Pests and Vermin

The occupier of land is under an obligation to notify the local authority if rats or mice in substantial numbers live on, or resort to, the land. The local authority may serve notice on the owner or occupier (or both) of land, including buildings, requiring them to take specified steps within a specified time to keep the land free of mice or rats.

Failure to comply with the notice is an offence , the maximum penalty for which is set as a fine at level 3 (currently £1,000). In the event of disobedience, the local authority also has the power to enter the land to do the work itself . Wilfully obstructing an official exercising an entry power or attempting to exercise certain other functions under the Act is also an offence, attracting a maximum fine at level 1 (currently, £200).

Whether or not there is an infestation of rats or mice, where premises are so filthy or unwholesome as to be prejudicial to health, or are verminous, the local authority may require corrective measures under the Public Health Act 1936, including, for example, disinfecting or the removal of wallpaper. If necessary, the notice may require the occupiers of infested premises, and neighbouring premises which might be affected, to vacate the premises while gas is employed to destroy vermin. In such a case, the local authority must provide temporary alternative accommodation at its own expense.

In any event, failure to carry out the corrective measures required will permit the authority to carry out the requirements itself. The offence of wilfully obstructing a local authority official attempting properly to exercise such an entry power is punishable by a maximum fine at level 1 (currently £200) .

Certain people – essentially those who run businesses involving food or containers – can be required by notices to take certain steps under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 by a relevant Government Minister . Failure to comply with this kind of notice is an offence which will attract a maximum fine at level 4 (currently £2,500).

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