City Council to property owners: Get rid of the rats

If signed into law, property owners would be required to prepare and execute a rat abatement plan before demolishing or fully rehabbing a building.

Grey rat near wooden wall on floor.

City Council passed a bill to protect Philly residents from rat infestations. (New Africa / BigStock)

Amid an ongoing development boom, Philadelphia City Council has passed a bill that backers hope will reduce the number of residential rat infestations near building sites.

Passed unanimously on Thursday, the quality-of-life measure requires property owners to prepare and execute a rat abatement plan before demolishing or fully rehabbing a building. The new rules would also apply to new construction that requires excavation work.

“We’re hearing with increasing frequency from homeowners complaining that rats are materializing whenever there are property demolitions or excavations or new developments in their neighborhood,” said Council President Darrell Clarke, whose office drafted the legislation, in a statement. “It isn’t right that homeowners get subjected to this public health problem through no fault of their own.

Under the bill, property owners must, at a minimum, hire a licensed structural pest control company to carry out the abatement work. They also are required to maintain a written record of their abatement plan, as well as any “pest control measures performed by pest management professionals” at the site.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

All of it must be kept on-site until construction is completed and is subject to inspection by the city’s Departments of Public Health and Licenses and Inspections, which will be responsible for implementing and enforcing the bill if it’s signed into law by Mayor Jim Kenney.

“Site owners need to be held accountable and that’s what this bill is meant to do,” said Councilmember Cindy Bass, who chairs Council’s Public Health Committee, in a statement. “Our residents shouldn’t have to fear rodents from building sites intruding on their personal space, or the neighborhood. This has been a public safety and health concern, and I’m glad to see steps being taken in the right direction.”

The Building Industry Association of Philadelphia agrees.

“We saw this as a bill that formalized what good builders do. It’s a small amount of effort relative to the project to be a good neighbor and to address something that could be a problem,” said treasurer Sarina Rose.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The legislation also requires owners of vacant lots to pay for yearly inspections and rat remediation by a licensed pest control company. Records for both must be filed with the city within seven days of completion.

Last October, residents and business owners in Hunting Park told news partner 6ABC that rats were running wild in parts of the neighborhood, particularly on the 3600 block of Germantown Avenue.

“It’s more than a problem…it’s like a catastrophe,” said barbershop owner Deejay Da Singa.

Last year, Orkin, the pest control company, named Philadelphia the seventh “rattiest city” in the country.

Subscribe to PlanPhilly

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal