Plagued by termites | Rental rants | Flat Chat Forum: Your Questions Answered




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Plagued by termites
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Mailbox
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12/12/2017 - 4:33 pm
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Hi we have some questions about pests in a rental, specifically termites.

Now our issue isn’t termites in the walls of the house (there is definitely these) our issue is that we have had SWARMS of flying termites escaping the nest and completely filling our 1 bathroom & also in our master bedroom.

Our property agent and land lord have been next to useless about the whole situation and while we have had pest control come and install some “bait boxes” they take up to 6 weeks to actually kill off a nest.

So basically our issue is in the meantime we are being told that we have to continue living here and if/when these swarms occur we have to clean up the mess and just deal with it.

We have 2 kids (4 years and 13 weeks old) and we are at our wits end because this not only affects us (cleaning endless amounts of bugs) it also affects them because these swarms only occur after dusk so we have sometimes had to keep them up while vacuuming up mess.

So my question is do we have the right to kick up a fuss over this?

Our house is completely unliveable on the evenings this happens and we are too embarrassed to even have any outside visitors!

Any advice would be appreciated thank you

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scotlandx
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12/12/2017 - 5:32 pm
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You can’t live in a property infested with termites, it’s a fundamental breach of the lease.  Refer here.

https://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/ftw/Tenants_and_home_owners/Renting_a_home/During_a_tenancy/Pests_and_vermin.page

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Sir Humphrey
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12/12/2017 - 7:29 pm
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How are the alates (flying adults setting out from a nest to pair up and start a new nest) getting in? Don’t you have flyscreens on windows? 

If you have very large numbers, there must be a nest nearby. I think the OC would be most interested in finding the nest, rather than worrying about the short-term matter of a flight of alates. 

Bear in mind that many termite species are innocuous and don’t attack structural timbers. On the other hand, some species can do serious damage in a short time, especially in coastal and northern areas. 

Fortunately, where I live (ACT) there are only two species that present a serious threat and neither works very quickly, so there is no reason to panic if active termites are found. Leave them alone and call a pest control person. 

A considerable annoyance, however, is that our local termite inspectors frequently don’t bother to distinguish two Nausutitermes species, one of which is a serious concern – tunnels 10s of meters and attacks sound timber, the other of which only eats already rotting timber and does not travel far. I am a bit cynical about why they don’t bother to distinguish these two. They are not that hard to tell apart. 

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BONNIE L
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12/12/2017 - 8:51 pm
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Are there any timbers or wood items around or in your home? 

In my limited experience, termites eat into woods and timbers and can be a blight. 

As a suggestion, consult another reputable pest inspector on phone first, or get in touch with a local timber yard which may have a specialist tip.  Good luck!

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JimmyT
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12/12/2017 - 10:33 pm
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Mailbox said

So my question is do we have the right to kick up a fuss over this?

I reprint that part of the original post because, apart from Scotties response, we are kind of drifting off the main question.

Personally, I think you should be looking for some kind of rent reduction – at the very least – or even temporary accommodation until the infestation has been dealt with.

Contact your local council’s environmental health department to establish whether or not the unit is actually uninhabitable.  Then contact the landlord, and failing any real assistance, Fair Trading.

Do you have a right to kick up a fuss? My oath! 
 

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bluehouse
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13/12/2017 - 12:42 am
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I agree. Make a fuss. 

The landlord and agent might be just trying to get away with the situation but when you show you know your rights after reading the above, you may get a better response without having to go further to Fair Trading. 

If you haven’t already take lots of photos every time it happens  – during and after the swarms. Look critically at the photos to make sure they convey how bad it is. That will be evidence to show Fair Trading or Council’s Environmental Health Dept, but also may convey to the agent how ridiculous what they are asking you to put up with is.

There is potential for damage to your belongings too – if there are cracks and spaces where the swarming termites have been coming in, the workers who are living in the walls can come in that way too. Termites also eat other cellulose materials as well as wood so if they come into wardrobes or where it is dark behind shelves etc they will eat things like books, fabrics, boxes and furniture. And depending on the species, surprisingly quickly.  I lost my silk wedding dress to them – it was being kept by my mother for sentimental reasons – I think she was more upset about the dress she had lovingly made than the wall they had eaten through to get to it! 

