are attracted by food, so as soon as you spot an intruder, do a quick assessment of your home as a place they’d want to stay. Do you have open packets of food in the pantry? Dirty dishes in the sink or dishwasher? Are the floors and benches clean, or do they harbour sticky marks and crumbs? What’s that under the fridge or cooker? (Sorry, but we have to ask!) Make sure your place is as spotless as it can be and there’s nothing that could give sustenance to a peckish pest. Check the bins too, to make sure they’re not a source of snacks.
Of course, some pests, like bees, wasps, and birds, will be looking for a place to reproduce rather than dine, so check to see if there are obvious holes that would allow them to enter spaces like wall cavities or the roof. You may be able to stop these up yourself — even temporarily.
Your local hardware and supermarket will have a truckload of pest eradication supplies on offer, from humane rodent traps to Ant Sand — and more.
A quick trip to the store today could have the problem solved by tomorrow! Even if it doesn’t, discouraging the pests from shacking up at your place (and killing or removing those who do) is a good way to hold back the hordes while you work out your next steps.
Different parts of Australia have different laws around pest control in rental properties. Sometimes, that responsibility will be set out in your lease, so that’s the first place to look. If it’s quiet on the subject, check the laws in your state or territory, outlined here.
In these states, responsibility for dealing with pest infestations depends on a few things.
One: was the problem already there when you moved in? Two: Is the infestation due to a problem with the property (for example, a hole in a wall that allows mice in)?
If the answer is yes to either of these questions, the responsibility for resolving the problem likely sits with the landlord.
However, if you’ve done something that’s contributed to the infestation, then you’re likely to have responsibility for fixing it. So for example, if Fluffy the feline brings fleas in and they set up lodgings in your carpets, it’s up to you to arrange their extermination at your cost.
In SA, pests and vermin are the landlord’s problem only if they’re present before the start of the tenancy. Any infestations that start after that time are the responsibility of the renter, with the exception of white ants, possums and birds.
For more information on SA rules
Tenants are expected to first try to remove pest infestations themselves, using reasonable methods. But if those fail, they can ask the landlord to take further steps. Obviously, tenants can only really go to their landlord if they’re not causing the infestation through lack of cleanliness or their own actions.
For more details, see the Tasmanian Government website.
These states put a bit more onus on the landlord. The LL must “ensure the premises are reasonably clean and in a reasonable state of repair when the tenancy commences” and “maintain the premises and ancillary property in a reasonable state of repair.” As with most states, tenants must ensure the house stays in a reasonably tidy manner.
While it doesn’t sound like you’d be responsible for removing pests that were there when you moved in, responsibility for control of pests that crop up during a tenancy isn’t clear in these states so chat to your real-estate agent.
If you believe that the problem is up to the landlord to fix, notify your agent of the problem in writing. In most cases, the cause will be some gap in the wall or floor that’s allowing the pest entry.
Some states, like Victoria, treat pests as an urgent maintenance issue, in which case you can expect a prompt response. Wherever you live, never pay for extermination without notifying the agent first, because any reimbursement of costs will depend on their prior knowledge of the problem. Most states only allow for reimbursement of out-of-pocket extermination costs up to a certain value, so check the links above to be sure.
If you have problems negotiating pet control responsibilities that you believe lie with the landlord, contact your local tenants’ rights authority for assistance.
If you’ve determined that the responsibility for the problem lies with your household, then you’ll need to solve it yourselves. This is where things can get tricky.
In some cases, the problem will be simple to solve, at a low cost and you’ll all be happy to chip in. Great!
But in other cases, the problem will reside with one member of the household. Maybe your flatmate keeps a couple of hens in the yard and their food has attracted rats. Or those moths and weevils are caused by your failure to seal your dry foods correctly.
An open conversation with the responsible party should hopefully result in their committing to resolving the infestation. Whatever you do, make sure you stop pest problems at their source. Otherwise you’ll be back battling the bugs (or worse) in no time!