Invasion of the pests? 1st Jun 2016

Pests and vermin can include bats, rats, mice, cockroaches, ants, bees and wasps, hide beetles, silverfish, fleas, mites, bedbugs and even squirrels! There is often some dispute about whether the landlord or tenant is responsible for dealing with infestations, and it can be very difficult to establish this in many situations.

Generally speaking, a landlord will be held responsible for dealing with the problem if the property was infested at the point at which the tenant moves in. Landlords have a duty to ensure that a property is fit for habitation. If, however the infestation has arisen during the tenancy, and is as a result of living conditions created by the tenant, then the tenant will be responsible for dealing with, and paying for, the problem.

If there is an issue with disrepair, such as a hole that has allowed mice in, or a leak which is causing damp and encouraging cockroaches, then the landlord will be responsible for dealing with the problem as part of the repair work. Any issues such as these should be reported to the landlord or letting agent if there is one. If pests have caused disrepair to the property, this should also be reported, and the landlord is liable for fixing the problem.

Local authorities do have the power to step in and serve an order on a landlord forcing them to deal with the problem, if they are refusing to take action. The council’s environmental health department may carry out an inspection of the property, and issue an abatement notice to the landlord, forcing them to deal with the pests.

In extreme circumstances tenants may have no option but to move out. If this is the case, and the property is deemed uninhabitable, the lease can be declared null and void. If the lease remains valid, landlords may face paying for alternative accommodation for their tenants while the infestation is dealt with. Alternative accommodation costs may be covered by landlord insurance depending on what the insurance covers.

If you suspect that neighbours are the cause of the infestation, contact the council’s environmental health department who can serve a notice on the neighbours forcing them to take action.

If all else fails, it is possible to raise an action in the sheriff court. However this can be a slow and costly process.

The Key Place is experienced in dealing with all manner of pests. We will take action to establish who is responsible and to eradicate the infestation on behalf of our fully managed landlords.

Below is a list of pests and suggestions on how to deal with them, taken from the Shelter Scotland website.

Ants
Ants don't pose a significant health risk, but that doesn't mean you want them swarming into your home. If you discover ants (particularly winged ants) in your home, you can try simply vacuuming them up, or you can tackle them using an ant spray or powder, which you can buy in any DIY store. Treat the nest if you can find it - you may be able to locate it by following the trail of ants. If the nest is inaccessible, treat all entry points to your home (doors, windows, drains, etc), and the ants should carry the insecticide back to the nest.

Bats
Bats are not rodents, and will not nibble or gnaw at wood, wires or insulation. Bats do not build nests and therefore do not bring bedding material into the roost; neither do they bring their insect prey into the roost. Most bats are seasonal visitors to buildings - they are unlikely to live in the same building all year round, although they are loyal to their roosts and so usually return to the same roosts year after year. Bats are protected as are their roosts - seek advice if you are planning building work that could disturb them. The Bat Conservation Trust helpline is 0345 1300 228 and Scottish Natural Heritage are also a useful organisation to contact 01463 725 165.

Bees and wasps
Bees and wasps only become a problem if they build nests in the eaves of your home. If disturbed, they can swarm, and may attack. If you discover a nest, don't go near it. Call the council, who can send round an expert to deal with the problem.
Bedbugs
Bedbugs are almost a centimetre long. They feed on blood and leave nasty bite marks. If you think you may have bedbugs, wash all bedding at 60°C, then use an insecticide on the mattress, headboard and any other areas they could be hiding. If this doesn't work, you may need to call in the council.

Cockroaches
These large, beetle-like insects lurk in warm, dark, humid places such as the areas around pipe ducts in kitchens and bathrooms or under the cooker. They can cause food poisoning and other health problems, such as dermatitis and asthma. Don't attempt to tackle cockroaches yourself - you'll need to call in an expert.

Dust mites
Dust mites live in mattresses and bedding, feeding off the sweat and skin cells we shed while sleeping. If you suffer from eczema, asthma or any other respiratory disease, dust mites can make your condition worse. To keep them under control:
• wash your bedding regularly at 60°C
• wrap mattresses and pillows in dust-proof covers
• remove any carpets from your bedroom
• keep your bedroom cool and well ventilated, as mites prefer warm, humid environments.

Fleas
Pet cats and dogs are usually responsible for bringing fleas into the home. Fleas don't spread disease but their bites are itchy and unsightly. To combat them:
• treat your pet with a spray, powder or 'spot on' product - you can buy these in pet shops, but it's best to get advice from your vet first
• spray carpets, sofas and bedding with flea spray, paying particular attention to anywhere your pet sleeps
• wash all bedding in a hot wash
• vacuum thoroughly and regularly.

Hide beetles
Hide beetles are a problem in central Scotland but are uncommon in the Borders or the North. Up to a centimetre long, they hide under the cooker or fridge and feed on food scraps. Although they don't pose much of a health risk, they can cause structural damage by boring holes in plaster or wood. You can deal with them by cleaning infected areas thoroughly and treating them with a residual insecticide (an insecticide which keeps on working for a long time).

Mice and rats
Mice and rats spread disease through their urine and droppings. They also cause a lot of damage to your home and furnishings, and can chew through electrical wires, increasing the risk of fire and electrocution.
Mice are very common in old buildings, particularly during the wintertime. However, you can keep them under control yourself using traps or poison, which you can buy in most DIY stores. A cat is also an effective deterrent.
If you find evidence of rats in your home, you should call in the council or a pest control firm to deal with them immediately.

Silverfish
These long, silver, slimy, wingless insects thrive in damp conditions. They don't pose a serious health risk but can swarm if they're not dealt with. Use an insecticide from a DIY store to kill them, and keep kitchen and bathroom cupboards clean and dry to prevent their return.

Squirrels
Squirrels can cause problems if they take up residence in your loft or roof spaces. They can tear away insulation, damage pipes and items stored in the loft and chew through cables and wires, causing a risk of fire and electrocution. To prevent them getting in, block any holes with wire mesh and make sure any missing bricks or roof tiles are replaced. Crushed up mothballs placed around the loft may also act as a deterrent.

If they have already got in, you'll need to scare them away by making lots of noise before blocking up their access routes. If they have young, you'll have to wait until they are old enough to leave the nest before you can do this. If the problem is particularly bad, you may need to call in the council or a pest control company. Find out more at www.squirrels.info.