Its the regular worker termites that will do that damage and they won’t come into the light, so they will only do it somewhere dark, or where they have built their closed tunnels to protect themselves from light. The tunnels are easily visible, so it shouldn’t be too hard to work out where to check. But its another reason why your home is not in an acceptable state that you pay your rent for. 

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BONNIE L
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13/12/2017 - 2:59 pm
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Hi, yes, make a fuss very much so.  They also may come in from any nearby tree if that is a guide.  And that can be a neighbour, or even a local council concern if you think it comes from a neighbour or even a tree in the yard.    

Sounds like a home move may be less trouble.

When I said timber yard, that may be going too far.  A local Bunnings timber section, or one of their wonderful problem solving folks, may have a tip that gets rid of them more speedily in the shorter term.

Sounds like not only landlord and agent but also the owner have let the problem go on without addressing or using preventative measures in the first place.

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Sir Humphrey
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13/12/2017 - 4:21 pm
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But isn’t the problem nuisance from flying termites? If so, the questions are: 1) Have they appeared because there is an undetected nest internal to the building? or 2) Are they getting in through lack of insect screens on windows or other openings to the outside?

If it is 2, then it will stop soon but there is the more general problem that the unit seems to lack insect screens to keep out flies, mosquitos etc. 

If it is 1), then the flying termites will still stop soon (termite flights tend to be brief and annual) but some structural timbers might be about to collapse too!

If it is 2), then the flying termites might be from a nearby nest of a species which is a threat to structural timber or it might not be. 

There are many things that a concerned building owner can do to reduce the risk of termite damage but that is a topic I can write on another day. 

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BONNIE L
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13/12/2017 - 5:30 pm
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It’s a house Sir H; different story.

The blighters can come up through the floor.  Is the floor timber? If it’s not termite resistance flooring in the first place, they will have a ball eating into it. 

I’m ok writing to this party as a tenant, as I have downsized to a strata situation only recently. 

As a suggestion,  I would make it loudly and clearly known to the owner, the agency, and local council as others have advised. 

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Sir Humphrey
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13/12/2017 - 5:51 pm
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If they are appearing from under the floor, perhaps there is a nest in the sub-floor area. Some species that are capable of doing serious damage have an obvious nest mound and so are usually not a problem because the mound is noticed and destroyed. Sometimes a mound from such species will start in a sub-floor area and can develop to threaten structural timbers if it goes unnoticed due to a lack of inspections. 

Leaky pipes or shower recesses can encourage termites since they need a source of moisture. 

They can also start a nest in a wall cavity. 

If they are not just generally flying about outside and some getting in, but rather seem to be coming from in or under the house, then certainly you should alert the owner. 

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scotlandx
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13/12/2017 - 6:23 pm
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I don’t think the issue is where the termites might have come from, or what the tenant might do to solve the problem.  The issue is that the house they are paying to live in is infested with insects to an extreme degree – this is a breach of the lease. The tenant should advise the agent and landlord of this, and tell them they will contact Fair Trading if the situation is not rectified.

Keep paying the rent, a breach doesn’t justify a breach.

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BONNIE L
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10/01/2018 - 6:10 pm
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Hi everyone,  Not sure if this is the right space, and in no way is there any issue as described in this section, plus hope their problem got sorted out.

Would anyone have a tip please on whether to get one’s own unit inspected for pests when there are no real issues for us and common property inspections get arranged by strata?

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Lady Penelope
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11/01/2018 - 6:51 pm
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I probably wouldn’t bother with a termite inspection if I was you – but I am not advising against it.

Termite’s nests are usually in the soil (subterranean) but they have been known to infest higher floors if they can find a moisture source and a food source. They can then set up satellite colonies.

They would most likely travel up cracks in the concrete or within duct work.

A vigilant termite inspector may be able to spot the visible termite trails on the common property exterior walls at ground level but sometimes the termites travel through areas that are not visible to the inspector.

If there are ground level Lots with Exclusive Use areas then these areas may not be inspected by your OC and it could be these exterior walls where the termites begin their upward journey.

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BONNIE L
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12/01/2018 - 9:21 am
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Thanks very much Lady P; food for thought. Also will try to ask OC inspector if see them on the day.  No one I’ve spoken to has mentioned termites, and certainly nothing obvious – apart from common summer bugs  that come out in hot weather  – not the dreaded t-type; that is, nothing visible to naked eye.

Flat next door to ours however has had serious repeating issues with summer bugs though; common variety – not t-type.

Very small appearances in ours – no t-type appearances mercifully.  

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