What are pesticides?

These are products which are used to control, for example, weeds growing on a garden path or in a garden; slugs eating plants, blackspot or other diseases on plants. The terms “pesticide” covers a wide range of products all of which are used to control “pests”. Pesticides used for plant protection purposes include

  • Weedkillers
  • Slug pellets
  • Fungicide sprays
  • Animal repellent
  • Insecticides
  • Plant growth regulators
  • Lawns and treatments

Control of pesticides

Products used to protect plants from pests and diseases or to control unwanted weeds must be officially authorised before they can be marketed or used in the UK. This is because they contain hazardous substances and using them can cause a risk to health or the environment.

Classification of pesticides

Pesticides are divided into two main categories for these purposes: professional pesticides for use with agriculture, horticulture or spaces like public parks; or amateur or non professional pesticides for use in areas like home gardens.

Home garden products can be purchased in a garden centre or off the supermarket shelf without any specific requirements on training. The label on the product should be worded so that the instructions are easy to follow to ensure that the product is used safely.

Professional pesticides have a much wider impact than pesticides used on a small scale such as those used in a home garden and which are approved for amateur use. A professional pesticide can only be used by those who have had proper training. Professional products should never be used by an amateur. Someone with the right training is allowed to use the professional product in the home garden so long as the intended use appears on the product label.

Use of pesticides by landlords

There are no training requirements for landlords when using home garden products approved for non professional purposes. However, an individual landlord is regarded as self employed for health and safety purposes. A landlord who is self employed or who is an employer, because he or she employs somebody (or a Company landlord who has employees) are subject to duties under the Health and Safety at Work Legislation when using pesticides in connection with their letting business. In such circumstances the landlord (or agent) must carry out a risk assessment to decide who is affected by its use, including the general public, neighbours etc. This risk assessment may show that those actually using the pesticide will need some training/instruction but, so long as the product is authorised for home garden use, this is not a mandatory requirement. Such a risk assessment is required under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH).

Additionally, and importantly, a landlord using any pesticide, even a home garden/amateur use product, is classified as a professional user under the relevant regulations. Even though the landlord may not require specific training because the product being used is suitable for amateur use, as a professional user, the landlord using any pesticide in connection with his/her business is subject to various obligations under the regulations governing pesticide use. These are set out in the next section. Anyone, including a landlord, must also comply with the general duties regarding pesticides referred to below.

Requirements which a landlord, as a professional user, must observe

This section sets out the specific obligations which a landlord using pesticides (including home garden/amateur products) must additionally comply with when using pesticides as part of their business, e.g. for gardens, treating paths, driveways and other hard surfaces etc., at tenanted properties. These are as follows:-

  • The user must take all reasonable precautions to ensure that certain operations do not endanger human health or the environment, which includes surface waters. This applies when storing, handling, diluting or mixing products before application, handling of packaging, remnants of products, disposal of any tank mixtures, cleaning of equipment after use, and disposal of remnants/packaging.
  • Equipment must be periodically checked to ensure that it is in proper working order.

General duties regarding pesticides

There are a number of duties relating to pesticides and their use, storage and disposal which must be observed by everyone using a pesticide:

  • Anyone who uses a pesticide has to take reasonable precautions to protect the environment. In the case of home gardening products (not professional products) follow the instructions as to the use and disposal of the products. You should comply with this and take reasonable precautions to protect human health and the environment. This includes surface waters.
  • Pesticide application must be confined to the target area.
  • Reasonable precautions must be taken to ensure that storage and disposal of the product and packaging does not endanger health or the environment. Again, instructions should be followed.
  • Give precedence to particular types of products which do not affect water, including drinking water supplies. Pesticides should not be poured away down the drain.
  • Ensure pesticides are stored safely in a secure environment so that there are no unwanted releases.
  • Ensure that different pesticides are not mixed unless permitted by the instructions.
  • The amount of pesticides used and the frequency of use must be as low as reasonably practical where use is along roads, very permeable surfaces, or other infrastructure close to surface water or ground water or on sealed surfaces with a high risk of run off into surface water or the sewerage system. Only suitable products must be used if there is a risk to the aquatic environment or drinking water.
This extends to landlords (and agents) and any employees using pesticides on their behalf.


Under pesticide legislation, as well as health and safety at work legislation, a person such as a landlord who uses or permits someone else to use the pesticides in breach of the relevant regulations could be prosecuted.

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