Heatwave: How to deal with common household pests
The country continues to be affected by a heatwave, with the mercury set to rise even more come the weekend.
Certain pests such as flies can be more common in warmer weather. Here we take a look at how to deal with common household pests.
Who is responsible for dealing with pests in properties?
The answer is not clear cut and can depend on a number of factors such as:
- What if anything is included in the tenancy agreement about responsibility for dealing with infestations?
- Whether the infestation has been caused by a structural defect
- Whether the issue was present when the tenant moved in
To establish the cause of the issue and get help on what to do next, it is advisable to contact the local council's Environmental Health department. Most local authorities offer some form of pest control service.
The British Pest Control Association (BPCA) also recently launched some best practice advice for landlords, when it comes to dealing with pests.
Common household pests
BPCA’s Technical Manager, Natalie Bungay, outlines some common pest problems as well as steps to reduce risk and advice on when to call in the professionals.
Talking to tenants
Your tenants are best placed to spot the signs if a pest is present in the let, but are also in a prime position to avoid an infestation in the first place.
It can be a good idea to direct tenants to BPCA’s online A-Z of Pests guide, which gives detailed advice and information on a range of common pests, and to share simple tips on preventing infestations.
Depending on the terms of the lease, the tenant may be responsible for some aspects of pest control and the landlord responsible for others.
Sometimes it is down to the tenant to ensure their daily living activities do not attract pests and for the landlord to ensure that structural issues such as poor brickwork or uncapped pipes are tackled to prevent pests getting in.
Whoever is responsible, it is important that action is taken.
Some pest species pose a direct risk to human health, and others – such as rats and mice – can cause damage to your property as well.
Common pest problems
A wide range of pests can affect residential properties in the UK, but some are much more common than others.
Rats and mice - rodents are vectors of disease, carrying bacteria on their feet and fur, as well as contaminating areas with their urine and faeces. Both rats and mice need to gnaw to maintain their teeth. They can cause structural damage through gnawing on brick or block, as well as pipes and electrical cables, with some cases of flooding and electrical fires attributed to rodent activity.
Bed bugs – in the early stages of an infestation bed bugs can be difficult to detect as their ‘young’ stages are so very small. Bed bugs can be transported into a property on furniture and luggage. They are ectoparasites and are not known to spread diseases, but their bites cause irritating red marks or lumps. Some people may experience a severe skin reaction or disturbed sleep. Bed bugs can live for up to a year without feeding, so may be present in a vacant property, even if it has been uninhabited for a while.
Flies – the UK’s most wide-spread pest, flies can transmit bacterial diseases to humans and are often found to be carrying the eggs of parasitic worms. There are many different fly species. Some bite, while others vomit saliva onto food and suck up the resulting liquid, contaminating the food with bacteria from their gut and feet. Fly screens and electric fly killers are useful deterrents.
Cockroaches – a nocturnal pest that thrives in humid areas such as heating ducts, pipes, at the back of stoves and sinks. Cockroaches can act as vectors of disease and contaminate utensils and food preparation surfaces as they forage. They will feed on anything including refuse, faecal matter and food for consumption.
Steps to help prevent pests
All pest species that are found in the home will settle down and start to breed if they find a space with a food source and shelter.
Specific pests may need specific preventative action, but five basic steps that will help to deter pests include:
1. Clean it up – food debris, spillages, crumbs and dust particles including shed skin can all be food sources for pests. Regular cleaning is the most important step to prevent pests.
2. Bag it and bin it – bins can be a feast for pests. Household waste should be bagged up placed in a bin with a lid that fits securely. Dustbins should be sited well away from access points to the property. Never leave a bin bag out in the open, it will attract pests!
3. Mind the gap – gaps under the eaves, around doors, windows, utility pipes and cables can all be entry points for pests. These should be checked and any spaces plugged with an appropriate filler.
4. Check it out – some species, such as bed bugs, can be transferred into a property on furniture, bedding and luggage. If you are moving items from one let to another, purchasing second-hand items, or letting the property out unfurnished, it is advisable to check for signs of hitchhikers before bringing items into the house.
5. Protect plumbing – drains and disused pipes can be routes into a property for pests including cockroaches, rats and mice. Drain covers should be securely fitted and disused pipes capped off.
Why choose a pest professional?
There are many ‘remedies’ and methods online which are not verified and should not be used. Products ordered online should be checked thoroughly to ensure they are legal to use in the UK.
Amateur-use products must be applied with care – always follow the instructions on the pack and ensure the application does not pose a risk to children, animals or other non-target species.
Some landlords often ask tenants to carry out a ‘precautionary’ flea treatment upon vacating a property. Do not do this. You shouldn’t use pesticides if there is no evidence of a pest infestation – this is a misuse of the product and therefore a breach of regulations.
BPCA also has a useful code of best practice on why this is not allowed.
The best way to protect your property, and ensure no flea infestation is present, before moving in a new tenant, is to employ a monitoring service from a professional pest controller.
This involves them placing specialist heat lamp traps in and around the property.
These traps will attract and capture any fleas that may be present. If a capture is recorded, then a treatment can go ahead.
If no captures are recorded then you can rest assured that the property is free of fleas.
Pest professionals have access to a range of products not available to the public and have the knowledge and skill to tackle an infestation safely and efficiently.
They will take a systematic, integrated approach, starting with a thorough survey of the premises before selecting an appropriate treatment.
A pest professional such as a BPCA member will also be able to advise on pest prevention and control through proofing and maintenance of the building.
BPCA members are regularly assessed to the British Standard in Pest Management BS EN 16636.
- To find a professional pest controller visit bpca.org.uk/find
- Natalie Bungay was recently a guest on the NRLA's Listen Up Landlord podcast, look out for the episode later this month.