Skip to content

Accessibility

Filthy and/or verminous premises

This page gives information about how the council deals with people living in filthy and/or verminous premises.

Not everyone in the community is able to look after themselves and their property and there can be a number of reasons for this. These include mental health problems, drug or alcohol problems, extreme old age or physical disability. In these cases, the person concerned may rely completely on others, such as their partner, to carry out domestic tasks such as cooking and cleaning. They then find difficulties if that person leaves, passes away or becomes incapable of carrying out the tasks themselves. This may lead to the property becoming untidy and overgrown and not being kept clean.

In cases that are known to the authorities, help may be provided by organisations such as Social Services. However in a small number of cases, it is appropriate for the environmental health department to become involved. This is usually where open food waste is leading to infestations of rats, mice, flies and so on or where urine and/or faeces are not being disposed of properly. In other words, a situation that has risks associated with public health.

The Council's role

Environmental health officers may be notified when social services become aware of such a case or when contacted by a concerned relative or neighbour. Once we are notified, a visit is made to the property and the situation is assessed to identify any works which may be necessary. Such works can include:

  • removal of decaying food;
  • removal or destruction of rats;
  • removal of faeces or urine;
  • cleansing and disinfecting of surfaces inside the property; or
  • removing of contaminated articles such as furniture, carpets and utensils if cleaning is not practical.

When the work has been identified, the correct procedure is to serve a notice on the occupier requiring the work to be carried out in a specified time scale. Depending on the circumstances, the notice may be under the Public Health Act 1936, the Environmental Protection Act 1990 or the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949

It is usual to find that in these cases the occupiers are unable to arrange for the works themselves often for the same reasons that the problems began. Therefore where necessary the Council carries out works in default of the notice and reclaims the cost of the work later from the occupier.

It is also usual to find that people in these circumstances are very vulnerable and therefore we offer as much help and advice as we can, including obtaining family or neighbour help where they are willing and putting agencies such as social services in touch with them, in order to provide any care or facilities they are entitled to.

In the last three years, five cases of this type have been dealt with by the environmental health department, of which only one required the department to organise a clear out and clean up.

If there is a property near to you that you think might be filthy or verminous, use the contact details on this page to let us know.

Frequently Asked Questions (3)

How does the council decide if premises are filthy and verminous?

As there is no legal definition for this, we use the following rule of thumb.

Filthy usually means there is rotting food or human or animal excrement inside the property.

Verminous usually means the property is infested with pests such as rats, mice or fleas.

What happens if animals at the property are not being looked after properly?

We will consult with and take advice from experts such as the RSPCA.

What if a house is cluttered, untidy or has rubbish in the garden?

It is unlikely to be in the category of filthy or verminous, so the council cannot use the powers described in this page. Depending on the exact situation the council may be able to use other powers, but in many cases all we can do is advise and request the property owners to clear up.

Last updated: Tuesday, 18 June 2013 8:28 am

Jump to

Back to top