Dispute over pest control fees

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    Dispute over pest control fees

    Hi all- apologies if this is on the wrong board! I'm currently stuck in a dispute with a letting agency over bed bug exterminator fees and was hoping for some advice on what my legal standing is and if/how I can progress this further.

    I moved into a room in a rental property in London back in September and around a month ago (early November) I started noticing small bite marks on my body upon waking up in the mornings. I suspected bed bugs and contacted my letting agency who stated that, as the previous tenant had never reported any such issues it was most likely that I had brought the bugs in and hence I would have to arrange and pay for an exterminator myself.

    I got an exterminator in and he confirmed that it was a bed bug issue- his assessment was that it was a high level of infestation that, based on what he had seen, had been present in the room for at least 3 months (i.e. before I moved into the room). I was given a report on company headed paper that included this assessment. He also recommended that the bed be replaced due to the high number of bugs present.

    I then contacted the letting agency with this information, stating that as the bugs were present before I moved into the room I should not be held responsible for the exterminator fees. They stated that they would have to speak to the exterminator themselves to obtain more information, so I passed his contact details on to them. I also eventually convinced them to reimburse me for a new bed (although I still haven't received payment for this).

    Since then the bugs have returned and I've had to pay for two additional exterminator visits. The agency are stating that they are still awaiting the requested information from the exterminator, although he has provided me with screenshots of his email responses to them. I've asked them what further information they're looking for but they don't seem very keen to answer my questions! The most recent response I've had from them stated that as the exterminator visit was arranged without consulting the landlord first, they would not be reimbursing me for the fees. This seems like a completely unreasonable condition as it would have meant me continuing to sleep in a bug-infested bed until they had made these arrangements, which, based on other experiences with them, could have taken weeks.

    The only relevant clause in my rental contract is the following:

    "The tenant agrees to pay and arrange for the removal of all vermin, pests and insects, if infestation begins during the term, unless such infestation occurs as a failure of the landlord to fulfil his repairing obligations"

    Finally, I don't believe the room was inspected by the agency before I moved in, as I was moving in on the same day that the previous tenant was moving out. This was also a bit of a failure on my part, as the issue would likely have been noticed if I had inspected the bed properly myself or insisted that the agency do so.

    I want to keep fighting this but I feel like they won't budge without some sort of legal threat and I don't know what my rights are in this case. Any advice? I have contacted Citizen's Advice in the early stages of the problem but the only real advice I got from them was to continue challenging the letting agency as they believed I should be entitled to a reimbursement.

    #2
    Call Shelter, 0808 800 4444 about this.

    But I think in future you should draw such problems to the landlord's attention first (yes, LANDLORD, but copy agent, keep copy) as your getting the money back after it has been spent is tricky.

    Nothing to stop you suing landlord/agent over your costs... You may or may not win.
    I am legally unqualified: If you need to rely on advice check it with a suitable authority - eg a solicitor specialising in landlord/tenant law...

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      #3
      If the bed's been replaced and the bed bugs have come back, either they're in the bedding or living somewhere close to the bed or on the tenant.

      That makes me think the exterminator or the tenant hasn't done everything they could do to end the problem.

      If the tenancy agreement actually says "The tenant agrees to pay and arrange for the removal of all vermin, pests and insects, if infestation begins during the term, unless such infestation occurs as a failure of the landlord to fulfil his repairing obligations" the landlord's only issue is to either refute the exterminator's assertion that the infestation began before the term, or to query the cost (if they believe they could have got the job done cheaper).

      As the exterminator doesn't appear to have exterminated anything...
      When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
      Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).

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        #4
        The first recurrence (i.e. the one that prompted the second exterminator visit) was actually before the bed was replaced, as I was still trying to argue the case for them paying to replace the bed. They could very well make that argument for the second two visits but surely I have a case for claiming back the price of the first visit?

        As you said, they are refuting the exterminator's assessment but their method of 'argument' is to ignore my questions and to continually claim that they haven't received the requested information from the exterminator, despite him showing me that he's answered their questions. When I ask to be copied in to their correspondence with him or to be shown a screenshot of what they've asked him they are flat-out ignoring me. I feel like I'm not going to get anywhere without some kind of legal threat. But if that isn't the case I might just have to chalk this one off as a lesson learned...

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          #5
          the bugs may actually have originated and be coming in from an adjacent room/property - have you spoken to other tenants ?

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