Pest Infestations in Apartments
Pests in apartments have become a regular issue in all new developments in Dublin. Mice infestations are the most notorious example, as they can easily travel through risers and walls’ insulation. When residents see mice droppings in their kitchen units they often contact the Property Management Company and assume they should bear the cost of clearing the infestation.
In fact, there are a variety of ways by which a mouse can end up in an apartment, and residents may be responsible for some them: it could have walked through an open door or walked underneath a door at ground level, and then made its way to a particular apartment (generally on the upper floors). But most of the time mice access the building through little holes left open at ground level.
Preventative rodent monitoring and treatments in the outdoor common areas or service ducts are usually not sufficient to compensate for building proofing issues.
Mice are by nature very inquisitive. They walk over 200 metres per day. Most importantly they suffer from hypothermia and die with temperatures below 12°C. During cold days and nights, they try to get indoors by any means, regardless of the number of bait points outdoors and the frequency of routine inspections carried out by the pest control contractor.
While preventative treatments in the common areas prevent rodent settlements (i.e. burrows/nests) in these areas, they cannot prevent scavenging rodents from entering the perimeter of a property and gaining immediate access to an apartment through gaps left in the structure of a building.
Similarly, pests such as cockroaches, carpet beetles or moths can infest buildings after travelling with food packaging, luggage or through open windows. If left untreated there is a risk of infestation.
Property Managers – Common Practice
Property Managers do not routinely accept liability for an infestation in the private parts of a property. A comprehensive insurance costs more than a regular insurance. Similarly, the cost of management fees will substantially increase if the pest prevention programme is to include both common and PRIVATE areas. It is a more economic option to advise residents to pay for call-outs in their apartment only when they need it. It is indeed possible that there may not be an infestation in an apartment for 20 or 30 years, so why paying if the problem never occurs?
On the other hand, it is very useful if the Management Company records regular occurrences of infestations in apartments. If mice infestations persist in a particular block, it is beneficial to organise a “pest-proofing structural survey” of the building to determine the mice entry points.
In essence, residents should understand that Pest Control programmes and routine inspections only cover COMMON and accessible areas and not private areas.
From a strictly legal point of view, most contracts between Property Management Companies and residents make a distinction between private and common areas. Property managers are responsible for maintenance issues in common areas and each resident is responsible for maintenance in their own private apartment. But residents do not always understand this when it comes to pests.
In the case of plumbing issues, for instance, everyone accepts simple rules: if a water pipe leaks in a corridor or duct the Property Management will fix it and if a tap or pipe leaks in the apartment it is for the owner to repair it (even if the water travels through the common areas in the first place!). If these rules were understood for Pest Control in Properties there would be no ambiguity.
Pests enter apartments if someone unknowingly brings them in or if there are proofing issues in a particular apartment. This is a problem that must be resolved by the owner of the property or in some cases the tenant.
All Pest Control contracts cover only the common areas, i.e. if there is a need to use rodenticides outdoors, in service ducts, boiler rooms, car parks, bin sheds, etc. it is part of the contract. But if the pest controller passes the entrance door of an apartment to reach behind a sink, a balcony, or wall and ceiling cavity, he is working in a “private area”. Private areas are outside the terms of the contract with the management Company and a call-out charge will occur for the resident/owner.
Designing a Pest Control contract that would include treatments of all insects and rodent infestations in the apartments would be very costly and is unnecessary in most cases. It is not practical to ask ALL residents to bear for years the cost of “potential” infestations indoors if these infestations rarely or even never occur.