Bed bugs in rented homes: Whose responsibility is it – tenant or landlord?

Pest control companies are seeing call-outs for bed bugs soar. If you’ve got an infestation at home, is it your problem – or your landlord’s? Here’s what you need to know.

There has been a surge in bed bug reports since the deputy mayor of Paris sombrely announced “no one is safe” from the blood-sucking creatures.

Paris is grappling with a well-documented outbreak as experts warn things could be just as bad in London.

Luton Council said it is fielding an “alarming number” of calls to tackle bed bugs, while one pest control company told Sky News call-outs had risen by 17% in one month.

But if you rent a property and you’ve got a bed bug infestation at home, whose responsibility is it to deal with? Can you pass it on to your landlord or are you left picking up the bill?

Here’s what you need to know.

Who must deal with bedbugs – the landlord or tenant?

Bedbugs are not covered by a specific piece of legislation in the UK.

But landlords must deal with the bed bugs if the property was infested when a tenant moved in, Blago Manov, director of Bed Bug Hunters, told Sky News.

If a tenant brings the bugs into the house – whether that’s on luggage, clothes, secondhand furniture or via a visitor – it’s down to them to deal with the problem.

Al McClenahan from Justice for Tenants told Sky News bed bugs present “a more complex situation” than larger pests such as mice.

But the general rule is that bed bugs in the property at the start of the tenancy are the landlord’s problem, and those introduced later are the tenant’s responsibility.

There is another scenario where the landlord may be responsible: “If the rental property is in an area that requires a licence from the council, then the licence may require that the landlord keep the property pest-free, in which case they would have an obligation to get rid of the bed bugs.

“You can tell if a property is licenced, as a certificate will likely be hung in the entrance hallway,” he added.

What if the landlord and tenant disagree over who is responsible?

These disagreements are common, Mr Manov said.

Pest control companies are able to determine how long the infestation has been there – and therefore who is responsible.

They do this by looking at the number of eggs and bugs there are. Because there is a pattern to the creatures’ reproduction, they can work out by the numbers how long they have been there.

“If we determined that the bed bugs were there for more than five or six months, and the tenant moved in a week or two weeks ago, our report could be used by the tenants to claim the money for the treatment from the landlord,” Mr Manov said.

Disagreements can also be addressed by going to the local council who can send someone to investigate. If they find the landlord is responsible, they will be forced to pay.

Sometimes it is not clear-cut who should take responsibility, Mr Manov said. It is possible to pinpoint the age of the infestation “plus or minus one month” and sometimes it will not be obvious if that falls before or after a tenant moved in.

In those cases, sometimes the tenant and landlord will split the bill – but other times the dispute ends up in court.

Mr McClenahan said if you need advice on what you can do if your landlord refuses to act, or want clarification on whether your property is licenced, it is best to contact your local council’s private rented sector enforcement team.

What about council properties?

Most councils will provide bedbug treatment, and if you are a council tenant it may be free – this varies by local authority but should be listed alongside pest control prices on their website.

Councils, like private landlords and housing associations, are obliged to make sure properties are safe and clean when tenants move in, and this should include checking for bed bugs.

While councils offer free or cheaper pest treatment than private companies, Mr Manov warned it’s also less effective as they use insecticides, which slowly poison the bugs and often need more than one treatment.

What should you do if you’re moving into a rental property?

Check for bed bugs – particularly if you’re moving into a furnished place.

Bed bugs like wood, so inspect the bedframe and headboard closely, Mr Manov said.

Checking for bugs is also important if you are moving into a houseshare where other people already live.

If the current tenants don’t react to bed bugs – and 30% of the population doesn’t – there may be an infestation they don’t know about.

In a shared house, if all the tenants are on the same contract and bed bugs are introduced partway through, it would be the joint responsibility of the tenants to get rid of them, Mr McClenahan said.

But in a shared property where each tenant has an individual contract for their room, if one tenant introduced bed bugs and they spread to another person’s room, it would be the landlord’s responsibility to resolve, he said.



Scroll to Top