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Are bats sucking the blood out of your sale?

Friday 21 September 2018

House sales are tricky enough, but what happens when there are bats living in the property you are selling? Here's what you need to know...

The UK is currently home to 18 species of bat, all of which have European protection, and as such, special consideration must be given to properties where bats have taken up home - as not only do they have strong legal protection, their roosts do too.

Bats are woodland animals by nature, but with natural roosting sites in trees falling, many have come to use houses (old and new), churches, bridges and schools to roost. And whilst it's not always easy to tell if bats are roosting in a property, it is important that you understand the legal do's and don'ts when it comes to these fluffy fellows.

Bats and the law

Due to loss of habitat, destruction of roosts and hunting, bats have been declared an endangered species, meaning that all species of bat in the UK are now protected by law. In England and Wales, bats are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended); the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000; the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (NERC) 2006; and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. In Scotland they're covered by the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c) Regulations 1994 and in Northern Ireland bats are listed under the Conservation (Natural Habitats etc) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995.

It is a criminal offence to deliberately capture, injure or kill a bat; intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat in its roost, or a group of bats; damage or destroy a bat roosting place (even if bats are not occupying the roost at the time); or intentionally or recklessly obstruct access to a bat roost. Failure to comply with legislation can lead to criminal prosecutions.

Under Consumer Protection Regulations (CPR) it is essential that you advise any potential buyers if bats are found to be nesting in a property you are selling, as withholding the information may influence their decision.

Bat fact check

Bats often get a bad rep, so we're here to set the record straight with a few myth busting facts:

  • Bats are not rodents, and will not nibble or gnaw at wood, wires or insulation.
  • Bats do not build nests and therefore do not bring bedding material into the roost; neither do they bring their insect prey into the roost.
  • All bats in the UK eat insects, so they are a great form of natural pest control.
  • Female bats usually have only one baby a year, so properties do not become 'infested'.
  • Bats are clean and sociable animals and spend many hours grooming themselves.
  • Bat droppings in the UK are dry and crumble away to dust. As a result, there are no known health risks associated with them.
  • The threat of rabies from UK bats is extremely low. Rabies can only be transmitted through a bite or scratch from an infected bat, so if you're not handing them, you aren't at risk.

The building surveying team at Scotland’s leading independent property consultancy, Galbraith, have recently advised on a number of bat cases, and this is what James Taylor from the surveying team had to say: “When planning any project that creates a risk of disturbance to bats, or indeed any other protected species during their breeding cycle, it is vital to start preparations early and plan ahead.

“There are a range of measures that can be undertaken including the timing of any move or planned work to avoid the breeding season and the installation of bat boxes to re-house any bats.”

If you would like further advice about bat care and roosts, you can contact the National Bat Helpline by phone on 0345 1300 228 or get in touch by email.