City takes speedy action on rat-infested home

Tragic circumstances left a home vacant, with a growing rat problem.

The common cause for the City of Penticton invoking its nuisance property bylaws is to deal with neglect of an untenanted home or property, but the latest home to come before council has a tragic story.

In late February, the city was notified by a social worker at Penticton Regional Hospital that an elderly male had passed away in a home at 175 Cossar Ave. and the elderly female owner had been taken into a care facility for dementia.

“It is an unfortunate set of circumstances,” said bylaw supervisor Tina Siebert, describing the situation and the condition of the now vacant home. “As you can see by the pictures, properly the exterior property is quite unkempt. There is garbage and feces, there is a lot of bags that have been torn open.”

The home is also infested by a colony of rats, just part of a list of problems.

“There is droppings and whatnot throughout the different rooms,” said Siebert. City dog control officers also had to enter the residence in late February to remove cats living inside. Electricity to the home was also cut off.

“The fire department expressed concern there might be an electrical fire because rats had been chewing on the wires inside the home,” said Siebert.

Siebert said the city brought in an exterminator to assess the property. The expert said the lack of maintenance of the yard invited rodents to live and breed, and indications were there was a well-established colony living in the house with adults and juveniles.

Siebert said the estimate for clearing the problem was $2,300 for and sometimes that takes six months to a year to make sure the colony doesn’t come back.

To complete the circle of problems, the owner has no family members to deal with cleaning up the interior and exterior of the home.

To move forward, Siebert said the city’s legal representatives were involved.

“As soon as they confirmed through the public guardian trustee’s office that they will be handling the file, because there is no one else, we said we will expedite this and act as quickly as we can.

“The city would like to help as much as we can in this type of situation to make sure it doesn’t spread to neighbouring properties.,” said Seibert. “In this case, there is a risk to health and safety, so we recommend taking action as soon as possible.”

Rather than the usual 14 days to appeal and 30 days to comply, Siebert asked council to endorse a shorter time limit, in this case three days to appeal and seven days to comply.

Council voted unanimously to support Siebert, meaning the city will shortly be entering the property for cleaning the exterior and remedy the rat infestation inside and around the exterior of the property.

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