Fleas in a rental property

Fleas in a rental property

Pests and vermin can be a real headache in some rental properties. Fleas, and who is responsible for dealing with them are a common cause of disputes. As we’ll see, it is the biology of this particular pest that is the main reason fleas are the centre of so many tenancy disputes.

A dispute concerning fleas invariably follows this pattern.

The vacating tenant has had pets at the property, they engage a pest control service as part of their vacate responsibilities. So far, so good. Then the new tenant moves into the property and reports a flea infestation. At this point, one of two disputes usually occur. Either with the outgoing tenant refusing to pay for another treatment or with the new tenant demanding the landlord spray the property.  Even worse, the new tenant may want to terminate the lease on the grounds the property in uninhabitable.

Why do flea infestations occur in a property that has been sprayed?

Newly developed adult fleas emerge within a protective cocoon they created when they were larvae. Cocooned adults can remain dormant for long periods of time and are stimulated to emerge vibrations such as footsteps.
This ability to remain dormant and respond to movement is the reason why fleas seem to suddenly emerge once new tenants move in. Also it can happen that pets have not attracted the fleas, but wild animals living in walls or ceiling spaces have.

The bottom line with flea infestations is the requirement of the landlord to provide premises that are fit for habitation. So, if you face a situation of a new tenant complaining of a flea infestation caused by the previous tenant – you need to step in and get the property re-sprayed. Don’t wait to sort out the possible dispute with the previous tenant. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing the new tenants and having to refund their bond and possible even the rent they have paid. Landlords, are unlikely to win this dispute with the new tenant at Tribunal. If the tenants want to leave – let them and refund the bond money if all rent is up to date etc.

The easiest way to avoid flea infestations is to not allow pets in your rental property. If this is not your preference, here are some other risk management steps that can be followed:

  • Minimise the use of carpets as a floor covering – opt for hard floors wherever possible.
  • If you do allow tenants to have pets, ensure that a ‘pest control + flea treatment’ clause is included
    in the lease.
  • Give a fact sheet to the tenant at signup with housekeeping advice to prevent flea infestations. They
    may not follow it, but this is more about shoring up your position should a dispute occur down the
    track.
  • Encourage the vacating tenant to use your recommended pest control service (one that guarantees
    their work and will do a follow up treatment if necessary at no cost). Be aware though, the tenant is
    not bound to use the recommended service provider.
  • Advise the vacating tenant to organise the flea treatment as the last job. It must be done after the house and carpet cleaning.
  • Make sure possible entry points for wild animals are blocked.

 

Revisit these related Honest Broker posts:

Rodents in the rental property

Renting to tenants with pets

Diane Bukowski
cloud@eezirent.com.au

When I first started my company eezirent I wrote a small online newsletter for private landlords in Australia. It explored the common problems landlords encounter when self-managing. This simple publication has now grown into Honest Broker.

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