From the Forum – Rat in Apartment

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Rat in Apartment

“Hoping someone has advice to help me deal with my property management company. We’ve had a rat/s in our apartment since September. Although the property management company laid down a couple of traps and sealed up the holes, it keeps getting in and out. Our management company has basically admitted they don’t know what else to do to get rid of it. Making matters worse, there has been a horrible odor coming out of our oven/stove for 2 months, we think the rat may have spent some time in the insulation. The company does not want to replace the oven until they can get rid of the rat, so we’re in a bit of pickle. Has anyone had success in situations like this? Ideally we’d like a new oven, but we’d even settle for being let out of our lease. We’re month to month, but we need to give sixty days notice to get out of the unit. Any insight would be great!”

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21 Comment

  • I’m so sorry this is happening. I’ve lived in a place with rats and it really is the worst.

    Talk to the office of the DC Tenant Advocate. They can arm you with enough information to get you out of your lease. They can’t give you legal advice, but you’ll have enough legaleeze at your disposal after talking with them to convince your management company you have talked to a lawyer and they won’t want to deal with you.

    I had sewage back up into my apartment, and managed to get out of a lease with no repercussions after the property manager raised a stink about having the carpet replaced (you CAN’T clean out that smell). I was out in a couple days. Essentially, telling them I had met with the office of the DCTA was enough to get them to back down.

  • This is kind of a good news/bad news situation. Bad news first: your property management company’s normal pest controller is probably not going to get the job done. When it comes to surviving vs. getting rid of them rats are generally much smarter than we are, and it usually takes a specialist to get the job done. We had a rat infestation in our house and our regular exterminator was useless. We ultimately had to go with a trapping service, which wasn’t cheap. So you’ll have to convince your landlord to spring for what is likely to be a more expensive service. Trap Pro and Adcock’s Trapping were both recommended to us and we eventually went with Adcock’s and were very happy — albeit a little poorer.

    The good news: An active rodent infestation is a housing code violation and almost certainly grounds to override your 60-day notice provision. So if you don’t want to deal with it any more, you could probably go ahead and move.

  • I had a serious mouse issue on the top floor of an apartment building (which means they were in the walls -ew) and told the management that if I couldn’t leave immediately, I’d file complaints with DC Tenant Advocate, the Board of Health and DCRA. Funny how quickly they let me go.

  • At my old apartment we had the water main break under my old place and they had to tear up the floors to get to it and (shockingly) the contractors didn’t fix the hole for weeks which lead us to have a pretty serious mouse problem. We called the DC Tenant Advocate but they were very non-committal about what our rights were and what actions we could take (basically saying “well you should try and compromise with your landlord”) to get rid of the mice. They did say that it was unlivable while there was a rodent infestation which as Anon said should get you out of the 60 days notice and in fact we were able to get our landlord to agree that until the problem was fixed we wouldn’t pay rent (I think we caught a half dozen mice) since it was clearly the fault of the contractor to not repair the hole.

    That’s the other thing you need to be careful of, if your lease has language in it that specifies who is responsible they might try and say that you didn’t keep your apartment clean and that’s how you got rats. Our landlord hemmed and hawed saying “we don’t know who is responsible” but it was pretty easy to say “pretty sure the giant hole in the floor to the outside is responsible and we didn’t make the hole, your contractor did and never fixed it.”

  • Hey all, OP here. Thanks for your advice, our property management company actually stepped it up and called Adcock’s trapping to see if they can get rid of it. But after getting desperate to find a solution, we found a new apt that we could move into next month. We’re thinking that’s the best option just to get out of the situation. Any advice on breaking leases? We floated the idea to the management company hoping to find a mutually agreeable solution, but they haven’t been very receptive. We’ll try threatening the Tenant Advocate, Board of Health and DCRA.

    • I’m not sure they can require 60 days notice in a month to month lease, so that may be the first place to start.
      It seems like they’re stepping up, so I’m nut sure those avenues will be successful to avoid paying another month or 2.

    • It is my understanding that the law in DC is that once you’re on a month-to-month, the notification requirement is 30 days. Did you sign something that extended that time?

  • I had a friend who had a rat that died under the oven after the mgmt company set a trap there, but didn’t let the tenants know there was a trap down there. They found it after the smell got so bad.

    How do you know it is getting in an out? Is it possible they sealed the holes and the rat is stuck in your apt? Have you looked around all appliances for holes?

