The boss of insurance claim handler Drain Claim has said homeowners across the country are facing misery as rat communities displaced by the recent flash floods find their way into households.
Rats on the riseThe firm claims that water-deluged drains and sewers of the past few weeks have mobilised rat populations previously living underground, driving them above the flood waters and in some cases through cracked drains and into homes.
The insurance handling expert believes the nation's booming rat population – currently at 80 million – will continue to rise due to contributing factors that together present the ideal environment for the proliferation of vermin.
The combination of flash flooding, an ageing sewer system, councils cutting back on services including pest control and weekly bin collections and insurers failing to adequately repair damaged drains, is creating the perfect breeding ground for rats in residential areas.
Cracked sewers"One of the biggest issues we are currently seeing is rats who have been moved around by the flood waters finding their way through cracked pipe work and into properties," warned David Hayes, CEO of Drain Claim.
"Home owners in the South East, Midlands and North East have already reported a surge in rat problems and unfortunately this is likely to continue as the flood waters subside.
"The problem could also be further exacerbated by home insurers who often refuse to fix minor drain damage labelling it as 'serviceable' because the drainage system is still working, yet this enables rats to get into systems and cause wider problems."
Wriggling insurersAnd Hayes says insurers are using vague terms to wriggle out of paying for proper repairs. "The word serviceable does not appear in any home insurance policy documents and the industry has failed to provide a definition for this vague term which provides them with increased wiggle-room on insurance claims."
Hayes urged insurers to do more. "With the rat population thriving inside our aged sewer systems, home insurance companies have a duty to work harder for customers who have accidental damage cover. By conducting comprehensive repairs on all drains, no matter how small the damage, insurers can protect their customers from rat infestations and help curb the exponential population increase."
Rats multplyingRats are capable of swimming up to half a mile, even against the current, in a sewer pipe. Young rats can squeeze through holes as little as 1cm wide with rats also creating significant damage by chewing through pipe work and building materials.
Rats are the extremely difficult to eradicate once they have established a nest, with female rats capable of producing litters of up to 10, 10 times per year.
Hayes warns that it's better to stop rats getting in your house than to try and kill them once they're there. "Once rats enter a home, because of the serious health risks that they pose, the only course of action is trapping or poisoning which runs the risk of decaying and infected bodies being trapped within the fabric of a property'" he said.
Advice to property ownersHis advice to property owners is to always insist that full repairs are carried out on problem drains to protect against future rat infestations and never accept part fixes or 'serviceable' excuses from insurers.
He warned: "Paying out an insurance excess for a part fix that will not stop rats from getting into a sewage system is quite literally money down the drain."
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