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AIBU?

Rats, drains, manhole cover...

14 replies

sadabouthouse · 27/02/2024 11:57

Recently moved. Before I bought the house I had a survey which showed a manhole cover outside and said it had been inspected and no issues. Fine.

Moved in. Turns out there is a rat issue. Pest control seem to have sorted the current issue, but think there is an issue with the drains and that's how they got in, so I need to get a drain survey.

Try to find manhole as per picture in survey. Not there. Contact previous owners and they say the manhole has been built over by the kitchen extension (30 years ago). They also deny having had pest problems despite me finding old bait trays in the attic.

Contact surveyor. He says he can't remember about the manhole as it was 4 months ago (took a while to complete). Says its possible that a bit from another survey was included in mind. Considering what I should do about that. Sounds negligent (at best).

But what on earth can I do now? I am beside myself. This house was supposed to be a fresh start (after leaving an abusive relationship). It might be possible to access the drains from next door's manhole maybe? Or rip the kitchen floor up (which I can't really afford, but better than rats).

Blatantly posting for traffic but anyone who has any advice please help. I'm crying in the toilets at work.

OP posts:
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redalex261 · 27/02/2024 12:07

I don’t think it is legal to build over manhole? Surely the extension would not get past planning with this? Surveyor sound negligent.

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royaloris · 27/02/2024 12:14

sadabouthouse · 27/02/2024 11:57

Recently moved. Before I bought the house I had a survey which showed a manhole cover outside and said it had been inspected and no issues. Fine.

Moved in. Turns out there is a rat issue. Pest control seem to have sorted the current issue, but think there is an issue with the drains and that's how they got in, so I need to get a drain survey.

Try to find manhole as per picture in survey. Not there. Contact previous owners and they say the manhole has been built over by the kitchen extension (30 years ago). They also deny having had pest problems despite me finding old bait trays in the attic.

Contact surveyor. He says he can't remember about the manhole as it was 4 months ago (took a while to complete). Says its possible that a bit from another survey was included in mind. Considering what I should do about that. Sounds negligent (at best).

But what on earth can I do now? I am beside myself. This house was supposed to be a fresh start (after leaving an abusive relationship). It might be possible to access the drains from next door's manhole maybe? Or rip the kitchen floor up (which I can't really afford, but better than rats).

Blatantly posting for traffic but anyone who has any advice please help. I'm crying in the toilets at work.

Are the rats actually coming inside?

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sadabouthouse · 27/02/2024 12:20

Agree about surveyor. There is also a roof issue that they missed. It's so frustrating.

Extension is from the 1990s so I think it could have been ok to build over then. It sounds like there used to be access (from inside), but they put in new flooring which covered it completely.

Rat got into the cavity wall. They think from the drain system so we need to investigate that, but the drain people say they need to access the drain (fair enough!) but I don't know how!

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BobbyBiscuits · 27/02/2024 12:31

You can get a rat blocker fitted to the part in the sewer where the drain joins your house. But I dk how you could access it if manhole is beneath extension? Have you spoken to the water company? Is there any other manhole close that's accessible? If the rats are getting in they could be gnawing bendy plastic pipes. These are sometimes fitted in extensions or toilets when space is tight for plumbing.
The surveyor seems dodgy if they missed all these things, manholes, roof issues. That's serious. I'd be seeking a refund/ reporting him to his regulator.

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GasPanic · 27/02/2024 12:36

Normally when people build over I though they need a build over agreement.

Often there has to be some way of accessing.

What sort of flooring do you have ? If it is tiled then it is a bit of a pain. You may need to replace the floor and install some way of accessing the hatch.

I don't know who should be responsible for checking this sort of stuff. I would guess it would be the conveyancer.

There is a standard form that is filled out on conveyancing. I don't remember whether that has any questions re pests or built over stuff, but if it does and your sellers provided incorrect information you may have legal possibilities there.

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DepartureLounge · 27/02/2024 13:24

It is legal to build over a manhole but there needs to be an access hatch. It might have been different 30 years ago, and the new flooring may or may not have been in breach depending on when it was done, and your surveyor may or may not have been negligent, because if the new flooring was down and there was no clue that there was ever a hatch or a manhole beneath it, well, he's a surveyor, not a druidic water dowser.

