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Martin Harris, of Westgate Gardens, Canterbury, blasts East Kent Housing over rat infestation

A council tenant is being forced to use his living room as a larder because of a rat infestation.

Fed-up Martin Harris says the kitchen of his ground floor flat in Westgate Gardens, Canterbury, is overrun with the rodents, forcing him to keep food behind his sofa.

The 49-year-old, who has lived in his home for 15 years, says that despite reporting the vermin to East Kent Housing until he is "black and blue in the face", it has persisted for more than two years.

“I get rats in my kitchen all the time,” he says.

“I can’t keep food out, so I’ve got to keep anything that can’t go in the fridge in my living room.
"I’ve basically got a little larder behind my sofa, with all my cereal boxes, packets of crisps, dry food and food for my dog.”

Mr Harris, who lives alone, says that until he stopped keeping food in his kitchen cupboards he would hear the rodents scurrying around every night.

“If I would go into the kitchen during the night to get a drink, I could hear them scarpering,” he continued.

“They’ll go for anything. Once I put teabags on the counter and went out to take my dog, Michael, for a walk.

"When I came back there were ripped teabags all over the counter, with tea leaves everywhere.

“I once tried putting food in my shopping trolley, thinking it would be safe in there, and they chewed through it.

Martin Harris has been forced to keep his food in his living room
Martin Harris has been forced to keep his food in his living room

“They even attacked my washing machine. I've had to have the repair guy out to put in a new waste pipe, because they chewed through that as well.”

Mr Harris’s neighbour, Jane Roberts, has pleaded with Mears, which carries out repairs for East Kent Housing, to tackle the infestation once again after she saw six of the rodents outside her home last Friday.

But the 54-year-old says she was told she would need to pay herself for pest control specialists to visit.

“I think it’s disgusting how they expect us to live like this," she said.

"Whenever you phone them up, they move you on to someone else.

“They’re saying it’s not down to them and that if I want someone to come out, I would have to pay for it with my own money, but I don’t have that kind of money.

“This block isn’t fit for human living. The rats run around like anything, and they’re massive.”

A rat trap laid by the council
A rat trap laid by the council

Although several rat traps have been laid outside the council-owned properties, Mr Harris, whose kitchen, bedroom and bathroom are also overrun with black mould due to ventilation problems, says not enough is being done to keep the homes habitable.

“I shouldn’t have to live like this,” he continued.

“When I first moved in, I never had problems. It was much better when our homes were managed by the council.

“I have had Mears come out to inspect the mould, but all they have done is take pictures.

“If I had my food in the kitchen, the rats would be back in a few days.

"But I don’t see why I should have to keep my food in my living room.

“I am just waiting for the time when they start coming into the living room and invading my living space. That’s what worries me.”

Jane Roberts saw six of the rodents outside her home last Friday
Jane Roberts saw six of the rodents outside her home last Friday

“There must be other ways of tackling the rat population, other than just putting down rat traps.”

A spokesman for East Kent Housing admits work is required.

“We have previously carried some work at Ms Roberts' property to help address the issues, and further work is required.

“While appointments have been made for this to take place, it was not possible to gain access at those times, so a further appointment has been booked for 24 April.

“We will be contacting Mr Harris to address the repairs issues he has raised.

“East Kent Housing has worked closely with specialist pest control officers to try and deal with reports of rats.

“As well as the placement of traps, advice has been given to tenants to help reduce food sources, and we are continuing to carry out work to address this.”

Read more: All the latest news from Canterbury

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