Need to Get Rid of Rats? It’s a Community Effort

Disease-carrying rats and other rodents multiply to become infestations faster than you can say “plague.” Here’s how to prevent their spread in your community.

Rats can make their homes in mulch piles, dog houses, weeds, or any shelter with even a tiny hole. Image: victorburnside/Getty Images

If there are rats in your community, you and your neighbors are inadvertently keeping them fat and happy. Rats gnaw through errant plastic bags to eat your garbage and dine al fresco in home gardens and from dog dishes left on the back porch. 

Once they’re full, rats make themselves at home under dog houses, and in weeds, unturned mulch piles, underground tunnels, and any shelter that has even a tiny entry hole.

How to control rats

To get rid of rats, get rid of their food and shelter first:

  • Call and ask local health department officials to enforce current rules about trash and yard maintenance.
  • Alert members of your home owners association or condominium board to the rat problem and ask them to help solve it. Offering your own time in the fight to get rid of rats may get your further than just calling to complain.

If you live in a 100-unit town house community that needs to get rid of rats, it will take about 10 hours to attend the HOA meeting, research ways to get rid of rats, collect bids from rat-control professionals, and share rat-control tips with the neighbors, according to a volunteer HOA board member who did just that in Maryland.

How to get rid of rats

Once you and the neighbors get rid of rats’ snacks and homes, it’s time to get rid of the rats themselves using rat poison. Called rodenticides, the poison comes in two forms:

1. Bait: Rat poison mixed with food and made into little biscuits that are put inside bait feeding stations. 

Professional pest-control companies use child-proof, pet-proof bait stations, but household pets can get sick if they eat even one rat killed by the newest poisons on the market. Don’t let your pets roam a neighborhood where rat poison is being used to get rid of rats, even if it’s in pet-proof bait stations.

Pick up dead rats as soon as you spot them. Wrap them in plastic and dispose of them in a garbage can with a tight-fitting lid.

2. Tracking powders: Rodenticides combined with a powder that sticks to rats’ feet and fur. The rats swallow the poison when they groom themselves. 

Some states allow only professional pest managers to use tracking powder to get rid of rats. Your state’s agriculture department can tell you which rat poisons are legal and effective in your area and for the type of rat you’re trying to kill.

Rat-control pro costs

A one-year, rat-control service contract for a 100-home association could cost $2,000 to $6,000. The more bait boxes you want to put out and the more often you want the bait boxes checked, the more you’ll spend.

Extra services like collapsing rat tunnels add to your rat-control tab, too, pest-control experts say. The National Pest Management Association can help you find an experienced pest-control professional in your area.