You need to deal with what you've got. A drain survey company can do a CCTV inspection so you at least know what's going on down there. Maybe pest control just need to be very proactive for an extended period, but if there's actual damage to the drain that needs fixing then obviously the flooring may end up needing to come up. I don't think you'll be successful in pinning the cost on anyone else, caveat emptor and all that, but it may end up being less catastrophic than you fear.

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SarahR71 · 28/02/2024 07:41

I’ve also been told I had a rat problem in the walls because of drains and have also been crying a lot too.
I have no inspection chamber at the back of my house. The pest control company say that because my house is structurally interconnected with four others (terraced) I have to get expensive proofing work done in my house and also non return valves in the chambers (ones that don’t belong to us too because of the interconnectivity).
I’ve been trying to find out what sort of noises rats make (haven’t slept a wink hearing creaking). Pest control companies don’t want to answer - I think they just want the custom.
My direct neighbour had a huge hole in her airbrick but pest control still think it’s a drain issue.
Are you sure the rats couldn’t have entered some other way?

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sadabouthouse · 28/02/2024 09:16

Thanks for all the replies.

@SarahR71 I’m so sorry to hear you are having a similar problem. It’s so awful.

Can’t rule out other possibilities than the drains, but pest control say that’s most likely. Have already had airbricks covered just in case. I’m totally with you on the not sleeping. My house is old and creaky anyway, especially when the heating in on, but any noise makes me really on edge. It’s awful.

i’ve booked a drain survey for next week, which they say can be done via next doors manhole hopefully. Otherwise need to rip up the kitchen floor…I’m sure really hoping the drain survey gets to the bottom of this because it’s really affecting my mental health.

About the surveyor - the issue is they say they checked the manhole and it was all fine but they canNy have done because it’s buried under the extension. There is even a picture of a manhole in their report which can’t have been taken at this house…

OP posts:
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SarahR71 · 28/02/2024 09:42

sadabouthouse · 28/02/2024 09:16

Thanks for all the replies.

@SarahR71 I’m so sorry to hear you are having a similar problem. It’s so awful.

Can’t rule out other possibilities than the drains, but pest control say that’s most likely. Have already had airbricks covered just in case. I’m totally with you on the not sleeping. My house is old and creaky anyway, especially when the heating in on, but any noise makes me really on edge. It’s awful.

i’ve booked a drain survey for next week, which they say can be done via next doors manhole hopefully. Otherwise need to rip up the kitchen floor…I’m sure really hoping the drain survey gets to the bottom of this because it’s really affecting my mental health.

About the surveyor - the issue is they say they checked the manhole and it was all fine but they canNy have done because it’s buried under the extension. There is even a picture of a manhole in their report which can’t have been taken at this house…

Re: the surveyor - they either copied and pasted from another survey or made a mistake so hopefully you have some recourse?
Is your loft connected to your neighbours?
I totally agree with you about the affect on mental health - I’m going to pieces. I’m even getting weird musky smells (they come and go) but everyone says I wouldn’t be able to smell (live) rats through the walls.
i had a drain survey but I don’t have an inspection chamber at the back of the house… the nearest one is three doors away so we couldn’t see what was going on in the drains at the back of my house.
Someone from Thames Water visited and warned me that a lot of these companies charge for unnnecessary work. He said when we go round the neighbouring houses there will be an entry point somewhere. We were able to look in some of the neighbouring gardens when we had the drain survey done and we found a broken airbrick - it was my direct neighbours (hidden behind a concrete slab and garden furniture box).
But the pest control company still insist it’s the drains and say Thames Water don’t know what they’re talking about. They say the five terraced houses are structurally interconnected including drainage. I don’t know who to believe.
In your situation, from what I’ve read, things can go wrong when extensions are added so hopefully the drain survey will solve the issue for you.

