Bed Bugs - Trying to be a good landlord

Discussion in 'Residential Letting Questions' started by Mebmate, Sep 23, 2012.

  1. Mebmate Member

    I have an end of terrace property that is split into two flats; both of which are rented out. The upstairs 2 bedroom flat is rented to a mother and 3 year old daughter. The downstairs 3 bedroom flat is rented to a family with a 17 year old, a 3 year old and a 5 month old baby.

    Unfortunately there is an infestation of bed bugs throughout the property and as a landlord I am stuck in the middle. The upstairs tenant wants the property treated as the daughter gets bitten frequently and the Nurse at her kindergarten is expressing concern. The downstairs tenants do not want the property treated as the babies Health Visitor says that the chemicals used in the treatment will not be good for the baby. The treatment company says that the whole property needs to be done in one go and it would be pointless to do just one part of the house at a time. Also that property needs to be vacated for just 2 hours and then all clothing, bedding, soft furnishings, carpets etc. need to be cleaned.

    The downstairs tenants rarely pay rent on time but they have redecorated the flat themselves (after consulting me on colour schemes). They are already what I would call long term tenants, having rented the upstairs flat for 2 years before moving downstairs nearly 18 months ago. The husband has been seriously ill earlier this year which has impacted his ability to work.

    The upstairs tenant is a model tenant, Always pays rent on time and intends to stay for at least another 8 years i.e until her daughter goes to secondary school. I should maybe point out that the area has Grammar Schools and she is keen that the daughter does not lose a place because of distance to the schools. She too has redecorated the flat herself (again after consultations about colours).

    It is likely that the infestation started with the current downstairs tenants when they rented the upstairs flat. It was when the upstairs tenant complained about the bed bugs that tyhe downstairs tenants said that they had also had them when they lived upstairs. I contacted the previous tenants of both flats and they confirmed that they did not have any such problems when they lived there.

    As a landlord, I do not want to have the reputation for having low standard properties in the area. The rental market is good. My last 4 voidages were all less than half a day. How do I balance the needs of both these tenancies and my own reputation?

    I know what options I have legally and how to implement them but I am interested in what the opinions of other landlords and advisors might be regarding the ethical issues and how to bring harmony between tenants.
  2. Jeffrey Shaw Member

    1. Can you put the nurse (re UT, the upstairs T) in touch with the Health Visitor (re DT, the downstairs T) and seek their consensus opinion?
    2. If I had to choose, I'd tend to favour UT.
    3. The problem is that bedbugs are probably not within the scope of s.11 of LTA 1985 [L's repairing obligations in short leases].
    4. If DT remains adamant, invite the Local Housing Authority to use their statutory powers to serve a Notice of intent to enter and disinfest.
    5. That way, UT's needs and yours will be met- whilst DT cannot blame you or object.
  3. Mebmate Member

    Hi Jeffrey,

    Good advice as usual. Thank you, I was not aware that the Local Housing Authority had the power to enter and disinfest. This seems to provide a good option for me so that I can
    a) show the UT that I have acted on her wishes
    b) keep the reasonably good relationship I have with the DT

    By the way, the Local Housing Authority are paying the DT's rent.

    I should have perhaps added that both tenancy agreements have the clause...
    The tenant agrees to pay and arrange for the removal of vermin, pests and insects, if the infestation begins during the Term, woodworm and woodboring insects excepted, unless such infestation occurs as a failure of the Landlord to fulfil his repairing obligations.
    Both tenancy agreements are now SPTs in which the Term includes AST and SPT periods
    I realise now that the clause does not have a timescale specified for the infestation removal (which I will add to future contracts) so the DT could say that they will do it when they leave.

    The downstairs tenants are on holiday until 29th September so I will not be able to co-ordinate the medical people involved.
  4. Jeffrey Shaw Member

    That the Local Housing Authority are paying the DT's rent is not quite true.
    T pays rent to you. That liability is contractual. It is wholly independent of whether T receives HB/LHA.
  5. Mebmate Member

    Agreed; but the rental amount has been agreed between the LHA and myself. I am not sure they would want to pay for a standard of property that their beneficiary would not be receiving. This I think is the strength in your suggestion of going to the LHA 'to enter and disinfest'. Incidentally, if the LHA did this would they (i.e. the LHA) be responsible for the cost of treatment?
  6. Jeffrey Shaw Member

    If the Local Authority (not to be confused with Local Housing Allowance) exercise statutory powers, the cost will be met from:
    a. their own funds, if they so resolve (on a public health basis); or
    b. you, but you'd have a right of recourse against the offending UT; or
    c. the offending UT.

    Acting in this way, they'd be fulfilling their role as Local Authority and not as Local Housing Authority.
  7. Mebmate Member

    It seems then, that I should contact the LA and stress my concerns about the Public Health aspect; and see what happens...
  8. Jeffrey Shaw Member

    Yes, I agree. By stressing to them the public health hazard aspects, rather than whom to blame, you can hope to rebut their likely concerns about 'The Cuts' and financial constraints.
  9. Mebmate Member

    LA are not interested. Their website declares...
    The council does not offer a treatment service for
    wasps
    fleas
    cockroaches
    bedbugs
    carpet beetles
    pigeons
    ants etc.
    Occupiers, both domestic and non domestic, can either contact a private pest control operator to request a treatment service at their own expense or where possible e.g. for fleas carry out a treatment themselves using a good flea spray available from veterinary practices following the manufacturers instructions carefully.

    NHS Choices offer no help either. Looks like its a stand-off until the DTs return from holiday when I can talk to the individual medical parctitioners. It is possible that the Health Visitor's recommendations are getting lost in translation as the DTs hardly speak / understand English.
  10. Jeffrey Shaw Member

    Whilst the Council might not carry-out such works, they do have enforcement powers.
    Start with para. 7(a)(viii) of Schedule 1 to the Building Act 1984:
    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1984/55/schedule/1/paragraph/7#text="infestation"
    Also, try a search for 'infestation' on the HMG legislation website:
    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/search

    Failing that, see the LandlordZONE forum website: http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/forum.php?s=2acdf4ac41de205ea887b9e87d6244de.
    I've just tried it and there are hundreds (threads, not bedbugs): http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/search.php?searchid=1169167

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