How to Rodent-Proof Apartment Communities for Winter

Image of a white rat entering an apartment through a hole in the wall


When Punxsutawney Phil poked his head out and proclaimed six more weeks of winter in early February, he also sent a message that his rodent brethren – mice and rats – would continue to be active in seeking warmth and shelter.

Winter months are rodents’ most active time for entering structures. Each winter, more than 21 million rodents invade U.S. homes, skittering in through walls and openings near electrical and plumbing fixtures. Rats and mice most often find their way to the kitchen in search of a warm place and a good meal.

While the tried and true mousetrap helps keep rodents at bay, winter-proofing to prevent them from entering in the first place is the best defense for apartment on-site teams, says Missy Henriksen, the National Pest Management Association’s vice president of public affairs.

“It’s important that property owners are taking a look at the building structures, making sure that all cracks and crevices are sealed, especially around windows and along foundations,” Henriksen said. “(Rodents) are easier to manage and control if they are kept out than once they get inside.”

Warm Apartments Appeal to Rodents

It doesn’t take much space for rats and mice to get inside. Because their bodies are so flexible, they can gain entry through an opening as small as one piece of change in your pocket. Mice can squeeze through a hole the size of a dime, and rats can shimmy into a quarter-size opening.

They are not only startling to the unsuspecting resident, but rats and mice can be a health concern by contaminating food sources and potentially spreading salmonella or ticks and fleas. Rodents, like squirrels, can be particularly damaging by chewing electrical wiring, which can lead to malfunctions and even fire.

Henriksen said 29 percent of Americans experience a problem in residences. About 50 percent of the invasions take place in the kitchen − living rooms and bedrooms are also popular destination spots for these little travelers – and colder temperatures lure them inside.

“As it comes to winter time, pests are trying to get in for warmth, food and water,” Henriksen said. “The winter months are those that we are often most concerned about. They are just as tempted as we are to get in out of the cold, so it’s important we try and remove those entry points.”

Simple Steps for Keeping Rodents in the Cold

Most rodent entry points can be eliminated by doing some routine maintenance on the property to seal openings. Also, educating residents about what attracts rodents in the first place will help keep them out.

For example, in the kitchen, open food bags are an invitation for a feast, even if they are in the pantry. Containing open dry foods in heavy plastic, sealed containers will eliminate the luring smell. Also, regularly taking out the trash, sealing trash with tight lids in metal garbage cans, storing pet food in air-tight glass or metal containers and regularly checking the apartment for any new cracks or openings near the floor and foundation are recommended.

Also, eliminate moisture from leaky pipes and drains to ensure that if pests do get in, they won’t have ideal conditions in which they can thrive.

“There are other things people can do within the home to discourage them from taking up residence,” Henriksen said. “If you’ve gone through and filled up all the cracks and the crevices, and somehow they are still finding ways to make their way indoors, there are dryer vents that should be properly screened, for example. Property owners and managers should also tell their residents that extra sanitation can go a long way in keeping rodents out.”

Keep Your Apartment Community Neat and Tidy

While a rodent-proofed structure certainly is a great line of defense for keeping invasions out, eliminating the attraction to come on the grounds in the first place is good policy.

Rats and mice live under wood piles or lumber that is not being used, under un-kept landscape and rocks, in cars, in and around trash and garbage areas and in holes under buildings. Eliminating these sources will keep them away, as will installing metal flashing around the structure to prevent rodents from climbing into upper floors.

Henriksen encourages property managers to contact a licensed pest professional who is trained in biology in rodents if problems persist. But just taking the first steps toward preventing an infestation will go a long way.

After all, while some may welcome Punxsutawney Phil’s annual appearance, others won’t be so receptive to seeing his relatives.



Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

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