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Nairnshire council tenant left outraged after weeks-long wait to free home from rats


By Federica Stefani

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Sally-Ann Villas said she couldn't sleep for days as she could hear rats in her loft. Picture: James MacKenzie
Sally-Ann Villas said she couldn't sleep for days as she could hear rats in her loft. Picture: James MacKenzie

A WOMAN said she had to live for weeks with rats in her home after contacting Highland Council for help.

Piperhill resident Sally-Ann Villas – who lives in a council-owned property – said she first heard suspicious noises in the loft space above her bedroom at the start of January.

She contacted the council the following day after becoming concerned about rat holes and further noises coming from her garden shed.

She said: “I phoned the council, and they said they couldn’t give me a timescale for when they’d be able to come out.”

And she said that, even after a visit from a council housing officer and a maintenance officer, she still did not get a definitive reply about what would be done for at least two weeks.

“I couldn’t sleep and then had a full time job to go to, my mental health was suffering from it,” she said.

With rat droppings in her loft and shed she said she feared for the health and safety of her pet cat and dog as well as worrying that the rats could chew on wires and cause a fire when she was out at work.

“I know that the council is in debt,” she continued, “but that is not my problem, they are my landlord and I am their tenant. They have a duty to make people’s properties safe to live in.

“If I didn’t pay my rent, they’d be in contact with me then!

“I couldn’t live like that. I eventually had to contact a private pest control company to get rid of the rats.”

That, she said, cost her around £160 at the end of January and was in fact the second time in less than a year that she had been forced to call a private company while waiting for response from the council, with a total expense of more than £300.

Ms Villas, who lives with her dog and cat, was concerned for her pets' health and safety. Picture: James MacKenzie
Ms Villas, who lives with her dog and cat, was concerned for her pets' health and safety. Picture: James MacKenzie

She said: “I’ve reported this three times over the last year-and-a-half and it’s steadily escalated.

“I’m disgusted at how they have made me feel.”

Other residents in Piperhill have reported concerns about rats in the area recently.

Councillor Barbara Jarvie, who was contacted by Ms Villas about the issue, said a more efficient way for reporting and dealing with pest infestation should be considered.

She said: “As Highland has a wide geography for pest control to get round, it would make things quicker for residents, and save council officers time trying to schedule visits, if Highland Council just had a ‘rat hotline’ that connected to those who actually have the licence to advise and legally swiftly respond to rat invasions.

“A lot of time seems to be wasted passing residents concerns’ around various people, before direct control is actually done.

“Hotlines would cut delays, minimise stress, save officer time and likely be very cost effective on overstretched council budgets.

“The longer rats are left to roam uncontrolled, the issue increases, creating more calls to the council, as they breed so quickly and likely went into her loft seeking a warm nesting space to breed again. This unfortunately caused damage to her loft.”

A rat infestation problem was reported last year in Queenspark in Nairn – however the issue in the area appears to have been solved after campaigning from residents and intervention from the council.

A Highland Council spokesperson said: “We provide a free pest control service for council tenants and can deal with most types of pests such as rats, mice, ants, wasps or fleas.

“Highland Council treat reports of major infestations in its housing stock seriously and we will work with our tenants to identify how to deal with the issues.”


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