Under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 both Councils and individuals have duties relating to rodents (rats and mice) found on land. Occupiers and owners of land have a duty to ensure that where rats and mice are found on their land they are eradicated. The council has a duty to ensure that occupiers and owners carry out such duties.
The local authority also has powers under Section 83 of the Public Health Act 1936. This covers filthy and verminous premises. The verminous element allows the local authority to ensure that occupiers and owners eradicate rats and mice in their property.
The responsibility for instigating pest control measures initially falls to the occupier of the land. If the occupier experiences rodent activity they should employ a qualified professional pest control operative to remove the rodents. Where the occupier and owner are different it would still fall initially to the occupier to instigate the Pest Control measures. An example would be a tenanted flat or house. It would be up to the tenant to instigate pest control measures before any action is considered by the land owner. The owner of land should be approached for action if the issue is related to a structural failure or defect or something that falls reasonable outside of the tenants’ responsibilities i.e. rodent access from drains.
If you are suffering from rodent activity which comes from neighbouring land or property, contact us so that we can investigate the matter for you. An example would be where a rodent infestation on a neighbouring property has caused rodent entry onto your land. Initially we may request further information and visit your property to gather evidence before approaching the alleged infested landowner. As stated above each occupier has a responsibility to ensure that their land is free from Rats or Mice so if rats are on your land then it is up to you to eradicate them whether they have entered from a neighbours land or not.
Once we have visited your property we will then consider if there is sufficient evidence to approach the neighbouring property. If there is then we will endeavour to arrange such a visit. When conducting a visit officers will be looking for harbourage (nests or nesting material), encouragement (accumulations or food waste, soft furnishing or easily accessible water source) or signs of activity (burrows, holes, runs, droppings and gnawing). If insufficient evidence is gathered during the visit then it is likely that no further action will be taken. This does not prevent us from investigating the matter again if the situation escalates or significantly changes.
From time to time the local authority receives complaints that overgrown gardens are causing rodent issues. Where there is evident rodent activity associated with the garden then the local authority can consider action. Where there is insufficient evidence and there are no other public health concerns then unfortunately we can’t. In these cases the local authority has no powers to deal with what is in effect just an overgrown garden.
Where the authority receives complaints that individual flats are causing infestation to other the flats our initial advice is for each tenant to employ the services of a pest control company. It may be advisable for individual tenants to come together as a group when contacting a pest control company so that costs can be minimised. Where there is an identified cause the local authority can investigate this matter. The local authority would only pursue the owner of a property, in cases where there is an occupier, if the problem was proved to be caused by a structural failure or defect. We could also pursue a land owner if a problem was linked to external areas, void spaces, communal areas or empty properties.
Signs of a rat infestation
Rats are particularly active at night, but may be seen during the day searching for food, water or shelter.
Common rat droppings are capsule-shaped, (tapered at both ends), black and up to 12mm long. A rat will leave about 40 droppings a day. Fresh droppings will be soft and moist.
Rats follow the same routes when moving around and often leave trails through grass and low vegetation.
Footprints, smears and tail swipes
These can be seen on muddy or dusty surfaces. Smears are dark grey marks left on surfaces by repeated contact with the oils in rat fur.
Rats can build complex tunnel systems, which often extend deep into the ground. Entrance holes 70-120mm in diameter will be seen in grassy banks, under tree roots and at the edge of paving or drain cover surrounds.
Sometimes nests can be found indoors, in lofts or under floorboards.
Rats gnaw continually to wear down their front teeth, even on non-food materials such as electrical cables, pipework and wooden fixtures.
Why must rats be controlled?
Rats can transmit many diseases to humans, including Salmonellosis (food poisoning) and Weils disease, usually from the urine of infected rats.
Rats may also cause considerable damage to buildings, foundations and other structures due to gnawing and burrowing.
How can I prevent rat infestation?
Householders can assist in preventing rat infestation by taking a number of simple precautions.
- Keep your home in good repair; rats only need a gap of 15mm to gain entry.
- Remove potential nesting sites by keeping yards and gardens clean and tidy, and by cutting back overgrown areas.
- Ensure that drain inspection covers are in place and are in good repair.
- Seal gaps around heating and water pipes.
- Ventilation bricks and slots should already have a fine wire mesh incorporated. If this is worn, replace it externally with 3.15mm insect mesh.
- Do not leave household waste where rats can gain access to it, close dustbin lids and composters and do not feed wild birds to excess – you may be feeding rats as well.
How can I get rid of rats?
Rats are adaptable, highly mobile and breed rapidly to produce large rat infestations. This combination can make rat control a difficult task for the untrained individual.
If you decide to carry out the work yourself there are two options – poison or break-back traps.
- Poison (rodenticide) can be brought from most hardware stores and most garden centres. Put the poison in a safe and secure place out of reach of children and pets and ALWAYS wash your hands after use. Rodenticide can take 4-12 days to take effect. This may result in a localised foul smell due to the presence of carcasses.
- Break-back traps may be set and these should be placed next to walls where rats tend to travel. The traps should be baited with chocolate, biscuit or cereal. Most rats are wary of new objects placed in their environment and will avoid them for a period of time. So do not set the spring on the trap until bait has been eaten then re-bait and reset the trap. Use several traps and examine them daily, removing dead rats as soon as they are discovered. All traps should be handled with care.
Please contact Pest Control if you require any assistance.
Warning: Use biocides safely. Always read the label and product information before use.