Rat Infestations in Strata Communities

Rats are a problem all year round, but due to the coronavirus pandemic our major cities are experiencing a rat invasion as empty offices and restaurants drive hungry rodents into the suburbs.

As city centres have fully or partially closed because of the pandemic, suburban rat infestations have spiked with pest control workers and rat-catchers, reporting a significant uptick in rodent activity in the months since March.

The Importance of dealing with rodents quickly

Rats are well known to spread disease, damage property and contaminate food and animal feed. If they are able to gain entry into your home or business, they can introduce other unwelcome parasites like fleas, lice and ticks.

Another reason strata owners ought to control vermin is because if your building has a reputation for having pests then it can impact future decisions of renters, prospective purchasers and even future funding options or appraisals.

Acting at the first sign of a suspected problem can help to drastically reduce the length of time needed to effectively control an infestation. Rats are able to breed quickly and a small problem has the potential to develop into a serious issue if left unmanaged.

Infestation Signs:

  • Rat Droppings – usually found concentrated areas as rats produce up to 40 droppings per night. Brown rat droppings are dark brown in a tapered, spindle shape about 9mm – 14mm long. They can resemble a large grain of rice.
  • Scratching Noises – Think you might have rats in your roof? Black rats (also known as the roof rat) are agile climbers and can easily gain access into loft spaces and upper floors of buildings. Hearing scratching noises at night from above may suggest their presence. Brown rats on the other hand, are less adept climbers. You may hear them scurrying under decking, sheds and floorboards. They are more likely to be identified by a grinding noise they make with their teeth known as bruxing.
  • Footprints (running tracks) – Rats leave foot and tail marks in dusty, less-used areas of buildings. Shining a strong flashlight at a low angle should reveal tracks clearly. To establish if an infestation is active, sprinkle fine flour or talc along a small stretch of floor near the footprints and check for fresh tracks the next day.
  • Rub Marks – Rats use established routes along skirting boards and walls due to their poor eyesight. Grease and dirt on their bodies leave smudges and dark marks on both objects and surfaces they repeatedly brush against. These marks may indicate rodent activity, but as smears may remain for a long period of time, they are not a good gauge of an active infestation.
  • Damage – Rats have teeth that grow continuously. They need to gnaw on wood and plastic to keep them trim. They have the potential to cause fires by chewing through electrical cables. You may also notice ripped food packaging, as rats tear open food, leaving visible teeth marks.
  • Nests – Rats build nests in warm, hidden places using shredded material such as newspaper and fabrics. Nests will often contain young rats and are usually located close to a food source. Check behind and under appliances, such as fridges and freezers in or near your kitchen.
  • Burrows – Brown rats are well known for digging and excavating extensive burrow systems for shelter, food storage and nesting. Look for burrows in compost heaps, under decking or garden sheds, or in garages.

Who is responsible for pest control in a body corporate?

The simple answer is the body corporate is generally responsible for any pest inspection, prevention and treatment work on common property.

A lot owner is responsible for any pest inspection and treatment work that is needed within their lot.

Should you find a pest infestation in your lot that may impact or originate from the common property, let your committee know so they can arrange for a pest inspection and treatment.

Methods to reduce rodents

Denying rats easy entry to your building and lot and removing easy access to food and water can really make a difference. Rats need easy and consistent access to a water source.

Rat prevention tips:

  • Keep foodstuffs in metal or glass containers with tight fitting lids.
  • Keep your apartment clean. Especially where crumbs and food may collect.
  • Remove clutter – less clutter means less places to hide.
  • Place outdoor rubbish bags in metal bins with securely fitted lids to stop them feeding from contents.
  • Clean up pet food and bird seed debris, and store pet food in robust containers with fitted lids – preferably above ground level.
  • Keep gardens free from debris. If you have a compost heap don’t include organic food waste, as this will attract them.
  • Continue regular pest inspections and always use a licensed, qualified pest technician.

If you have already spotted signs of rats, such as droppings, prevention may already be too late.

Have you spotted rat droppings?

If you think you have rats, it is important to act quickly to control the level of infestation and reduce the health risks posed to yourself and your community.

If you are at the stage where the pests are already around, and you need to remove them, then regardless of who is at fault, professionals should be brought in

Author: Sam Aubrey

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