Pests, infestations, mould and damp can harm people’s health and cause property damage if they are not dealt with quickly. In extreme cases, they can make a property unsafe to live in and are an urgent repair that must be fixed immediately.
Pests and infestations might include mice, rats, possums, fleas, ants or termites.
If renters see signs of pests, infestations, mould or rising damp, they should tell the rental provider immediately.
Responsibility for pests, infestations and mould
The law doesn’t always say who is responsible for fixing or paying to fix a problem with pests, infestations or mould. However if the problem happens because of the building structure a renter can ask for an urgent repair.
If the rental agreement (which used to be called a lease) doesn’t say who has to fix the problem, who is responsible might depend on who contributed to the problem.
The renter may be responsible if their actions or behaviour contributed to the problem. For example:
- mould formed because they didn’t use a ventilation fan in the bathroom
- ants, mice or cockroaches were attracted to rubbish they didn’t remove
- there are fleas in the property because they didn’t treat their pet.
If the renter was responsible for the problem, they should fix it. If they don’t, the rental provider may order them to, using the Notice for breach of duty to renter/s of rented premises.
Rental provider responsibility
The rental provider (landlord) may be responsible if a problem with the property has caused the mould or damp or allowed pests to enter and they have not fixed the problem. For example:
- a broken or faulty window frame has let rainwater inside and caused mould or damp
- pests were already a problem when the renter moved in
- a hole in the roof let in pests.
If the rental provider is responsible for the problem, they should fix it. If they don’t, the renter can request they fix it as an urgent or non-urgent repair, depending on how serious it is.
If the rental provider and renter can’t agree about who should pay for removing pests or mould, either can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for a decision.
When pests, infestations or mould are an urgent repair
If pests, infestations or mould or damp caused by or related to the building structure are making the property unsecure or unsafe to live in, they are an urgent repair.
Renters may need to give their rental provider proof that the mould is dangerous and needs urgent repair. This could be:
- an assessment report by an occupational hygienist, environmental health professional or expert from the local council
- a doctor’s report for people with an existing health issue like asthma.
Renters may be able to get rental providers to pay them back for any health assessment or medical report by applying to VCAT.
Forms you might need
To give a renter a notice for causing a pest infestation or mould damage, use this form:
For information on seeking repairs, view Repairs in rental properties.
Renting law reforms
Victoria made significant changes to renting laws in 2021.
One of the major changes to laws about pests, infestations and mould is:
- if a pest infestation or the presence of mould or damp caused by or related to the building structure makes the property unsafe or insecure, fixing it is now defined as an urgent repair.
Some language also changed:
- Landlords are now called rental providers
- Tenants are now called renters
- Leases are now called rental agreements.
You can read about these and other changes in a summary of the reforms or in detailed fact sheets and guides.
Sections of the Act
If you want to know what the law says about who is responsible for pests, infestations and mould, you can read these sections of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997:
- Section 3 – Definition of urgent repair
- Section 72 – Urgent repairs.