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February 25, 2022

To protect Philly homes from rats, city may require developers to implement rodent management plans

A bill passed by City Council aims to eliminate infestations at construction sites and vacant properties

Government Rodents
Philly rat abatement law Zdeněk Macháček/Unsplash

Philadelphia City Council passed a bill Thursday that will require construction projects and property owners to develop rat abatement plans before any sort of work can begin.

Philadelphia residents who have seen rats scurrying around construction sites and vacant properties in their neighborhoods may soon be protected from future infestations.

City Council passed a bill Thursday that would require construction projects and property owners to develop rodent management plans before any sort of demolition, rehabilitation or new construction with excavation can begin.

The plans would need to detail the methods to detect, inspect and treat rodents at construction sites. They also would be required to include provisions for abatement of the construction site by a licensed pest control company. 

Owners of vacant lots would be required to undergo yearly inspections for rats and other rodents by a pest control company. Side yards and lots that are regularly kept as gardens would be exempt.

The legislation would provide the city the ability to issue rules and regulations regarding the its implementation and enforcement. 

The legislation now heads to Mayor Jim Kenney's desk. Kenney's office told PhillyVoice that he intends to sign the legislation, pending a review by the city's law department.

The bill was introduced in November by Councilmember Cindy Bass as part of an effort to strengthen rules that protect residents from rat infestations caused by nearby construction projects. Rats frequently flee to neighboring properties when homes or buildings are under construction.

"Site owners need to be held accountable and that’s what this bill is meant to do," Bass said. "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."

Residents from across the city have complained about rat infestations popping up near construction projects. Last fall, Hunting Park residents along the 3600 block of Germantown Avenue said rats overtook a vacant lot and were burrowing into the ground and underneath nearby buildings. As many as 50-70 rats could be seen at one time.

"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 neighborhoods," City Council President Darrell Clarke said. "It isn't right that homeowners get subjected to this public health problem through no fault of their own."

Philadelphia also saw an uptick in rat infestations in 2020 that was brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic. Delays in residential trash pickups and fewer restaurants throwing out food pushed many rodents to seek out new sources for food.

In October, Philly was named the seventh "rattiest" city in the country for the second year in a row by the pest control company Orkin.

Rats can cause significant property damage and carry illnesses. Residents who are experiencing rat infestations can send complaints to the health department's Vector Control Services program, which sends inspectors to the site to find burrows and treat the area.

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