Pest control obligations for tenants and landlords

Melissa Bailey asks:
(updated on Tuesday, April 08th 2008)

My tenant has recently advised that she has an ant problem at my rental property. I have organised a pest control company to spray the area, but as ants are a feature of the region and are bound to return, (and my tenant is not from NZ and has not encountered ants before), how far should I go? I do not want to be paying for professional pest control on an ongoing basis, for a pest which is not a health issue. What are my responsibilities and the tenants responsibilities in this situation? I could not find any reference to pest control in the residential tenancies act.

Our Experts Answer:

While the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 does not specifically deal with the issue of pest control, it does impose certain obligations on the tenant and the landlord. The tenant has an obligation to keep the property reasonably clean and reasonably tidy, and to ensure that they (or their guests) do not carelessly or intentionally damage the property. A landlord has an obligation to maintain the premises in a reasonable state of repair. If the need to employ a pest control company to rid the property of ants arises again, then the tenant may be responsible for the cost of extermination if they carelessly or intentionally caused the problem. As your tenant has had little previous experience with ants, it may be a good idea to ensure that they are aware of the ways they can help prevent ants becoming a significant problem (for example, avoiding leaving food and food crumbs around). If future ant problems cannot be attributed to the careless or intentional actions of the tenant, then it often becomes a shared responsibility – partly the tenant’s responsibility as part of keeping the property reasonably clean and reasonably tidy, and partly the landlord’s responsibility as part of the obligation to maintain the property. If disputes arise regarding how the cost of any pest control measures is to be shared, then you may need to make an application to the Tenancy Tribunal. For advice and information about applying to the Tenancy Tribunal, contact the Department of Building and Housing on 0800 TENANCY (0800 836 262).

The Department of Building and Housing provides information and guidance on building law and compliance, services including weathertight homes, and advice for tenants and landlords.

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