NYC law targets construction sites as part of new rat abatement program

Dive Brief:

  • A new set of laws will go into effect next year that aim to curb one of New York City’s most notorious problems: rats. The regulations will have a direct impact on contractors in the city.
  • The New York City Council passed the Rat Action Plan Thursday, a package of four bills that set new pest management standards. Among other measures, it will require applicants for certain construction work permits in the city to certify that a licensed exterminator was retained to effectively treat the premises for rodent extermination.
  • The New York Building Congress supports the legislation to tackle the perennial problem. “Our members will continue to provide cleaner, safer — and eventually rat-free — jobsites,” said Carlo Scissura, NYBC president and CEO. “Assuring that is not only good for our undaunted workers, but New Yorkers in general.”

Dive Insight:

The new laws, which go into effect in April 2023, will affect both residential and commercial construction projects. Contractors will be required to pay for the cost of the exterminator service for the following work, according to New York City Council report:

  • Where the proposed construction work involves 50% or more of the floor area of a building.
  • Where the proposed vertical or horizontal enlargement increases the amount of building floor area by more than 25% over the amount of existing floor area of the building.
  • Where the proposed demolition involves more than 50% of the floor area of a building.
  • Where full demolition work is proposed.

The new laws apply only to buildings that have been designated in rat mitigation zones for at least seven months.

During Thursday’s council meeting, Councilmember Erik Bottcher said that construction sites are contributors to the city’s notorious rodent woes.

“You’re digging up the ground, you’re unearthing stuff that’s there, creating places for rats to find harbor and shelter,” he said. “So, before you get your building permits, you’re going to have to hire an exterminator. It’s common sense.”

New York City ranked second, only behind Chicago, in cities with the most rat infestation treatments, according to a recent report from pest control company Orkin. City residents have filed close to 36,000 rodent complaints so far in 2022, already more than the total number of complaints filed in 2019, according to city data.

Beyond construction, the plan focuses on keeping existing properties rat free. Buildings that receive two or more rodent-specific violations are required to use rodent-proof trash containers for at least two years.

It also requires the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to designate rat mitigation zones by no later than April 1, 2023, and to set times buildings must set out their garbage for collection. The department also will issue an annual report on the success of rat mitigation measures in those rat mitigation zones.

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