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A friend of mine is having some problems with rats along with a handful of his neighbors. He is under the impression that the city should be coming out to get rid of them since it's a "health issue". Is there any validity to his reasoning?

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  • The level of responsibility surely depends on the jurisdiction; in many I suspect it is zero. In others, it may be a municipal responsibility. In still others, there may be a government agency whose responsibility it is to enforce rat control obligations that have been placed on property owners.
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 14:50

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It depends on where you are. Typically, rodents inside a rental must be removed by the landlord. In Tukwila, ch. 6.16.030 under health and sanitation says

It is unlawful for the owner or occupant to fail to reconstruct or repair [buildings of various types, controlling in various ways] for the purpose of preventing rats, mice, or other rodents from gaining entrance thereto; and it is also unlawful for the owner of [things rats eat] to fail to adequately protect the same to prevent such rodents from gaining access to or coming in contact therewith.

This does not govern rodent "outside" (either on private property or on public lands): the city has absolutely no responsibility for rat control. A similar ordinance exists in Kirkland, except that 21.41.302(e) says "The owner or occupant of real property shall keep buildings and premises free from rats, mice and other rodents", where "premises" includes the land (thus, it is the land-owner's responsibility). The "owner" is defined as

any person, agent, operator, firm or corporation having a legal or equitable interest in the property; or recorded in the official records of the state, county or municipality as holding title to the property; or otherwise having control of the property, including the guardian of the estate of any such person, and the executor or administrator of the estate of such person if ordered to take possession of real property by a court

so Kirkland must eliminate rats in its parks. But there is an exception that

The provisions of this section shall not apply to wetlands, unimproved parks, greenbelts or other unimproved property if the property owner or occupant has not committed any acts or omissions that increase the likelihood of rat, mice or other rodent infestation

and it's not clear whether there are any improved property owned by the city that has rats. King County (which contains Tukwila and Kirkland) does not appear to have any rodent control ordinances apart from one pertaining to kennels, not surprisingly since most of the county is out in the woods. There are often municipal agencies that provide "assistance" in rodent control (not that they do it, but they may tell you what to do), but generally the responsibility is on the property owner.

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