Gross! Rat Season Is Upon Us Tips for Keeping the Pests at Bay

Property owners are responsible for “maintaining a rat-free environment on their properties,” says the city's health code (iStock).

If there’s one thing that’s unavoidable in New York City, it’s pests. Their very existence, though insanely displeasurable, is almost synonymous with life in an urban environment. And while some are easier to deal with than others, they are all a nuisance.

Perhaps the worst offenders are rodents--from mice that leave their droppings in the cabinet under your kitchen sink, to the rats that forage in your building’s trash. They are more than just gross -- they can even be a health hazard (Indeed, just this past winter, a rare disease transmitted by rats killed one person in the Bronx). And spring is when city dwellers start to see rats more regularly because when winter is over, the rodents come out of hiding and begin to procreate with fury.

But luckily there are things property managers, boards, and even individuals can do to stop the rats, or at least keep their numbers down. Michael Broder, general manager at BHB Pest Elimination in New York City, says we have the ability to control the rats by trying to “break their comfort zone.” And the time to start is now.

“You have to do everything you can do as soon as possible to make sure they don’t hang out,” he says.

Find Where They Hang Out

Broder says rats have a very far range -- “much farther than most pests.”

“They can be coming from a circle of 5 to 600 feet away. You draw that circle around your property and that’s huge,” he says. “When you start taking into consideration sewers, alleys, garbage, all those things, it can be a huge concern. The problem is not always on your property.”

But you can only really work on your property, so start there. First, check the trash areas. Make sure they are kept tidy. Broder says mint-scented garbage parks, which are a natural product, actually really work.

A lot of our buildings utilize it and say that it works,” he says.

Next, check the garden beds and any areas around the building with dirt.

“If you do have dirt and gardens on your property that can be both good and bad. If they are actually living there you can get them at the source,” Broder says.

Residents and managers should do a basic look through of all the garden areas and flower beds to see if there are any burrows, but that’s where “DIY” comes to an end, he says.

“I would not recommend average homeowners treat the burrows,” he says. “Ideally you want to get the right products utilized in the proper ways.”

There are so many different factors to take into consideration, he says, from birds to pets.

A Bigger Problem

If rats have entered your building, that can be a bigger problem. But it’s not without solutions. Broder says you need to locate any openings to the outside of the building and seal them up. There could be an open sewer cap, openings in an elevator pit, or space around pipes.  And while rats are usually in the basement of a property, they can travel up.

“We have seen them go further up into the building areas, sometimes they can even go through the sewer lines,” Broder says. “The myth of them coming up through the toilet is a possibility and we’ve seen that.”

Who’s Responsible?

According to the New York City Health Code, property owners are responsible for “maintaining a rat-free environment on their properties.” But tenants should do their part, too.

“Tenants need to do their part by handling garbage correctly,” according to the Department of Health’s rats information page

Take Action

But whatever you do, it’s time to face the facts.

“Quite honestly, everyone is terrified of rats and rodents in New York City. I think most people are aware of all the stuff they’re doing wrong, whether they want to hear it or not,” says Broder.

For help, call an exterminator, but be sure and also check out the extensive guide to rats from the New York City Department of Health.

Georgia Kral is a staff writer at The Cooperator.

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