Rats: Information for Tenants and Property Owners

Property owners are required (PDF) to keep their properties rat-free and address conditions that can lead to rats. They may have to hire a pest management professional when appropriate. Tenants can do their part by following our prevention tips below and promptly reporting rats to property owners, building managers or co-op associations.

If property owners are not fulfilling their legal requirement to prevent and manage rats and repair conditions that can attract rats, tenants can report the issue online or by calling 311. The Health Department will send inspectors to investigate the situation.

Learn more below about what you can do prevent rat infestation, or how you can drive them out if they have already settled in your home or property.


Secure Garbage

The best way to prevent rats from settling in your home and property is to carefully dispose of your garbage. Be sure to:

  • Provide enough garbage cans with tight fitting lids to hold all garbage between pickups.
  • Bring garbage to the curb as close to pick-up time as possible. Garbage left on the curb for too long attracts rats.
  • Follow your building’s policy for garbage disposal and recycling.
  • If your building has a garbage chute, bag and tie your garbage before putting it down the chute.

Destroy Potential Shelter

Make your home inhospitable to rats by attacking their favorite places to seek shelter and reproduce:

  • Clean up any clutter or litter in and around your building, including your basement and yard.
  • Remove piles of newspapers, paper bags, cardboard and bottles.
  • Store items away from walls and off the ground.
  • Control weeds and shrubs around your home.


If you think rats may have invaded your home or property, follow these steps to find and remove them.

  1. Look for Evidence: Rats come out at night, so find out where rats are going after dark. When the sun comes out, this will help you check for spots where rats live, such as nests and holes in dirt or concrete. Other evidence of rats may include:
    • Moist and dark rat droppings.
    • Holes and gnaw marks on garbage cans.
    • Greasy rubmarks along walls and worn paths in grass.
    • Rats run along the same path repeatedly, so they often leave runways.
    • Burrows in earthen areas or structural holes in sidewalks or building foundations.

  2. Clean Waste: Rats communicate with each other and attract more rats to them through their urine and droppings. Clean up droppings and wash greasy track marks with water and a mild bleach solution (one part bleach, 10 parts water).

  3. Starve Them: Rats only need one ounce of food per day. Dispose of your garbage properly and keep all your food in tightly-sealed containers. Do not leave food outside for stray cats, pigeons or squirrels.

  4. Kill Them: Effective poisons that can kill rats should be applied by an NYS-licensed pest management professional. In commercial and multi-unit properties, owners are legally required to hire a pest management professional. If you live in your own home without tenants, you can place rodent bait yourself, but we recommend you leave the job to the professionals.

Be sure your pest control company is following our best practices and guidelines for preventing and managing rats.

Keep Them Out

Keep rats out by repairing property damage and sealing up cracks and holes in foundations, walls, floors, underneath doors and around windows. Necessary materials are inexpensive and available at hardware stores.

Be sure to collapse any earthen burrows, which may be covered by leaves, cobwebs or other debris with a shovel. Covering a burrow entrance with wood, cinder blocks or rocks will not keep rats out. Do not place broken glass or chemicals into a burrow.

Learn more about the specific maintenance steps you can take to close inactive burrows and seal small and large cracks and holes:

After a Health Department Inspection

If Health Department inspectors find signs of rat activity on your property, the property owner will receive a commissioner’s order by mail to fix the situation. The letter will include an inspection report detailing the findings, guidance on how to fix the problems and our contact information. Show the findings to your pest management professional.

About 10 days after an inspection, the Health Department will conduct a follow-up inspection. If the conditions have not been corrected, the property owner will receive a summons. You can appeal violations to the NYC Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings.

If a summons is not dismissed, it can lead to fines of between $300 and $2,000. The Health Department may provide rat management services on properties where the owner fails to do so. Property owners may be billed for this work.

Additional Resources

More Information