A Landlord`s Freakiest Legal Nightmare
Focus on Liability Management and Preventative Maintenance: Bats
by Michael Koski
Here is a maintenance issue you might not have considered – preventing bat infestation!
Bat infestations are more common than one might think, especially with bats continued displacement as their natural territories diminish. Fortunately there are simple steps property owners and managers can take to lessen the likelihood of a bat invasion.
Bats are incredibly useful animals, arguably one of the most beneficial species on earth, but they can cause horrific damage to your property. Their droppings, or guano, are surprisingly caustic, known to actually eat away at wood and drywall. The accumulation of urine and guano will eventually saturate most building materials and severely devalue any structure they accumulate in.
Bats in the property may also increase property owners and managers exposure to litigation. Imagine the disputes that could arise after a tenant wakes up to discover their sleeping child has shared a room with a bat, or a group of curious kids play with a bat they find on the property and it tests positive for rabies. Recently in Stevensville, Montana ninety or so elementary school kids had to be given anti-rabies vaccinations after handling a rabid bat, ironically brought in by a parent. The cost of the treatment for these children? It could possibly exceed $150,000 (the cost of a series of rabies vaccinations varies, but currently averages around $2,000 to $3,500). Knowing what steps to take to prevent a bat infestation and how to handle the situation, should it ever occur, will save you time, money and can reduce your overall exposure to liability.
The much maligned and misunderstood bat definitely gets a bad rap. They have a notorious reputation but are actually extremely beneficial and relatively harmless. Their best feature? They eat bugs, and lots of them. A colony of 500 bats can eat two to four million bugs a night in the summer- that’s millions of crop destroying beetles and moths and millions of potentially West Nile Virus carrying mosquitoes taken out of circulation. If it weren’t for bats, we could potentially have plague like numbers of bugs to contend with. Bats also act as pollinators and some species of plants, like bananas, figs and avocados rely heavily on pollination by bats. Sadly, the numbers of these valuable creatures are declining due to pesticides, disease, misinformation, unfortunate human interaction and a reduction of natural bat habitats.
As wonderful as bats are for our planet, humans and bats should not share the same living space. Rabies, although rare, is carried by bats. It is estimated that up to 2% of bats in the general bat population are rabid. This percentage greatly increases to 10″ 15% in bats encountered by people. The most likely place a human will come in contact with a bat is on the ground, and a bat on the ground is exhibiting unusual behavior- it is quite possibly sick or dying. It is important to note that it is possible to be exposed to the rabies virus simply by handling a rabid bat- you do not necessarily need to be bitten. Bats found on the ground, dead or alive, should not be handled. Given the severity of the consequence of contracting rabies (certain death once symptoms appear), every effort should be made to limit interaction between bats and people. Histoplasmosis is a disease contracted by inhaling the spores from the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum, which grows and feeds on accumulating bat guano. It infects the lungs and occasionally the eyes, causing a fever and a prolonged cough. Severe cases can necessitate the removal of an infected lung and each year several people die from the disease. Since bats are such voracious bug eaters, they produce a lot of guano. It is not something you want building up in your property. Bat mites are another unsettling issue caused by bats living in close proximity to people. Often mistaken for bed bugs, these blood sucking parasites carried by bats cause splotchy, itchy red bites, infest bedding and carpets and are just plain disgusting. The only way to get rid of the mites is to get rid of the bats. It is extremely frustrating (and expensive!) to exterminate the property, clean the carpets and bedding, only to have the mites return again and again. Repeat infestations of what are thought to be bed bugs is a good indicator that bats are living somewhere in the building.
There are steps you can take to protect your property from these nocturnal interlopers. Adopting these fairly simple maintenance routines or adding them to your existing ones can reduce the possibility of becoming host to a colony of bats. Click here for find out how to protect your property.
Bat exclusion is a job best handled by a professional and time is of the essence. It is imperative that you consult a professional at the first sign of bats- by the time you notice your first bat, there could be dozens more that have taken up residence. The longer the bats are present, the more damage they will do and the more difficult it may prove to remove them. Although it might be tempting to call your local exterminator or critter catcher, that may prove to be a costly and time consuming mistake. An exterminator may try to eliminate the bats by poisoning and killing them. Aside from being unethical (and possible illegal) all this does is clear the way for more bats to move in. Bat exclusion experts are trained to deal with the multiple issues that are unique and specific to dealing with bats. They can give you advice on dealing with your insurance company, facilitate guano removal and remediation and are familiar with state and local laws pertaining to bat exclusion (some bats, like the Indiana bat, are federally protected and laws vary state by state as to when the bats can be removed). Unlike most pest control companies bat exclusion experts offer warranties against re-infestation and are knowledgeable of construction techniques and safety issues pertaining to bat removal.
For instance, Get Bats Out, a bat exclusion company, is compliant with OSHA safety regulations and carries full insurance for risks related to bat removal (like ladder and roof work), and all their technicians have received pre-rabies shots. Like most maintenance issues, working to prevent the problem is easier than dealing with it once it has established itself. But if you find yourself hosting these wonderful winged creatures don;t hesitate to get professional advice. Taking care of the problem early on will save time, money and make everyone’s lives (bats included) much more pleasant.
Do you know how long bats live? Find out that and more in Fast Bat Facts.
About the Author: Michael Koski is an author, Bat Exclusion Professional and owner of Get Bats Out- a nationwide bat exclusion company. Get Bats Out specializes in commercial and residential bat exclusion and guano clean up. His book,The Home Owner’s Essential Guide to Bat Removal is available on his website at www.getbatsout.com. He can be reached at 877-264-2287 for any and all bat questions.
American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services related to your commercial housing investment including REAL ESTATE FORMS, tenant debt collection, tenant background checks, insurance and financing. Find out more at www.joinaaoa.org.
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