Don't Feel Trapped by Landlord's Response to Mice -- Catch 'Em Yourself

By Sara Gebhardt
Saturday, April 15, 2006

Q: My apartment building has been experiencing a mice infestation for months. The management has set traps. This week, they entered every apartment to do something, although I'm not sure what.

What can I do as a renter to prevent these critters? I am going to replace my trash bins with ones with lids and be very clean. But I cannot go through my apartment looking for every nook and cranny where I could put steel wool because there are a lot of these holes. The building is from the 1950s , and my apartment probably has not been renovated since the early '80s. The mice like to hang out near the heating unit, which is inaccessible because it is behind a metal grate.

Also, what should I expect from management? -- Washington

A: If you are curious about what management or an exterminator is doing in your apartment, you should ask. Because management is already dealing with the problem, what you should expect is that it continue to work to rid the building of mice.

If you are concerned the mice are gathering around your heating unit, you should alert management of this. Make sure it has set traps or plugged holes around the areas you cannot reach.

Landlords can prevent rodent infestation by sealing off dryer vents, utility lines, electric lines, phone lines and gas lines.

Because mice carry germs, they are a threat to your health. Your landlord is obligated to respond quickly and adequately to the problem.

When you know there are mice in your unit, the problem may already be serious. Usually people do not realize rodents are in their midst until they find droppings. A mouse's hair, urine or tiny feces are so difficult to detect that residents who are not aware there are mice could easily breathe in or eat germs without knowing it.

You do not have to wait for professional help to ward away the mice.

The first key to keeping out mice is to maintain a sanitary environment. Jimy Loayza, an exterminator for Germantown's Pest Control Club, recommended: "Keep the place spotless, the sink free of water. Don't leave food out. Mice need water. They need food. . . . Just one little Cheerio would last them a long time."

As long as mice are hooked on your leftovers, they will not leave your apartment. So, keep all food in sealed containers, keep the countertops dry, and make sure you use trash cans with lids.

Also, if you have pets, Loayza said, don't leave their food out. A mouse will steal that food, hide somewhere and feed off it for a long time. Mice also enjoy animal feces, so dispose of your pet's waste effectively.

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