    I am actually impressed the property mgmt company sealed the holes. My old building’s just put out poison and would do nothing else. My landlord paid extra for AR1 to come and seal everything with a metal mesh and clear caulk. AR1 was excellent.

    Unfortunately I don’t know how to get out of your lease early. The smell from the stove would certainly seem to be cause for getting a housing inspection if they refuse to replace it. You might mention to them you are going to request an inspection if they do not fix. Mention the original request date in your written request as well.

  • Have you tried cleaning out the stove? Have you checked for new holes or gotten more traps? If pest control is pm responsibility, they should have gotten a exterminator by now.

    • Yep, all of the above. They have brought an exterminator a few times, American Pest, but they aren’t effective and can’t find any additional holes.

      • Then the rat is stuck in your apartment. We know it’s hanging it in the oven at least. Once you figure out where it’s hanging out, it’ll be much easier to catch it. It may be living in your bedroom at this point, so a couple traps in the kitchen won’t do much.

  • I had a rat living in my oven and hoarding cat food in there. And those weren’t Tic-Tacs in the shower. I could hear the bastard running along the soffit in the ceiling and chewing at night. Very creepy. It kept pushing out the steel wool I had packed around the radiator pipe coming out of the wall.

    So I put a rat trap behind the oven and the rat was eliminated. So was the oven. The rat used the insulation as a toilet and chewed through the ignition wire. Never had a rat problem again

  • Borrow a cat… I used to have the same problem here in DC, I borrow my friend’s cat for one week and problem solved.

  • I’m sorry this is happening to you – this is one of the more unpleasant parts of city life, and one that I lived through (but survived!).

    With rats, there are a number of methods for catching or killing them – glue traps, snap traps, poison pellets, and others. When I had this problem, the exterminator we used employed a type of powdered poison that was sprayed into the rat holes and runs through the house. This is a clever way of getting the poison inside the rat (would you eat food that smells slightly of poison?), as it’s designed to get on the rat’s hair and be ingested when it grooms itself. It’s quite effective, with one significant downside – rats, when poisoned, will either go outside or to their dens. This is the reason why you’ll occasionally see a rat pancake in the middle of the street in DC – in all likelihood that was a poisoned rat that collapsed or died in the street before being smashed by traffic. If they die in the house or walls, however – then you’ll have a pretty strong odor in the house for awhile as nature takes its course.

    If your management company is being troublesome with getting a pro exterminator in the place, you can have DCRA come out to do an inspection: http://dcra.dc.gov/service/dcra-schedule-housing-code-inspection They will give the company a certain amount of time to get rid of the rats before they come out to do a re-inspection. If the rats aren’t gone, they will begin to fine the company for the problem, and those fines can rack up!

    A word of warning though; DCRA can also cite tenants for violations of the housing code. So if you get an inspector to come out, make reasonably sure that you have been keeping up with your maintenance responsibilities as well.

    Anyway, while getting the city involved can be helpful, it has its drawbacks (bureaucracy, lack of responsiveness, having to stay home from work for mandatory inspections, etc.). Sometimes, the prospect of a city inspection will be enough to convince the property management company that it’s in their best interest to have you leave the unit so that they can properly abate the rats while the place is empty. As with a lot of things, if you can come to an arrangement, that’s often better than trying to solve the problem in an adversarial manner.

    • The powder described above is called “tracking powder,” BTW. It requires a license to obtain, only professional exterminators (and the D.C. Rat Abatement team) can use it.

  • The office of the tenant advocate has spotty advice, sometimes bad, as when I contacted them. I was told by someone else in a seriously disturbing situation with their landlord that some of the attorneys who give advice there are actually landlords, and so they give bad advice because they side with the landlords. That would explain my experience with trying to get information from them. I would look for advice elsewhere if you don’t get good help from them. I understand some people who work there do give good advice – it depends on who you get.

    On the rat issue, there must be a way to get rid of them. I have rented condos in two well-known, higher-end buildings in DC, and both at some times had serious problems – I saw rats the size of large cats in the garbage room of both buildings, and the units had mice in them – and in each case, when the management company brought in an exterminator, they were all gone, and gone for good. The only think I know for sure is that they used gel packs in all the units – those blue pellets do little for even mice my experience – though I don’t know what else they did. I would ask some of the property management companies that work for large, old condo buildings who they hire to exterminate. Good luck.

  • You are a brave soul to be dealing with this since September! If all they require is two months notice I’d put it in now. Spring time is THE worst when it comes to rats and mice, they spend the winter breeding so please expect a resurgence when the weather breaks.

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