It’s the Lunar Year of the Rat, and if you’re living in Sydney, that fact is immediately obvious.
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The last few years’ construction boom and more recent drought conditions mean Sydneysiders have seen greater volumes of rats in the streets, Pest Control Sydney’s Sam Yehia told Yahoo Finance.
“Generally, there has been an increase [in rat sightings from around] three or four years ago, and especially around the city or wherever there's a lot of building going on, there's definitely been a big increase in rodents,” he said.
“That increase doesn't mean there's an increasing population. It might mean that they've been disturbed and are moving. And because they're moving people are seeing them more and people are reporting them more, when there might not actually be an increase in population.”
He said areas like Alexandria and the inner city where excavation is occurring, the rats’ nests are being disturbed, leading to more rats taking up residence in homes or other buildings.
Additionally, Yehia said Sydney’s dry weather means more rats are looking for water.
“They’re chasing up water supplies.”
Impact of rodents on your home value
Rats can cause significant damage to electrical wiring, air conditioning ducts and insulation within the home, if they’re in the home for long enough, Yehia said.
On top of that, “habitual gnawing can result in damage to structural components such as walls, door-frames, skirting boards and more”, Pest Control Sydney advises.
These problems could even cause a building to become structurally unsound, or lead to increased fire risks.
Then there’s the hygiene issue.
“You’ll get a strong stench of urine in the roof or under the house, depending on how the air flows,” Yehia said.
The urine is especially dangerous for pets, with several dogs dying of leptospirosis transmitted by urine in 2019.
The dogs’ deaths were blamed on rat populations’ stirred up by construction.
“They can cause a lot of damage if you leave them,” Yehia summarised.
According to a 2013 survey from Rentokil, 80 per cent of home buyers would refuse to purchase a home if it had a rodent problem.
Additionally, more than half believed a rodent problem wiped between 5 and 25 per cent off a home’s value.
That means that with a median national home value of $537,506, a rat problem could wipe 15 per cent, and $80,626, off a home’s value.
City of Sydney doubles rat bait
The growing problem led the City of Sydney in mid-2019 to announce it would double the number of rat baits to try to fight the problem.
“We have been very concerned by the recent cases of leptospirosis in Sydney, affecting dogs in our local area, so have decided to double the number of rat bait stations in public areas and increase inspections to monitor rat activity,” the Lord Mayor Clover Moore said in July.
“We will now have 860 rat bait stations in public areas and will place additional baits out when we receive complaints from residents and businesses.”
The City of Sydney said an unprecedented volume of infrastructure and major construction projects across the city was contributing to the problem.
However Yehia believes the move was only done “because of public outcry”
“Depending on how many rodent stations they put out and what they actually did, it’s hard to say what it did.”
A City of Sydney spokesperson told Yahoo Finance it’s still “early days to determine the full success”, but that numbers of complaints “generally have decreased”.
“We have also commissioned an academic study into the rat population and to provide insight into effective management strategies for future action,” the spokesperson added.
Developers will also be required to provide comprehensive pest management plans ahead of major construction work, “as this may disturb pest populations and contribute to increased reports of activity”.
Rat-proof your home
Droppings, shredded insulation or cardboard and gnaw marks on wiring, cables, door-frames, skirting boards and walls are clear indicators you might have a rat problem, in addition to the smell of urine.
To reduce the risk of an infestation, Yehia said small steps can make a big difference.
If you have a cat or dog, that immediately reduces the chance of an infestation. However, it’s also critical that you ensure you’re not leaving pet food around where rodents can get at it, and tidy up your pet’s droppings before they attract rodents.
Good food storage practices, trimming vegetation and limiting the amount of garbage you keep in the open will also help keep pests away.
Scheduling regular rodent control treatments will also help prevent future infestations.
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