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DepartureLounge · 28/02/2024 12:50

You can definitely pick up a distinctive smell in a house with a ratty problem. The best way I can describe it is as a "dirty earth" smell. I wouldn't call it musky, if that helps you to stay calm. There's no doubt that rodents in walls or voids make a hell of a lot of noise - disproportionate to their size. If it makes you feel any better, a rodent that's nesting in a void will most likely stay there - they won't want to come face to face with you any more than you do them. With a bit of luck they'll go elsewhere once the weather warms up and the water table drops. Commiserations, though, it's miserable worrying about rats.

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SarahR71 · 28/02/2024 13:32

DepartureLounge · 28/02/2024 12:50

You can definitely pick up a distinctive smell in a house with a ratty problem. The best way I can describe it is as a "dirty earth" smell. I wouldn't call it musky, if that helps you to stay calm. There's no doubt that rodents in walls or voids make a hell of a lot of noise - disproportionate to their size. If it makes you feel any better, a rodent that's nesting in a void will most likely stay there - they won't want to come face to face with you any more than you do them. With a bit of luck they'll go elsewhere once the weather warms up and the water table drops. Commiserations, though, it's miserable worrying about rats.

Thanks - that gives hope at least. It’s an unusual but distinctive smell that I get in different parts of the house. I haven’t got it for about a week now but it’s gone before and then come back (a few times).

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LakieLady · 28/02/2024 13:44

I've had rats in the house twice.

The first time, they got in through a broken airbrick; the second time was through an (astonishingly) tiny hole, where a bit of mortar was missing at the point where 3 bricks met.

On the second occasion, the rat got up through the cavity wall (and the cavity wall insulation!) and into the loft, where it could be heard gnawing. The pest control man who came out pointed out a slightly greasy mark on the wall, which he said was the giveaway sign of a rat coming and going (they have oily fur, apparently).

At the time of both events, I had terriers and they would spend an inordinate amount of time sniffing round the points of entry. If you know anyone who's got a terrier or two with working instincts, get them to bring the dogs round and by watching them you may be able to work out exactly where the rats are running!

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redalex261 · 29/02/2024 01:48

Actually, the terrier thing is a good shout. Last summer my jack russell would go absolutely nuts when visiting my friend’s house; growling and scrabbling madly at a couple of points in the kitchen and back porch. Turned out she had mice coming in from excavations happening in next door’s garden - her own two dogs had been unconcerned, and it was not until the mice gnawed through a sack of dry dog mix she noticed droppings and realised she had a problem. The areas the dog had been active were exactly where they were coming in and out and hiding. She (the dog) also excavated a couple of nests under the hut. They also seemed to like warm areas like behind appliances.

Sorted fairly quickly after some rigorous trapping and making sure there was absolutely nothing edible accessible to discourage them. Invested in Rigid clip lock containers for all dried goods and ensured absolutely no crumbs/residue of any kind. I am not sure how much difference this kind of action makes with rats as they are more tenacious and do gnaw through plastics etc. but can’t do any harm to try everything to discourage them.

You may just have to bite the bullet and get the floor up to get access to manhole - will help to avoid future problems with drains. I would be pursuing surveyor, they should have surely compared council/water board/planning records with what was in the extension - if there originally was access hatch when extension built it should be picked up if proper survey done?? How can they have a photo of something that isn’t there?

Best of luck dealing with this, anyone would be stressed out of their mind.

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mimblewimble · 29/02/2024 06:37

My sympathies OP!

We had rats a few years ago, and it was so stressful. They were getting out of a cracked sewer pipe and into the cavity walls.

Pest control sorted it out, the pipe got repaired, all access holes thoroughly filled, and a rat gate thing fitted in the sewer.

For pp who was asking about noise - it was LOUD. If there is a rat in your wall or the roof space above you, you can hear clear scrabbling noises, usually in the night/early morning.

Also they do smell, they were nesting above our kitchen and it smelt like we had some kind of toilet problem.

Even though they'd got into a few places, they never came into a room thank goodness - that was my main concern. And they didn't do any damage beyond emotional/financial stress. Also once gone, they have not come back and while it was horrendous at the time, I have moved on!

Not sure about drain access. We don't have a manhole cover, I think for ours they got the camera down the pipes in the kitchen where the dishwasher was plumbed in or something. Certainly didn't take our whole floor up.

Hope you get it sorted, it's a horrible feeling.

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