While raccoons may seem cuddly and cute, they are significant pests that can wreak havoc on a rental property. Landlords and residents that have been forced to deal with raccoons know that there are no easy solutions in getting rid of them.
However, dealing with pesky raccoons immediately is imperative because of the damage they can cause and the diseases they carry. This nuisance animal is responsible for a lot of frustration for landlords and tenants alike.
Raccoons are often considered as clever and harmless when spotted out in the wild, but when they take up residence in or near a rental property, the real problems begin. They have easily adapted to urban habitats and are considered nuisance populations in all but a few cities across the country, even urban areas like Washington, D.C. and Chicago.
Contrary to popular belief, raccoons are not rodents, but are members of the procyonid family, a nocturnal breed. Raccoons are omnivorous and feed on fish, insects, eggs, frogs, mice, snails, and crawfish out in the wild, but when they are in close proximity to humans, they love to get their meals from the garbage, from pet dishes and from local gardens.
Raccoons Are Serious Pests
A raccoon’s intelligence, size and determination make it very difficult to thwart them when they have their mind set on getting into the neighborhood garbage cans, gardens and sheds. As with most animals, when there is a reliable source of food, they take up residence in the best location they can find. Unfortunately, this often means they can turn attics, sheds, basements, crawl spaces and even garages into their dens. These furry creatures will even take up residence in abandoned homes. They won’t hesitate to knock over garbage cans to get at the food inside, and will raid gardens, decorative fish ponds, fruit trees and chicken or pet enclosures to get at food. Their scavenging often attracts other pests like mice, rats and squirrels.
Their size and strength make raccoons some of the most formidable pests out there. They can be responsible for thousands of dollars in damage to property. When looking for a place to live, these animals can tear through the roofing of a home and establish a den in the attic space. While there, they can tear up insulation, chew up duct work, and gnaw on wood. Mother raccoons will give birth to up to five kits and it’s not uncommon for an entire family of raccoons to take over a shed or attic space very quickly. Secondary water damage from holes in the roof, broken pipes and more just add to the cost of cleaning up after a den. Chewed electrical wiring is another common problem with a den inside a house.
The raccoon’s droppings are plentiful because of the animal’s size, but the feces carry a number of diseases and parasites that are very dangerous for humans and pets. For example, a parasite known as raccoon roundworm lives in the intestines of the animals and sends its eggs out with the raccoon’s waste, as high as a million eggs per day. The eggs can survive for several years, and if they are inadvertently swallowed or inhaled by humans, they can cause serious nerve and brain damage and in some cases, death. Raccoons can also carry rabies, leptospirosis, salmonella and other pathogens that are harmful to humans. Ticks and fleas that are brought around by the raccoons can similarly infect pets and humans with disease.
In summary, there is no scenario where raccoons should be treated in a live-and-let-live manner, because of the dangers to people and the damage to structures. Landlords and tenants need to work together to make a rental property as inhospitable as possible for raccoons so they will not become established in the area.
Preventing Raccoons From Moving In
As with most pests, prevention is the most important step that landlords and tenants can take to prevent a raccoon infestation. The idea is to prevent the raccoons from finding a warm, dry place to live and cut off their food source so they will move on to another area. Here are 4 things that landlords and tenants can do to minimize the odds of these unwanted residents.
1. Secure Garbage Cans
Raccoons will always stick around if food is easy to get, so landlords should provide residents with garbage cans with tight-fitting or locking lids. Lid straps can be purchased that turn any lidded can into a pest-proof one. A heavy-duty garbage cart is often supplied or rented through cities and municipalities and may be enough to deter raccoons. Landlords can also install a fenced enclosure to store garbage cans between pickup days, with a simple door or gate to allow people to access the cans. Tenants must avoid leaving bags of garbage outside and clean up any spilled garbage immediately.
2. Pet Food and Pet Cages
Raccoons will definitely take advantage of outdoor pets, such as rabbits, chickens, cats, dogs and even decorative fish ponds. When pet food is left outside, there’s no way to prevent raccoons from getting at it. Residents must be very strict about never leaving pet dishes outside, and securing any pet doors that lead into the house, as these brash intruders won’t hesitate to go indoors to eat straight from an indoor pet’s dish.
3. Eliminate Possible Den Sites
Raccoons will settle in just about any nook and cranny that they can find. That’s why it is imperative for landlords to take precautions to secure the property against the furry pests. Several times a year, landlords should inspect the property for torn or loose soffits under the eaves, broken fascia boards, broken attic vents or loose roof shingles. Chimneys are another place that raccoons love to nest, so place chimney caps on unused ones. Other easy nesting places include empty sheds, hollow trees, wood piles and abandoned cars. Landlords can also make arrangements to cut back trees at least six feet from the rental property to eliminate easy access to the roof. Without an easy place to set up residence, raccoons are less likely to stick around.
4. Monitor Gardens and Fruit Trees
While there isn’t much that can be done to guard a thriving garden from thieving raccoons, residents and landlords can at least try to minimize the problem by making sure that no rotting fruit is left lying on the ground. Home remedies for keeping raccoons out of the garden are everywhere online, and some may work with varying degrees of effectiveness. Some people install net cages or single strand electric fences around their gardens, or use a battery powered radio tuned into a talk show to keep raccoons at bay.
Get Rid of Raccoons
Any property owner that has had to deal with roving raccoons knows that they are extremely difficult to get rid of. To further complicate matters, most cities and municipalities have ordinances in place about what residents can or cannot do to raccoons within city limits. It’s important for landlords and tenants to know what kinds of actions are allowed and what is prohibited.
Most areas don’t allow residents to poison or shoot raccoons, so even though these permanent solutions may be effective, they are generally not an option. If landlords discover that raccoons are in or near the property, they and the tenants can start to do all the prevention measures listed above—eliminate source of food, reduce nesting options and take care of outdoor pets.
In addition, landlords and tenants should do everything they can to make the current raccoon den as inhospitable as possible. Some common repellents include flashing lights, loud music, and strong smelling components like coyote urine, cinnamon, peppers, ammonia and more. However, there’s no guarantee that any or all of these methods will be effective against resident raccoons.
Landlords can also call a wildlife professional or the city’s animal control to trap and take away raccoons. If there is extensive damage, a professional service may be needed to clean, disinfect and deodorize the home. Most experts advise against landlords and residents doing the trapping and releasing of raccoons on their own. A professional pest control company or wildlife expert is often the best and most effective solution.
Who Pays for Raccoon Pest Control and Damage?
As in most cases involving pests, landlords should pay for pest control right away, no matter what. Getting an infestation of raccoons out of the rental property as soon as possible is the top priority, especially so there is no more damage done to the property. Landlords shouldn’t waste time arguing back and forth with their tenants on whom to call, when to call and whether they should try some home remedies first. Once the raccoon problem is eliminated, the landlord can work with the tenant on prevention and determining future responsibility.
If raccoons have been a problem in the past, landlords would be smart to put some specialized instructions in the lease agreement or in the lease addendum concerning preventative measures to reduce the risk of a raccoon infestation. Guidelines for prevention should be very clearly reviewed and tenants can then be held accountable for creating situations that attract raccoons, such as not securing the garbage or leaving pet food out.
It’s wise for landlords and tenants to partner up and do everything they can to keep raccoons as far away from the rental property as possible. Between the damages and the diseases, raccoons are definitely the most unwelcome tenants there are. With the right care and diligent maintenance, a rental property will only be hospitable toward humans and not raccoons.