Rat infestation causing 'constant worry' for Somerset couple

Rat between stones in garden
The couple said rats had been a constant worry since they noticed the infestation in March

A couple say they feel let down by a lack of action to resolve an eight-month fight to tackle a rat infestation near their home.

They said they are no longer able to use their garden due to the infestation been caused by a nearby resident leaving food out for birds.

The Somerset couple, who wish to remain anonymous, said the stress had affected their mental health.

Somerset Council said enforcement action had been taken.

The couple, who have two young children, said rats had been a constant worry since they noticed the infestation in March.

They will not let their children play in the garden because of the threat of Weil's disease, a potentially fatal infection passed on in through rat urine.

It has become such a problem that they even moved out of their house in the Mendip Hills area for an extended period.

Somerset mother says the rat infestation has as had a 'really detrimental effect' on her mental health'
The mother-of-two, speaking with BBC reporter Matthew Hill, said the infestation had affected her mental health

The father-of-two said: "Initially, the feed was being placed in a farmer's field behind our houses, up to 50 fat balls a day. That eventually stopped and the feeds moved to the front garden."

His wife, who gave birth to their second child in March, told the BBC: "It's been going on too long, and the stress of constantly trying to get support with it has been an additional stress."

The couple say they first reported their concerns to Somerset Council in April.

"An officer rang me after I sent evidence of feed going down and said they would be looking at enforcement options," said the father.

"I sent an email asking for an update and about two weeks after they said they are not considering enforcement and see no evidence of feed being placed down," he added.

The couple say they feel they have been "completely let down" and say they have lost hope that appropriate action will be taken to solve the issue.

County Councillor Clare Sully
County councillor Clare Sulley said that enforcement should come sooner

The last visit to their home by environmental health officers on 1 November was just a couple of hours before their local county councillor Clare Sulley filmed several rats in their garden.

But the inspectors said they did not see any evidence of food being left out for the rats.

Ms Sulley said: "It's a complex situation and I can see the impact it's having on them [the couple] and the distress it's causing them.

"But the system seems slow and I wish we could get it resolved quicker."

The couple made a formal complaint to the council after their last visit and the council agreed to carry out enforcement action - which could result in a £100 fine if conditions are not followed.

Louise Hosking, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health's executive director, said it had become "increasingly difficult" for local authorities to deal with the issue as they face budget cutbacks and that that rat infestation is a growing problem for many reasons.

'Climate change a factor'

"We've got increased urbanisation. People are living very closely together and climate change is definitely affecting this," said Ms Hosking.

"We don't have those cold winters that would kill off a lot of these pests and we've got people living and working in close communities with rubbish and waste. All of these things will attract rats," she added.

Somerset Council said it would monitor the couple's case after taking enforcement action, and would take further action if appropriate.

The Department For Levelling up, Housing and Communities said: "Councils are best placed to know what their communities need and are responsible for delivering services for residents, including pest control.

"We stand ready to speak to any council that has concerns about its ability to manage its finances or faces pressures it has not planned for."

Follow BBC West on Facebook, X and Instagram. Send your story ideas to: