Young family forced to flee home in rats plague

One of the rats caught in a trap in the kitchen.
One of the rats caught in a trap in the kitchen.

A mother and her three young children have had to sleep on a friend’s floor this week after an infestation of rats forced them to leave their home in the Obins Street area of Portadown.

A total of 10 rats were caught in eight days in the privately rented house in Bognor Terrace, most of them in the kitchen, with more found in traps over the past couple of days.

Community worker Elaine Sterritt and SDLP representative John Creaney pictured at Bognor Terrace where one of the houses has a rat infestsation problem. INPT32-201.

Community worker Elaine Sterritt and SDLP representative John Creaney pictured at Bognor Terrace where one of the houses has a rat infestsation problem. INPT32-201.

And, according to Elaine Sterritt from Ballyoran Community Association, the woman was advised by Social Services not to return to the house or take any belongings from it due to the contamination risk from rat urine and droppings.

She said, “They left the house on Friday with only the clothes they were wearing. She returned for a change of clothes for the children and hasn’t been back since.

“The baby had severe diarrhoea for two weeks and when they left at the weekend it stopped. This mother has psoriasis and she has weeping sores with the stress and upheaval. Mentally and physically she is at breaking point.”

Now, the woman, who doesn’t wish to be named, and whose children are aged 10, 3 and 13 months, is desperate to be rehoused in the local area while the problem, which first started in June, is being sorted out.

Ms Sterritt said, “The Housing Executive have offered her emergency accommodation in Crumlin and Belfast but that’s just not feasible. This woman doesn’t drive and she has to care for her father who lives in the area. They need somewhere local.”

A spokesperson for the landlord said they had been working closely with the council’s environmental health department and claimed that the infestation is part of a wider problem in the area.

A spokesperson for Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s environmental health department said they had received no other reports of rat infestations in the area.

She said an officer has been in contact with the house owner, occupant and the NIHE.

She added, “Steps are being taken to address the rodent infestation.

“Environmental health officers inspect properties on the request from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive to assist with applications for rehousing.

“The environmental health department received a request on 8 August from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive to carry out an inspection to determine if the property in Bognor Terrace is fit for human habitation.

“A report will be forwarded to the NIHE this week for their consideration.”

A Housing Executive spokesperson said, “This week the applicant visited our offices to inform us that she has a vermin issue at the rental property.

“As this applicant has presented to us and claiming her property is infested with vermin, we are duty bound to determine whether her circumstances meet the eligibility for homelessness status.

“During our enquiries, we can attempt to source temporary accommodation and have offered that option to the applicant.

“The vermin issue is a matter for the environmental health department of the local council and we are awaiting their final report.”

The Southern Health and Social Care Trust said it could not comment on an individual case, but was continuing to offer support to the family.