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Filthy and verminous houses

Some people find it difficult to look after themselves and their property and their property may become untidy and dirty. This may not be serious enough for the environmental health team to become involved - although other agencies such as adult social services or others may be able to offer support.

In some cases the situation may deteriorate to a level where there are personal hygiene issues, smells, accumulations of waste, or possibly infestations of rats, mice and flies, and there is a real risk to the health of the occupier and others such as neighbours. If you are aware of someone who is living like this who may need our assistance, please contact us.

What is a filthy and/or verminous premise?

Filthy or verminous premises are properties that are considered verminous (including rats, mice, insects or parasites including their eggs, larvae and pupae) or in such a filthy condition as to be prejudicial to health (usually means that there is rotting food, human or animal excrement inside the property).

Such properties are frequently characterised by an accumulation of material that can make access to a premises difficult.

We have a statutory duty under the provisions of the Public Health Act 1936 and section 79 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to investigate complaints about premises which are in such a filthy and/or verminous condition or are prejudicial to health. This would not include premises which are merely unsightly, untidy or in a bad state of repair.

What we will do

If a report is received and there is a risk to health, other agencies such as adult social services may also become involved and informal discussions will be undertaken so that the owner/occupier can clean the property.

Once we are aware of a filthy or verminous house we will inspect the property so we can decide what actions to take.

The initial approach is always to try to resolve problems by discussion and negotiation with the occupier, private landlord, social landlord and other agencies. The purpose of such discussions is to try and gain an agreement to remove all rubbish and articles and to thoroughly clean the property.

Here are some examples of the work we may carry out where there is no co-operation.

  • Remove rubbish.
  • Remove or destroy pests.
  • Remove sewage contamination.
  • Clean and disinfect interior surfaces.
  • Remove contaminated wallpaper, carpets, furniture if we cannot clean them.
  • Carry out essential repairs to the property.

Legal notices

If the owner/occupier fails to comply, we can serve a statutory notice requiring the property to be cleansed and all rubbish and filthy articles removed.

Failure to comply with the notice may result in us executing the work specified in the notice and recovering the costs from the owner/occupier. Legal proceedings may also be instigated for non-compliance of the notice.

If notices are not complied with, we can carry out works in default and employ contractors to carry out the required works to clean the property and/or eradicate the vermin. Costs incurred would then be recovered.

Overgrown or untidy gardens

We cannot use these powers to deal with properties that are merely unsightly, untidy or in a bad state of repair.

Premises that are unsightly and deemed to be detrimental to the amenity of the neighbourhood can be dealt with under Section 215 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990.

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Last modified on 25 March 2022