Tips on how to avoid or deal with mice-infested lettings
Mice, and pests, in general, are indeed a big problem in some cities around the world. If you live in your own property, you have the power to act, while you rent, things can get a bit more complicated. Over the years we have had our share of rodents in lettings, thus here are some top tips on how to avoid renting an infested property in the first place, or what to do if you are already settled in.
Do consider signing my petition below if you are a UK citizen or resident, and you want to strengthen the rights of tenants.
Petition: Give tenants the right to end short term tenancies if pests present
Implement new legislation to protect tenants from landlords if pests are present in the property during the first days…
# View the property
Believe it or not, I heard countless stories about tenants not viewing the property in person before signing the contract and moving in. This is a terrible idea, always find the time to look around yourself or ask somebody who you trust to do so.
# Ask the landlord or the agent about pests
Might seem obvious as well and probably they will deny it, but it is still important to ask. Try to do it in person and look out for the reaction. Most people do not lie very well and there are signs. One agent that we asked got really nervous and the way we were told “no, not in this property” sounded rehearsed.
Furthermore, who knows, the landlord/agent might be frank about it.
+1 ask the previous tenant
If they are at home at the viewing, try to catch them when the agent/landlord is not in the same room. Though this is not bulletproof as they might want to leave the property because of the infestation and made a deal with the owner thus denying it as well.
# Look around at key places
It should not come as a surprise, but rodents get into the property via holes, especially gaps between pipes and the wall. Lettings are maintained to a certain degree. They might look good and refurbished on the outside, but the non-visible parts can be quite neglected. So definitely check proofing around the pipes, especially under the bath and in the kitchen (below the sink) where the main waste pipe connects to the wall.
Also, look out for mouse droppings. This can be tricky as lettings are usually professionally cleaned so you might not find droppings in visible places, like along the skirting boards (mice are cautious creatures and move along the edge of something). The best place took look is under the cabinets in the kitchen. You will need to peek behind the kitchen plinths — that space is almost never cleaned.
If the plinths are fixed, you can look around the fridge, washing machine, or oven. Turn on your phone’s flashlight and check the airing vents which are located usually under the oven, or some have vents just at the top. A few droppings might be scattered around.
# Put in writing
If the property checks out, you might be lucky and found a rodent-free letting.
…but just in case, when you make the offer, make it conditional if you can. For example, put down in writing that you were informed that the flat does not have a pest issue and you are making the offer based on this information as a precondition. You can even try to put this into the tenancy agreement and add an extra break clause. But be prepared, your offer probably won’t be accepted if the agency/landlord knows about the pest issue.
What to do if property has mice after signing the contract?
Unfortunately, despite your efforts, it is still possible that your dream rent has a rodent problem. If you want to move out and end your tenancy, you will need to be aware of your country’s legislation and most likely seek legal advice. Binding contracts cannot be ended easily without a break clause. This is the reason why I have started a petition. In the UK you may want to contact either Citizens Advice or Shelter for further information and support.
Nonetheless here are a few non-legal tips.
# Don’t let them downplay the issue
- We were often told that “this is London, all properties have rodents” — which is simply not true.
- “As a first step, we ask tenants to buy mouse repellent devices” — the effect of these devices is questionable, and based on your circumstance, probably the landlord needs to address the problem, not you.
- “A few visits from pest control will sort the issue out” — this means that pest control is brought in for baiting. Especially agencies like to go with this solution. The issue here is that not the root cause is addressed. Yes, mice will be exterminated, but they can come back in a few weeks’ time as the holes are not proofed. In addition, it is entirely possible that some of the rodents will simply die in your flat because of the poison. It happened to us; the smell is more than terrible.
# Be home for pest control’s visit
This is a terrific opportunity to talk with them, ask your questions, and have a better understanding of the issue. You can even request them to make an official recommendation to the landlord to do the proofing.
Sometimes not the most competent people are hired for the job so take photos of the work (and send them to the agency/landlord).
# Push for proofing
I cannot emphasize enough: without fixing the holes, your rodent problem is not likely to go away. If your landlord is not willing to commit to this and you do not want to start a legal battle, try to meet in the middle and ask whether you can bring in someone at your own expense as a last resort (it is really your landlord’s responsibility, and you should not pay for such work).
You can even try to do it yourself but always ask for your landlord’s consent before making any modifications to the property. Some landlords are very flexible in this regard.
# Put away food and clean regularly
Mice are attracted to food so do not leave any food on the counter, pack your biscuits, and bread in airtight containers and put them away. Always use a plate when you snack as mice can thrive on crumbs barely visible to you. Vacuum and mop up regularly.
# Get a cat
If you like cats :)
Disclaimer: Please note that these tips are based on my personal experience and might not be suitable for you. Following these tips is done at your own risk, and I, the author will not be held responsible for acting upon these recommendations.