FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS….

download (8)Cockroaches, ants, spiders, fleas – nobody wants them around, and questions will always come up about who is responsible. The RTRA Act does not specify which party is responsible for pest control, and the parties should reach agreement about the obligations of each. In considering what might be reasonable, we can take into account the general obligations of each party.
The Lessor
The lessors’ obligations are to provide a property that is clean and fit for the tenant to live in with appropriate regard for the health and safety of the tenants. In terms of pest control, it would be reasonable to expect the lessor to provide a property that is not infested with pests and vermin, which of course can be achieved through ensuring routine pest control treatment is done. Generally it is considered to be best practice for the owner of the property to do a general pest control annually. Owners of units usually won’t have to organize this individually because the body Corporate management company will organize annual pest control for the entire complex on the same day, to ensure its effectiveness.
The Tenant
The tenants’ obligations are to keep the property clean during the tenancy and to not cause damage. So in terms of pest control, it would be reasonable to expect the tenant to not do anything likely to cause or attract pests and vermin, and to pay for pest control where their actions caused the property to be exposed to pests. An example of a common scenario might be where the tenant has had a pet at the property, and is therefore expected to pay for flea or mite treatment upon vacating.
Documentation
It is best practice to state what the lessor agrees to in the terms of the Form 6 when they first appoint the managing agent. It is also best practice to clearly state the tenants’ obligations on the Form 18a Tenancy Agreement. If the owner isn’t clear on what is being agreed to in relation to their property, and if the tenancy agreement the tenant signs does not contain any special terms relating to the tenant’s obligations, then disputes are more likely to arise. Remember, the RTRA Act contains no black and white answers to issues relating to pest control, so the documentation signed by the parties becomes the crucial point of reference. If the agency is using the Property Occupations Form 6 from the REIQ’s Real-works then within the Essential Terms and Conditions, section 4 Client Obligations, it says:4.14 To have the property treated for pests as required (no more than annually) at the Client’s cost. If the agency is using the Form 18A General Tenancy Agreement from Real-works, within the Special Terms, Care of the Premises by the Tenant, it says:
46(1)(e) keep the premises free from pests and vermin And
46(2) (a) iv) if birds or animals have been kept at the premises, to pay for the premises to be fumigated and deodorized by a professional fumigator
Disputes
If a dispute occurs about who should be held responsible for a particular pest problem that has arisen, then you would look to identify the cause of the problem. A pest control company could provide an expert assessment to help determine the cause of the particular problem. If it is purely environmental, or weather related, then it would generally be the lessor’s responsibility. If it has been caused by one party not meeting their general tenancy obligations, then it would be that party’s cost. For example, if the lessor has failed to attend to maintenance that has lead to rotting timber that has created an inviting environment for pests who like a dark, damp environment, then it would be the lessor’s cost. The lessor doesn’t have to screen a property, but if the property is screened then these should be kept appropriately maintained. As another example, if the tenant had failed to store food hygienically which has attracted pests, then it would be the tenant’s costs. We recently heard about a tenancy where the tenant kept the property excessively dark and un-ventilated, and this was mentioned by a carpet assessor as having contributed to carpet moths causing significant damage. In some circumstances the parties might agree to share the cost. Points to consider:
Fleas
Flea treatment warranties are important to consider. The treatment arranged by the tenant might kill adult fleas, but fail to penetrate any flea eggs. These eggs can lay dormant for a prolonged period in a state of suspended animation, embedded in the carpet of the vacant property. They can then hatch when vibrations, warmth, or an increase in carbon dioxide (exhaling animals and humans) indicate a ready food source – ie. the new tenants who have just moved in. The treatment already done by the vacating tenant should kill the next generation of hatching fleas, but if not, and if the company who did the treatment offers no warranty, then who will pay for the re-treatment if the bond has already been finalised? Consider the value of seeking a 3 month warranty with all flea treatments.
Rats
If the particular pest problem is rats, some councils do have a rodent control program that can be utilised.
Ants
For ant infestations, slow acting baits are a more long term solution than spraying. This is because the ants will eat some and take the rest of the poison back to the nest. That way it eventually kills the entire colony. The tenant’s cooperation and patience will be needed.
External pests
Chemical sprays weaken when exposed to sun and rain, so are never going to be effective in ridding the exterior areas

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