As a landlord you may find yourself with a rat problem in one of your properties. Are you legally obliged to act on a rat infestation, or is it the tenant’s responsibility, but what about if they are in a communal area? Find out all you need to know about liability for pest problems, and discover how to identify a rat infestation, carry out effective pest control and put preventative measures in place for the future.
Getting to the bottom of the problem: How do you know if you have rats?
If you suspect a rat infestation, look for these tell-tale signs when you are inspecting the property, or ask your tenants to do so.
- Scratching sounds, especially at night, when rats are active.
- Rats leave about 40 droppings every day, so these will be abundant. Look for dark brown droppings, about the same shape and size as a grain of rice.
- Smudge marks and footprints, where rats have touched your surfaces.
- Holes in places like floorboards or inside cupboards, where rats may have burrowed to make a home, and shredded paper, cardboard or other materials that they may have found to line their nest.
If in doubt, call a professional pest control company who will be able to confirm the problem.
Preventative measures: How to stop future disputes
The best way to avoid landlord-tenant disputes regarding rats is to take preventative measures. This will save the time, money and distress of discovering rats in your property.
- Block potential entry points to the property – make sure there are no holes or pipes where rats could get in.
- Provide secure rubbish bins that won’t attract rats and keep the bin area clean and clutter-free, as they go where there is food and shelter.
- Ask tenants to keep food sealed in airtight containers, and to avoid keeping pet food or bird seed out in the open, this includes leaving bread out for the birds
- Inspect your property on a regular basis, using this property management checklist.
- A block management company can ensure all communal areas, including outdoor bins areas, are monitored to make sure there are no access points into the building structure. They will put in place an ongoing integrated pest management programme to take account of all contributory factors.
Pest control solutions
Rats can spread disease and can constitute an environmental health hazard. If you do need to get rid of rats from your property, there are several possible solutions:
- Rat poison – although effective, it must be handled correctly, kept out of reach of children and not laid where pets can get it
- Electronic devices
The Rentokil website has detailed information on DIY rat control. However, if you are unsure of the extent of your rat problem and wish to avoid them coming back, you may wish to pay a professional pest controller.
The Housing Act 2004 places responsibility on the landlord’s shoulders to maintain residential properties to offer a ‘safe and healthy environment’ – so if rats enter your property because it hasn’t been adequately maintained, liability is yours. Unfortunately, rats can also be encouraged by tenant behaviour, so it’s worth having a pest control clause written into your tenancy agreement outlining your expectations. David Charles Property Consultants can advise our clients on this, and can help you manage, prevent and deal with pest control in all communal areas, although it is the tenants responsibility to keep these areas clean and tidy.
Get help maintaining your property
David Charles Property Consultants offer a full block management service which includes property inspection, advice and maintenance. Call us for help managing your residential property and keeping it free of rats.