Ben Martin talks Feb. 26 about how bats came into his Sabattus home through several places, including around the chimney. He and his family were terrified by bats flying around the house after moving in. They called Rich Burton from Specialized Wild Animal Trapping to help mitigate the infestation. “The worst part of the entire ordeal was all of us having to get a series of rabies shots. Those hurt and it was no fun getting the kids there after the first two times,” said his wife, Meghan. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Ben Martin dismissed an appearance of a bat in his new Sabattus home as a one-off incident, but more of the winged creatures kept showing up, eventually driving the family batty and out of the house.

“(The house) is absolutely beautiful. Everything was great — until day No. 5,” Martin said with a laugh. “We found the first one. We just thought it was a fluke because the kids left the sliding-glass door open without the screen door.

“We didn’t really panic the first time, and two or three nights later, there was another one. This time, it was flying around the house so that was interesting.”

That’s when the Martin family turned to a wildlife expert, who took a look and spent 90 minutes speaking with the Martins about removing the bats.

“He thought it was a colony of maybe 25, 30 (bats) — something like that,” Martin said, glad it wasn’t hundreds. “Obviously, it still needed to be taken seriously due to the risk of rabies, so on and so forth.”

Martin also reached out to state Rep. Jonathan Connor, R-Lewiston, to discuss the bat problem. Connor took Martin’s problem to heart and recently introduced LD 355, “An act to require pest disclosure in all real estate transactions.”

“Originally, we thought it was a brand new problem, and then when the wildlife expert came over, he is like, ‘This has been an ongoing problem for a little while,’” Martin said.

Ben and Meghan Martin sit with one of their children, Colette, in their Sabattus home on Feb 26. Shortly after moving in they were terrorized by bats flying around the house. They called Rich Burton from Specialized Wild Animal Trapping to help mitigate the infestation. “The worst part of the entire ordeal was all of us having to get a series of rabies shots. Those hurt and it was no fun getting the kids there after the first two times,” said Meghan. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The family vacated the home and stayed with family for several weeks while the issue was being resolved.

According to Martin, the real estate agents found receipts from the former owners of the home that were paid to an exterminator. Martin said the wildlife expert pointed out that the measures to deter the bats’ entry were not done correctly.

The Martin family, including his wife, Meghan, and his three children — Genevieve, Corbin and Colette — received a full round of rabies shots, following Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention recommendations. The guidelines urge people who have slept in a house where bats are present to be vaccinated because it is impossible to rule out being scratched or bitten by a bat in their sleep.

“We have a 2-year-old daughter that got shots and that is never fun,” Martin said. “It was recommended so we did what we did.”

According to Connor’s testimony during the public hearing on his bill, “Ultimately, the family’s health insurance covered the medical expenses and the realtors in the transaction contributed toward the cost of repairs, allowing the family to safely move back into the home.”

Connor said his bill is important for many reasons.

“I think it is a very good consumer protection bill,” he said. “When you look at some of our other states in the nation, I mean most Southern states all have some sort of pest disclosure in their real estate transaction disclosure document.

“Granted, most of them down there are for termites or wood-borne pests, but I said in my testimony there are other states like Connecticut, close to home, New York, some of the Northern states also have pest disclosures in their real estate transaction documents, so we feel that it really helps the consumer have all of the information at their disposal to make the best decision possible.”

The Maine Association of Realtors is opposing the bill. Andrew Cashman, an attorney and partner at Preti Flaherty who represents the association, said in testimony that the bill’s language “is vague and open to interpretation.

“The potential confusion posed by the inclusion of this proposed language is precisely why the existing statute is drafted as it is: Rather than articulate numerous unappealing or dangerous circumstances that could befall a home, the (current) statute imposes a broad disclosure requirement,” Cashman testified.


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