The question of who is responsible for pest control is the cause of some debate. I will state here my position in relation to the matter and the rulings I give in cases on point. It is generally accepted that a tenant is responsible for having the premises professionally treated for fleas where the tenants have allowed animals on the premises, even if the animals have only been kept outside. The liability in relation to the control of any infestation of pests rests with the lessor unless the tenant has done some specific act which encourages the infestation.
Section 103 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1994 sets out the lessor?s obligations in respect of the premises. The primary obligation of the lessor, at the start of the tenancy is to ensure that the premises are clean and fit to live in. It could not be said that a premises is fit to live in if an infestation of cockroaches, spiders, rats or possums exists, so it follows that the lessor has the responsibility of ensuring that no such infestations exist at the start of the tenancy.
The secondary obligation of lessors is that they must maintain the premises in a way that it remains fit for the tenant to live in.
If the lessor has an obligation to present the premises free from pests then it follows that he/she is compelled by the legislation to maintain the premises in that condition.
It is noted that there is no provision for the lessor to ensure that the premises are clean throughout the tenancy, although the premises must be clean at the start.
By Bill Randall, Magistrate and Referee, Small Claims Tribunal.
Reprinted with the permission of the Residential Tenancies Authority www.rta.qld.gov.au