With animals often come fleas. No matter how clean a pet is kept, simply a walk in the park or a sniff in the garden can result in fleas. Most responsible pet owners will give their animal regular flea treatments to avoid this, but the problem can quickly get out of hand if they don’t. If your rental property becomes infested with fleas, it can be a real problem. Not only is it very difficult to remove all fleas, it could cause you issues in not only your present tenancy, but future ones too…
So, what is it about these tiny little insects that create such big problems? Fleas have been on this planet for approximately 100 million years and there are over 2000 species and subspecies that we know of. They can consume 15 times their body weight in blood on a daily basis and females can lay around 2000 eggs over the course of their life, which is usually around 2-3 months. With these figures in mind, it’s safe to say that a flea problem can escalate fast.
Fleas can’t live on humans, so will seek out animals such as dogs and cats to be their ‘host’ - and this is where the issue begins in properties. If fleas get onto carpets, curtains, clothes and soft furnishings, they can be very difficult to remove and if the problem persists after washing and treating with a household flea treatment product, furnishings may even need to be replaced.
If your tenant has a pet, they should be taking precautions against fleas with regular flea treatments (every 3-4 months). By keeping a close eye on their pet’s behaviour and fur, they should be able to nip flea issues in the bud quickly without it escalating to anything more. Tenants should be vigilant with their vacuuming and should also wash their pet’s bedding regularly. The cleaner the home, the more difficult fleas will find it to multiply. Take note of these things when you undertake your regular inspections and stress to your tenant how important it is. Finding rental properties that allow pets can be difficult, so your tenant will probably want to take all measures to ensure that you’ll be happy for their pets to continue living with them and therefore should take your stresses onboard.
You can buy plenty of sprays and treatments for the home designed to get rid of fleas, but in the worst cases these solutions just aren’t strong enough. Fumigation of the carpets and upholstery is a good route to take if the fleas are all over the house, but this often won’t reach edges, nooks and crannies where further fleas might be hiding. As long as there are a few fleas left behind, they can carry on multiplying. And if eggs are left behind, they can take up to nine months to hatch - which could leave you or your tenant feeling as if the property is being re-infested. It can also mean the issue will sneak up on any new tenants who move into the property. It’s vital to interrupt the fleas life cycle to truly stop the issue. When a tenant with a pet moves out of the property or whilst carrying out your inspections, take a close look at the carpets, flooring, curtains and any existing furnishings for any sign of eggs or flea dirt, which will look like specs of ground pepper. If you have any doubts, get the professionals in. Nine times out of ten, blitzing the property and leaving it empty for a while will cause the fleas to die out. With no blood to consume and no host to live on, there’s not a lot left for them to do.
This differs a little between situations. If a current tenant has a pet living in the property with them, and is experiencing a flea infestation, it’s almost certainly down to their pet and so they can be assumed to have contributed to the problem. In this case, it’s up to them to solve the issue. To ensure that they take action, make sure that you include a clause in your tenancy agreement about a tenant taking responsibility to prevent and deal with fleas. That way, if they choose not to do anything about it then you can prove that they have breached their agreement.
If a new tenant moves into a property where pets have previously lived and they then begin to experience issues with fleas, the responsibility lies with you to fix the problem. The bottom line is that a landlord must provide a property that is fit for habitation, so if your tenant complains of a flea infestation caused by the previous tenant, you will need to step in and get the property re-sprayed and re-treated. It gets a little more complicated if the new tenant also has pets, as there’s no real way of knowing which pet brought in the fleas. It’s best to play it safe and take responsibility yourself and not run the risk of losing a new tenant. Be sure to vet any tenants - and their pets - thoroughly before taking them on. Let’s face it, any responsible pet owner who loves their animal won’t want to invite fleas into where they live. It’s not fun for them or their pets.