Food and Facilities Licensing
Environmental Health - Rat Control (Vector Control)
This unit enforces the regulations associated with the elimination and control of rats. In Montgomery County, rat elimination and control is the responsibility of the property owner. Complaints are received and investigated by the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, Licensure and Regulatory Services section.
"It shall be unlawful for anyone to allow their property to be infested with rats or to be in such condition as to contribute to an existing or potential rat infestation." Chapter 39 of the Montgomery County Code.
If you suspect that there are rats on your property or an adjacent property, call Licensure and Regulatory Services section at 240-777-3986. If rat problems are found, the owner of the property or tenant is given written notice of what the inspection found and outlines what is required to eliminate the problem. A specific time frame for correcting the problem is established. Licensure and Regulatory Services DOES NOT BAIT OR PROVIDE BAIT TO PROPERTY OWNERS.
Why Rat Control is Important
Rats are known carriers of disease and when living in close proximity to humans, a public health problem can develop. They also cause economic damage by destroying food sources, stored grain supplies and property.
How to Inspect, Prevent and Respond to Rats
Step One: Look for Evidence
- Anyone can inspect for rats. Walk around your property and look for evidence of rat activity. Fill out an inspection form to document inspection findings. You can give this to your landlord or pest management professional for follow-up.
- Rats come out at night, so walk around outside with a flashlight after dark. This will help you see where rats are going, so you can check for burrows when it gets light.
- Look for places where rats live. Most rats live in nests or burrows. Burrows are holes in dirt or concrete from one to four inches wide, with smooth edges. Burrows can be found under bushes and plants. They will often have an entrance and exit hole.
- Look for droppings. Droppings are often found close to garbage. If they are moist and dark, it is a sign that rats are in the area.
- Look for holes and gnaw marks on wood and plastic garbage cans.
- Check walls and grass for signs of runways. Rats run along the same path many times a day, leaving dark greasy track marks along walls and worn down paths in grass.
Step Two: Clean Up
Cleaning up and getting rid of clutter is an easy and effective way to prevent rats.
Wash Away Droppings and Track Marks
Rats communicate and attract each other through their urine and droppings.
- Sweep up droppings, and clean up dark greasy track marks. Wash down the area with water and a mild bleach solution (one part bleach, 10 parts water).
- Talk to your neighbors and work together to clean up, so rats do not move from one place to another.
Get rid of Clutter
Clutter gives rats lots of places to hide, sleep, nest and reproduce.
- Remove (and recycle) piles of newspapers, paper bags, cardboard and bottles.
- Clear out your basement and yard.
- Store items away from walls and off the ground.
Control Weeds and Shrubs
Rats are often found in burrows under bushes and plants.
- Keep tall grass, bushes, shrubs and mulch away from building foundations.
- Pull out ivy around burrows.
- Keep ground bare six inches from buildings, and trim under shrubs.
- Make space between plants, and avoid dense planting.
- Keep gardens free of weeds and trash.
Step Three: Starve Them
Rats only need one ounce of food each day. Do not make your garbage their food.
Manage your garbage
- Bring garbage cans and bags to the curb as close to pickup time as possible. Leaving them out overnight invites rats.
- Make sure you have enough garbage cans to hold trash between pickups.
- Use hard plastic or metal cans with tight fitting lids.
- Insist that tenants put garbage inside cans.
Keep Food Away
- Keep all food in tightly sealed containers.
- Do not put food out for stray cats, pigeons or squirrels.
- Rats are attracted to seed spilled from bird feeders-use a catch tray under the feeder.
- Rats are also attracted to dog food and dog droppings, stored food and seed, fallen fruit, garden vegetables, discarded food, garbage and recycling bins, compost piles, and natural fruits such as mullberries, black cherries, crabapples, apples and pears.
Step Four: Shut Them Out
Rats chew holes into buildings, and can squeeze through cracks and holes as small as a half inch. To keep rats out permanently, seal all holes and cracks in foundations, walls, floors, underneath doors and around windows. Most repairs can be done by maintenance staff, superintendents, handy men or pest control professionals. Materials are inexpensive and available at most hardware stores.
Seal Cracks and Small Holes
- Seal cracks and small holes with caulk. Or use roofing cement – it iss durable and easily applied with a caulking gun.
- Close gaps under doors with rodent resistant metal door sweeps.
- Close window gaps with metal flashing.
- Put screens on vents, especially on lower floors.
Fill Large Gaps and Holes
- Use mortar or ready-mix cement to fill gaps and holes in cement and stone foundations. Cover large holes with metal lathe or screening, then seal with mortar or cement.
- Cover floor drains and vents with heavy duty metal screening, secured with masonry nails or cement.
- Install sheet metal kick plates on the lower exterior of doors where rats have been gnawing or entering the building. Install metal thresholds underneath.
- Use door sweeps to keep gaps under doors smaller than a quarter inch.
- Consider installing heavy gauge sheet metal between foundations and the ground.
- Seal pipes leading into walls with escutcheon plates (“pipe collars”). Check pipes regularly for leaks.
Close Inactive Burrows
An inactive burrow will often have leaves, cobwebs or other debris around the entrance. These burrows should be closed so rats cannot get back in.
- Close burrows in soil by filling with soil and tamping down with a shovel, or by stepping on them.
- Close burrows in cracked or broken sidewalks with metal filler and cement.
Step Five: Wipe Them Out
Rodent bait is an effective way to wipe out rats but applying these poisons is a job for professionals. If you live in your own home without tenants, the law allows you to place rodent bait yourself. Commercial and multi-unit property owners must hire a pest control company – it is against the law for them to place their own bait.
Make sure your pest control company follows these guidelines:
- Always read and follow the manufacturer’s label, and use the smallest effective amount of bait.
- Use disposable gloves when handling bait, and wash your hands afterwards.
- Use secured bait chunks (called bait “blocks”) inside tamper resistant bait stations. Secure or anchor bait stations to the ground or fence with cement, caulk or wire.
- Place bait stations on the same path as rats normally travel – often along building walls and fence lines. Since rats always travel on the same path, they are more likely to eat from stations along it.
- Use a funnel to place loose pellet bait into burrows. This will help ensure pellets are placed deep into the burrow, so rats cannot push them out.
- Bagged bait should not be used in burrows or bait stations. Rats can push or carry them out of burrows or stations, where children, pets or wildlife can get to them.
- Store and place bait stations where children and pets cannot reach them.
- Never use a product that does not have a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Registration Number.
- Replace bait after it has been eaten. Leave bait stations and bait in place for at least two weeks after all rat activity has stopped. Monitor on a monthly basis.
For more information about pesticides, call the National Pesticide Information Center at (800) 858-7378.
Certain information provided with permission by the New York City Health Department.