Mice in rental properties can be a real headache for property managers and landlords so here are some ways to get rid of them.
By Evelyn Long
Mice are an occasional reality for any homeowner, but they can wreak even more havoc in a rental property. Multiple units and occupants can attract rodents in different ways, and it’s hard to properly control an infestation once it’s under way. Property managers know they need to remedy the problem immediately, but how can they do so effectively?
Prevention, management and communication with tenants can help everyone get on the same page to drive rodents out. The following nine tips can help landlords effectively get rid of mice in their units.
1. Eliminate Points of Entry
The first step is to determine how the little pests gain access in the first place. Unfortunately, even the smallest crack or entry point can invite mice inside. Mice can eat through walls and they only need a hole the size of a dime to get inside.
The bulk of prevention here can be done with thorough inspection. Landlords should schedule appointments to walk through the property — if it is occupied, they need to give their tenants notice — and seal up any cracks in doors or windows. Steel wool and caulk work best because rodents can’t chew through them. Pay close attention to areas around plumbing fixtures and cable lines — these can provide ingress points.
If a tenant is dealing with an ongoing mouse problem, ask them to look for these holes on a regular basis and share tips for plugging them quickly with steel wool. Then, you can find time to do a more thorough repair job to keep the rodents at bay.
2. Banish Temptation as Much as Possible
It isn’t that mice eat much — but they can contaminate entire stashes of food. That giant box of cereal a tenants bought at Costco is now waste unless they want to risk a bowl of hantavirus for breakfast. Mice are resourceful creatures and will investigate kitchens to find new things to eat.
Tenants should banish temptation by keeping the premises clean. While property owners can’t demand they mop and dust weekly, they can include clauses to prevent common causes of mouse bait — like leaving out used pizza boxes. Landlords should review these documents when their properties are unoccupied, because you can’t issue one retroactively once a prospective customer signs.
Another tactic to use — with caution — is the right to inspect. While states usually require a 24-hour or more notice, property owners may go through and document the unit’s condition. Photographs will become valuable evidence should an infestation result in a court battle.
Bear in mind that even the best tenants won’t appreciate having someone tramping through their home, particularly during a pandemic. However, when mice in rental properties are threatening not only your tenants’ health but your other units and property as a whole, be firm in reminding troublesome renters of their responsibilities to keep their property clean.
3. Lay Traps
Traps should be laid to get rid of an existing infestation. Mice typically travel with family, so multiple traps will be required. Whether you prefer the classic snap trap or the capture-and-release, be prepared to check frequently for success, and dispose of mice quickly.
Property managers and tenants, depending on whether the unit is occupied, should place traps along walls and consider bait such as peanut butter to attract mice. Rodents are smart, so you may need to switch up tactics and try new traps or locations if nobody is biting.
4. Prevent Property Problems with Better Traps
It’s often better to stay away from the inhumane glue traps that leave mice to dehydrate and starve to death, especially if they can’t be checked frequently. Mice may even chew off their limbs in an attempt to escape, which can also leave an unpleasant clean-up for property managers or tenants once the trap is found.
The same goes for poison pellets. These don’t kill instantly by design, meaning mice will wander off after consumption. The sick animal can crawl off into a wall or hidden area to decompose, which can lead to odor concerns later.
If you don’t have much empathy for mice, the classic snap trap is reliable and quick to kill without prolonging suffering. Considering the catch-and-release method? Varmints should be released at a considerable distance from the property to prevent re-entry. Mice have a keen sense of smell. Plus, no one wants them potentially infesting other units.
5. Clean Out Storage Areas
If you own a building with shared space like an attached storage unit or basement, rodents can infest these areas before you or your tenants notice. Landlords should host an annual cleanout and inspect and treat the space for pests in order to prevent greater infestation.
Stacks of old books and magazines make ripe nesting grounds for mice in rental properties and insect pests alike. Control efforts should continue year-round. Don’t slack off in the winter — that’s when rodents reproduce and add to their broods.
6. Try Peppermint Oil
Some people claim that peppermint essential oil or peppermint plants effectively dissuade both mice and spiders — two critters most tenants are happy to bid farewell to.
Property managers can apply a small amount of peppermint oil around areas of potential ingress. However, repeated applications are required, so work with tenants if choosing this method. Tenants with a green thumb can even consider growing some peppermint at home — even if it isn’t the most effective, they can still enjoy a pleasant smell.
7. Go Ultrasonic
Another humane way to deter rodents from returning is to use ultrasonic repellers. These devices emit a high-pitched sound that’s inaudible to humans but painful to rodents. Most models are safe to use around household pets like dogs and cats.
However, actual results are mixed with this method, and property managers may not get a strong return on investment in providing these systems to tenants. If attempted, these repellents are best used in conjunction with more proven traps.
8. Keep Landscaping Trimmed
Mice are little thieves, and as with the human variety, they seek places to hide when breaking and entering. Keeping outside landscaping trimmed can deter both types of miscreants. Property managers who practice regular upkeep can enjoy pest prevention on top of other benefits, like curb appeal.
9. Say Yes to Cats
This isn’t a guaranteed solution, but there’s something to be said for having a nature-engineered pest-control service living in a unit. If you’re on the fence about pets, allowing responsible tenants to have cats could entice renters while taking care of mice in rental properties.
As with any allowance, review your lease and add protective clauses to make sure the arrangement works for both parties. Landlords should set a reasonable limit on the number of animals allowed per residence, but most felines adore keeping the rodent population in check.
Get Rid of Mice in Rental Properties
Getting rid of mice in rental properties can take time and dedication. If possible, it’s best to focus on prevention so tenants don’t have to worry about pest-control visits and trap management. However, since mice are a fact of life, a combination of property maintenance and pest control is usually the key to solving the problem.
Property owners can get rid of mice with the nine tips above. Doing so protects their investment and can attract a more highly qualified — and timely-paying — tenant.
About the author
Evelyn Long is the editor-in-chief of Renovated, where she shares real-estate market and maintenance advice for investors and their tenants. Based in Baltimore, Evelyn is enthusiastic about both brownstones and crab cakes.