COVID-19 has had an impact on everyone, including lettings agents and the property market as a whole. But one consequence that may have been unexpected is that empty properties have become a haven for pests – something that letting agents are now having to deal with as lockdown measures begin to lift.
Empty properties can be a haven for pests
When pests are allowed free reign over a property, they’ll waste no time in causing havoc – something one student learned to his cost. Oluwageorge Johnson, a student from Nottingham Trent University, left halls at the beginning of March to stay with his parents during lockdown.
(Source: Mercury Press)
When he returned six months later, he found that pigeons had invaded his flat and destroyed his property, even leaving eggs and a chick in his kitchen sink. This type of event is far from unique however. Many people have returned from lockdown, having socially distanced themselves elsewhere, to find that unchecked properties, both residential and commercial, are now overrun with pests.
The problem is allowed to grow
The government’s decisions throughout lockdown meant a knock-on effect for pest control in properties around the country. With pest control considered an unnecessary service, many people were unable to utilise pest control services when managing properties.
“A lack of foresight in the early days of the pandemic meant the government forced pest control services to close,” says Mark Stanford of Empire Pest Control “this was a huge mistake; if left unchecked, pests can cause a significant amount of damage and the infestation could worsen, making it more difficult to get the situation under control”.
With the issue allowed to develop while the country was in lockdown, it’s now even more severe than if it had been managed over the course of the pandemic.
Who is responsible for dealing with pest problems?
Pest control has become a hot topic recently and it’s raised a few questions as a result. Primarily, who is responsible for dealing with the situation and does COVID-19 change anything in this regard? Citizens Advice state that it’s not a straightforward issue.
Landlords, for example, are responsible for dealing with an infestation if it is stated in the tenancy agreement that they will maintain the property to a hospitable state, or if the infestation was caused by disrepair that the landlord is responsible for such as a broken window or a hole in the wall. They may also take on the problem if the infestation makes the property unsafe to live in, such as causing illness to the tenants. But in other situations, such as neglect from a tenant, landlords may not be liable for the cost of dealing with an infestation.
Different solutions for different pests
The type of infestation can determine who is responsible for dealing with pest issues, as sometimes tenants need to handle the problem and sometimes landlords are responsible. Landlords need to arrange for pest control if the issue is wasp nests, rats or a flea infestation if this becomes present at the start of a tenancy. It’s the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that carpets and upholstery are fumigated, providing that it is not the tenant’s pets that are the cause of the issue.
However, ants or mice are the tenant’s responsibility to remove. Bees are also an issue that the tenant needs to deal with, as these need to be removed by a professional beekeeper as they are protected.
Likewise, if a wasp nest appears mid-way through a tenancy agreement then the tenant will be responsible for paying for the removal. The intricacies of responsibility make the issue of pest control a difficult one to manage but understanding which types of infestations fall under the obligation of landlord or tenant can make it easier to deal with the problem quickly and efficiently from the start.
Lettings agents have had a lot to contend with as lockdown measures have begun to lift and the property market adjusts to a new normal. But with so many properties left empty for months at a time, it’s unsurprising that pest infestations are now such a prominent issue.
It’s important that those involved, whether as landlords, letting agent professionals or tenants, stay up to date with the latest government guidelines on how to deal with pest control companies safely. It’s also important to maintain properties as safely and hygienically as possible, so as to prevent further infestations from developing.