What is a pest?
A pest can be any kind of unwelcome visitor, such as an animal, rodent, insect or invertebrate which has made its home in your property. An untreated pest infestation can have serious consequences and can cause allergies, or be harmful to your health in other ways, and can cause damage to your property.
There are a number of different unwanted and unwelcome creatures which are considered pests. Some of these are prioritised as a public health nuisance and there are different ways of dealing with infestations.
You may have spotted some signs that all is not well, but you might not even know for sure whether you have a pest infestation or not, especially if the pests are very small, difficult to spot or you may not have come across them before.
For information on some of the different types of pests, please see the Shelter Scotland website.
Another good directory of pests is the British Pest Control Association website where you can browse the A-Z directory and photographs to help with identifying the various pests.
If you find that you have a problem with pests in your property, you should make dealing with this a top priority. This may seem daunting or challenging at first, especially if the infestation is extensive or long-standing and you don’t know your rights or where to turn. The information below sets out what steps you should take if you are having trouble with pests and where you can turn for specialist advice & support.
What should I do first?
If you are living in privately rented accommodation, as a tenant you have a responsibility to take reasonable care of the property and that includes alerting your landlord/letting agent to any problems as soon as you possibly can.
The first thing you should do is contact your landlord or letting agent to let them know about the problem. You should notify them as soon as you identify the problem. Pests are not called pests for nothing(!), and so getting rid of them can take time, effort and expense to completely resolve the issue.
Once you have notified your landlord or agent, depending on what kind of infestation you have, they may arrange for a pest control officer to inspect the property or they may request that you arrange this yourself. Please see the section on Who Should Pay for any Costs (link to section below) and My landlord/letting agent says that the infestation is my responsibility?
I have a rat or mouse infestation
If your accommodation is in Glasgow and you suspect that you have mice or rats either inside or outside your property, please see the Glasgow City Council website for advice.
There is an online form which you can fill in to report rats. Currently, there are no additional charges associated with asking a Glasgow City Council inspector to deal with rats.
I have cockroaches or bed bugs (Public Health Problem)
If your accommodation is in Glasgow and you have cockroaches or bed bugs, Glasgow City Council Environmental health can deal with these free of charge as they are deemed a public health problem.
You can find how to report a public health nuisance on the Glasgow City Council website.
If your accommodation is out with Glasgow, then you will need to contact the local council in your area for advice.
I don’t have rats, cockroaches, or bed bugs, but I think I have other species of insects, or invertebrates
Unfortunately, at the time of writing (June 2022) because of Covid-19 restrictions, Glasgow City Council have stated they will only deal with rats, mice and public health nuisances. This may change in future.
Are any other larger animals considered pests?
Sometimes people might not like pigeons, noisy sea gulls, foxes or other wild animals living nearby and may be worried that they can spread disease. However, most wild species in Scotland are protected (especially nesting birds and bats) and have certain protections under law, and it is an offence to disturb or remove them.
Councils will not usually help with problems associated with any birds, bird feeding, or any other animals causing problems such as foxes, moles, rabbits, bees and deer. However, they may provide a paid for service in order to deal with wasps and wasp nests.
Who should pay for any costs?
Unless you are able to arrange a free council inspection, usually there will be costs involved in controlling pests.
It’s unfortunately not always clear-cut as to who is responsible for covering any charges associated with pest control. Sometimes, the landlord or letting agent will pay for pest control, or they may agree to contribute towards the costs, or split the costs with you. But not always, and so that is why it is important to discuss this with your landlord and agent from the outset.
This is especially true if the landlord or agent claims that you are responsible for the infestation and therefore you must pay for all measures to control the problem.
If the problem is clearly the responsibility of your landlord/letting agent and they are refusing to carry out pest control measures, Shelter Scotland has some useful information about how to encourge your landlord/letting agent to carry out their obligations.
My landlord/letting agent says that the infestation is my responsibility?
If the infestation appears some time after you have moved in, and the pests don’t appear to have been there at the beginning of your contract, then unfortunately things can become more difficult about who is responsible and who bears the costs of control.
If you live in a densely built up area, for instance, a tenement property and suspect that some of your neighbours may have a pest problem which they are not doing anything about, and it is spreading into your property then you need to tell your agent or landlord about this. Sometimes tenements will have factors or property management companies who can help out by contacting other owners and informing them of the problem and asking them to act.
What happens if my landlord/agent and I cannot agree whose responsibility and who should pay the costs?
This goes back to why it is important to try to detect the problem as early as possible. In a recent case one of the tenancy deposit schemes found in favour of the tenants as they reported an insect infestation within 2 weeks of moving into the property. When the pest control office inspected the property, they found that the infestation was long-established and so the new tenants could not be made to pay out of their deposit.
You can see more information on the tenancy deposit scheme case.
I am being held responsible for the pests and I need to arrange for a pest controller, where do I start?
