When bugs and other pests make their way into rental properties, it can often cause conflict between tenants and landlords as to who is responsible for pest control.
Pests may include:
- Rats and mice
- Bees and wasps
- Snakes and possums
- Whiteants (termites)
Is pest control a landlord or tenant responsibility?
The first step in determining responsibility for a pest problem is to read through the lease agreement to determine, who is responsible for pest control in a rental property. Some tenancy agreements have a clause included regarding pest control. In these situations, use the signed agreement as the guide.
If the tenancy agreement fails to address pest problems, it’s a good idea to look at the Rental Tenancies Act 1997. The Act states that “the tenant must take reasonable care of the premises and keep the premises reasonably clean.”
Therefore, it is inferred that pest problems arising from uncleanliness (e.g., failure to dispose of rubbish) or caused by the tenant (fleas from pets) are the responsibility of the tenant.
The landlord is responsible for ensuring the premises are fit for habitation, reasonably clean and in a reasonable state of repair.
Your responsibility as the landlord
Generally, the property owner is responsible for pest and vermin control (such as rats, mice and termites). The exception occurs when the presence of the pest was caused by a tenant’s poor housekeeping or lack of cleanliness.
If such a scenario occurs, you could argue and win a dispute against your tenant which could result in an outcome where they must cover any damage. What’s important in these scenarios is the timeline of events leading to the discovery of the pest problem.
Therefore, it’s a landlord’s responsibility to provide a premise in a clean and habitable state free from pests. Tribunals have found that if a tenant reported an issue very soon after taking occupancy then this would be a reasonable timeframe to place the responsibility in the hands of the landlord to affect treatment.
If a tenant can prove by way of evidence (e.g. entry condition report and photographs) that the premises wasn’t given to them in a clean state then this is enough evidence to place the responsibility and costs on the landlord.
Investment property repairs, maintenance or capital improvements?
The cost of repairs and ongoing maintenance for an owner’s investment property can be reduced by claiming back these costs when an investor is completing their tax return, but before an investor can start to tally deductions, it’s necessary to understand the difference between claiming repairs, maintenance and capital improvements.
If an investment property were to suffer considerable damage due to a termite infestation, the owner would be able to claim capital works through structural replacement costs. Partially replacing an item due to damage or wear and tear is classified as repairs and maintenance. However, if an owner decides to replace the entire item to improve the property’s value, it will be considered a capital improvement.
To learn more about the difference between property repair, maintenance or capital works and what can be claimed as a depreciation deduction, read our BMT Maverick 33 article.