Rats infest over a million homes in the UK and we currently deal with about two thousand reports of rats each year.
Rats have the potential to spread a wide variety of diseases around the home and garden. This is because they tend to live in environments such as drains, sewers, and rubbish where germs can be found. Rats can also damage property by gnawing at wood, lead and soft metals, electrical wiring, water pipes, and drainage systems.
The habitat of rats
Rats are burrowing animals and will tend to live underground. Burrows can be dug in almost any soil and the openings will tend to be 10 to 15cm across. Extensive infestations can involve many such burrows. They are also known to infest drains and sewers. However, they are very adaptable and can establish themselves wherever there is a supply of food and suitable place to hide.
The law on controlling rats
The Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 places an obligation on owners or occupiers to control rats and mice on their property and to inform the local council of infestations. The control of rats and mice is therefore everyone’s problem.
We have a similar duty to control rats and mice on property that we own and occupy. We also have enforcement powers to ensure that rodent control is carried out.
If necessary, enforcement notices can be served on the persons responsible for any land that is infested requiring that they are eradicated. If these notices are not complied with then we will carry out the works and charge you the costs or bring about a court case.
Signs you might have a rat infestation
Be aware of the following signs:
- the presence of rat burrows in the ground
- rat droppings which are black and cylindrical and up to 2cm long.
- signs of damage caused by gnawing (e.g. at the bottom of doors).
- smooth run down areas in the garden (rat runs) caused by rats running along the same path day after day.
- rat sightings.
- in situations where rats have become established indoors then there may also be a very characteristic, musty odour
Controlling the rats
Once an infestation has been identified then it is usually brought under control with the use of either poisons or traps. Traps are useful if there are only one or two rats. Poisons are much more effective at totally controlling infestations. On domestic premises we will generally use poisons to do this. In certain situations we may need to treat a wider area than one individual property and this might take a while to arrange.
Preventing rat infestations
If you ensure that your property is free of potential food sources and harbourage sites then you will have the best chance of remaining rat free. You should also:
- keep your garden clean and tidy
- clear up any windfall fruit immediately
- do not put out excessive amounts of food for birds. Use a special bird feeder and regularly sweep up any food that spills onto the ground.
- keep rubbish in proper containers with lids on until the day of collection.
- place compost bins over galvanised steel mesh and ensure that the lid is tightly fitted
For information about services available to deal with rats and the charges involved please see our main pest control page.