Rats can be a persistent pest once they’re in your home and can quickly spread diseases and cause damage. If you think you might have a rat/mice infestation, here’s what to do.
Know your enemy
The common feral rodents you’ll come across in Australia include the black rat, the brown rat and the house mouse.
You might have a problem with rats/mice if…
You spot initial signs of a problem rather than the actual pest. Look out for rat droppings. Rats will produce up to 40 droppings each night. These will be dark brown in a tapered, spindle shape and look a little like grains of rice. Have you heard rats on your ceiling? Hearing scratching noises at night can suggest the presence of rats/mice in your house. You might hear black rats (roof rats) scurrying about in loft spaces or your upper floors, but brown rats will be under decking, sheds and floorboards. The brown rat is more likely identified by hearing a grinding noise it makes with its teeth.
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Rats typically have pretty poor eyesight, so they’ll stick to established routes along skirting boards and walls. By doing this, grease and dirt on their bodies will leave dark marks on things they repeatedly brush up against. If you spot this, it could be a sign of rodent activity but may not be a good sign of an active infestation – these marks can remain for a long period of time. Rats will also build nests in hidden, warm places using shredded materials (think: newspaper, fabric). Check behind and under your kitchen appliances.
Why are there rats in my house?
Like ants and cockroaches, rats are attracted to anywhere they can find food, water and shelter. Rats can squeeze through small holes – be aware. Unfortunately, rats can spread disease and, given the opportunity, will chew through wires, pipes and insulation.
Steps to take against rats and mice
If you think you have a rat/mice problem at home, it’s key to act quickly to control the infestation and reduce any likely health risks.
Are landlords or tenants responsible for a rat/mouse infestation?
Your rental property should have been in a clean condition when you first moved in. If you rent your property through an agent, contact them as soon as you discover the rat/mice problem, but in the meantime, look at getting a few rat traps to contain the problem. If your lease does not define responsibility for dealing with rats and mice, who pays for exterminating or removing the rodents from your rental may depend on whether:
- the rats/mice were a problem when you moved into the property
- a structural problem with the property allowed the rats/mice to enter (i.e. if a hole in the kitchen wall has let them into the house, the landlord must deal with this as a non-urgent repair);
- or if you (as the tenant) have contributed to the problem. If you haven’t removed your rubbish and attracted the rats/mice, your landlord could serve you with a Breach of Duty notice and require you to arrange the extermination.
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