Reject Unwanted Residents by Keeping Rodents Out

Glen Ramsey of Orkin lays out tips to prepare your multifamily property before rats and mice make themselves at home.

Just like people, rodents seek warmth in the fall as the weather cools. Food, shelter and water are the recipe for survival for rats and mice, and your apartment community offers all the creature comforts that rodents need. As these dirty and destructive pests seek relief from the cold, Orkin’s Top 50 Rattiest Cities might start to feel the pressure. Chicago and New York top the list, but if you own or manage properties in any of these 50 metropolitan areas, it’s important that you prepare your multifamily property before rats and mice make themselves at home.

Controlling pests can be difficult in apartments and condos because property managers have limited oversight of how individual rental units are maintained. Residents might leave garbage in the wrong places or different management companies might maintain different areas of a mixed-use community. It’s important to implement strategies that get managers, staff and residents working together to identify rodents, report any sightings and fix problems before they lead to major infestations. If rodents do settle in at your property, they can take a bite out of your bottom line by causing significant structural damage and tarnishing your reputation with residents. Rodents also pose a health risk as they transmit diseases like Hantavirus, salmonella, leptospirosis and plague.

The most effective way to combat pest problems is to implement an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan that involves property managers, maintenance crews, residents and pest management professionals. An IPM plan includes exclusion, maintenance and sanitation techniques that start with a non-chemical approach. By educating your staff and residents on the common rodents, signs of an infestation and best practices for prevention, you’ll be well on your way to eradicating the problem.

Types of Rodents

The first step to controlling an infestation is to properly identify of the types of rodents at your property. Here are the rats and mice you’re most likely to see scurrying around:

  • House Mouse: The most common rodent, house mice are usually light brown, gray or black in color and can be identified by their large ears and long tails.
  • Norway Rat: Measuring up to 19 inches, the Norway rat has shaggy, grayish-brown hair and a short tail. They usually burrow underground next to buildings for easy access to shelter and food.
  • Roof Rat: Commonly found in the shadows of your roof or attic, these rodents are amazing jumpers and are often found along coastlines. They usually are black or brown in color and measure up to 15 inches long, including their tail.

Signs of an Infestation

Quickly reporting rodent activity is key to ratting out an infestation. Here are the most common red flags that your staff and residents should look for:

  • Droppings: Fecal droppings help identify a rodent infestation and often are left behind in areas with high rodent activity.
  • Gnaw and Rub Marks: Rodents chew and gnaw on wood, plastic, utility lines and other objects or surfaces. Additionally, be on the lookout for grease marks on edges and walls that are left behind as these creatures of habit repeatedly travel along the same path.
  • Burrows or Nests: Holes in the ground, around foundations and in exterior walls, as well as nests in attics or trees, can be evidence of a rodent problem.
  • Sounds: If you hear scratching noises in the walls, these could be the sounds of rodents traveling or gnawing on hard surfaces.

Preparing Your Rodent Defense

The most effective way to combat rodent problems is to implement a proactive IPM plan eliminates ideal conditions for the pests. Here are a few things your staff can do to keep rodents from accessing your units in the first place:

  • Seal all cracks and gaps larger than .25 of an inch, especially around utility lines. Rats only need a hole the size of a quarter to get inside, and mice can squeeze through holes as small as a dime.
  • Install and maintain weather stripping and door sweeps to deter rodent entry.
  • Trim overgrown branches, plants and bushes around the exterior of your buildings to help prevent rodents from jumping onto the roof.
  • Maintain, repair and replace vent and window screens.
  • Inspect your property regularly for signs of rodent activity.

How Residents Can Help

Maintaining a clean space is the first step in keeping these vile vermin from making your property their home. In multifamily buildings, resident cooperation is essential. Be sure to share these sanitation tips with your residents:

  • Spray counters and other surfaces in the kitchen daily with cleaners and remove any food particles or crumbs.
  • Wipe up liquid spills immediately, including water.
  • Clean out refrigerators weekly by removing old food items, and wash dishes immediately following use.
  • Dispose of waste properly, and use liners in all trash cans.
  • Vacuum, sweep and mop regularly, especially near kitchen appliances and along any cracks and crevices that could hold food or debris.
  • Seal non-perishables or store them in different containers, especially rice, beans, sugar and other items that may not close well in their original packaging.

Rodents use different strategies to gain access to your property, so it’s important you work closely with a pest management provider to develop a plan that is customized to your apartment buildings. Rodents reproduce rapidly, so communication and cooperation between management, residents and your pest management provider can go a long way towards putting up a strong rodent defense. By taking a proactive approach, you’ll be one step closer to preventing a rodent infestation that could chew into your reputation and send residents scurrying for a new place to live. Give rodents the eviction notices instead.

Glen Ramsey is the technical services manager for Orkin. He is a board-certified entomologist and provides technical support and guidance across all Rollins brands in the areas of training and education, operations, and marketing. For more information, email [email protected] or visit

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