It is a good idea if the company you choose is a member of the British Pest Control Association or BPCA. You can search on the BPCA database by entering your postcode for a company nearby to where your property is located.
Once you have chosen a company you can contact them to ask if they will arrange a visit. It is a good idea to find out about how much they are likely to charge, and so you can compare prices with other companies before arranging an inspection. We would recommend that you contact a minimum of 3 companies to compare prices.
What should I do during an inspection?
If an officer is visiting your property, it is probably best if you are in attendance, and then you can get the best advice directly from them, and ask any questions which you may have. They may also have some questions for you about the infestation to assist them with treating the problem.
Glasgow City Council Environmental Health pages have some useful information about what to do during a visit from an environmental health inspector.
Can I deal with the pests myself as a cheaper alternative to paying for a commercial company?
The answer to this is yes, but only if the pest problem is fairly minor and you are sure what species of pest you are dealing with. However, if you have become allergic to the pest, then you should get the professionals in!
Nobody should ever contemplate dealing with a rat infestation on their own though! So for example, if you have spotted a clothes moth nibbling your cashmere scarf, you could try purchasing good quality clothes moth trap and seeing if that sorts the problem. If you are dealing with the problem yourself, it is still a good idea to inform your landlord/agent about this, just in case they decide that a pest controller is necessary or the infestation ends up being worse than you first thought.
How can I avoid dealing with pests when moving to a new property?
One of the really important things to do before moving into a new property is to try to inspect the accommodation as best you can before agreeing to move in. We strongly recommend that you complete an Inventory for the property which is signed by both you and the letting agent or landlord.
An inventory is a document which records the state of a new property for when you move in. Please see our own GUSRC advice page on inventories and why they are important here at Making an Inventory.
You are entitled to move into a clean, fresh and tidy property. All rented properties must meet the requirements of the ‘Repairing Standard’. Please see our GUSRC advce page on Repairs.
While you are checking the kitchen and bathrooms, etc. for cleanliness, you could keep an eye out for pest tell-tale signs, such as any mouse or rat droppings especially in the kitchen or dining areas. Other even less pleasant tell-tale signs might be blood spots on any bedding, such as mattresses or bed coverings which could indicate an infestation of some nasty creepy crawlies such as fleas or bed bugs.
If you have spotted that there could be an infestation in the property before you move in, or very shortly after you have moved in, and if you have alerted the landlord/agent to this and are able to provide evidence of this, then pest control should be carried out right away, and you cannot be blamed for the problem or expected to pay for pest control.
In contrast to the previous Housing Tribunal case above, there is another case where it was found the landlord was not responsible for the insect infestation and had complied with the Repairing Standard
You can read more about the Tribunal case.
Litter and Fly-tipping
Many pests are attracted to litter, rubbish lying about and untidy places. As a tenant you will have a responsibility to make sure you dispose of your own rubbish or any recycling properly. If there is a communal problem with rubbish, or rubbish collections are not being carried out regularly or if neighbours are dumping rubbish in the common areas, or the back garden, you can tell your landlord/letting agent about this and ask for them to resolve it.
At the time of writing, you may have noticed that the city is dealing with a high level of litter and fly-tipping, and this may in turn increase the incidence of pests, particularly rats and mice.
Dumping unwanted belongings into the street or out in the countryside, is known as fly-tipping. This is a criminal offence in Scotland and is unsightly, a waste and costs the taxpayer every year. If you see anyone causing a litter problem, such as discarded property in the street or if you see someone fly-tipping, including landlords, or letting agents, you can report it to the council, even anonymously, if you prefer. At the moment, there is no charge for anyone reporting an incident caused by someone else.
Please see more about fly tipping in Scotland.
There is more information on fly-tipping on the Zero Waste Scotland website.
If you live nearby a commercial kitchen, or premises where food is being prepared and sold, and if you spot pests around the premises, or you suspect that the rubbish from the premises is not being disposed of properly you may also complain to the council and alert your landlord/agent to the issue.
Pests and rubbish lying about commercial premises is a public health nuisance. There is more information about public nuisances and how to deal with them.
Final things to do!
In summary, once you have informed your landlord or letting agent about the pest problem try to either stay in communication with them or encourage them to stay in contact with you regarding progress made in dealing with the pests and also any costs which might be accruing.
If a pest control officer visits the property and applies treatment such as poison, or chemicals or traps, then it is best to try to follow the advice from the pest controller as closely as you can.
This may include being extra careful around any poisons or chemicals which have been applied to your property, or avoiding contact with any traps. Also, this may include alerting the officer if anything changes with the situation.
If the inspectors advise that you need to keep things clean, such as carpets or soft furnishings need to be vacuumed regularly or store food in containers, try to do all you can to reduce the infestation.
Still have questions?
Are you still unsure what you can do if you have a problem?
Then please contact the Advice Centre via email at firstname.lastname@example.org