A council has told a distraught south Belfast family that its pest control service is too busy to deal with a swarm of rats which has infested their home.
he young family, including primary school-age children, have witnessed large rodents scurrying through their kitchen, living room and upstairs bathroom.
A total of 18 rats have been caught and killed in just three days at their terraced home on Edinburgh Street, off the Lisburn Road.
Despite their landlord's efforts to tackle the infestation with traps and poison, the rats keep coming back to the family house.
Belfast City Council said there is a long backlog for pest control, and the family, who reported the case on Tuesday, was advised that it could be two weeks before they are dealt with.
A spokeswoman said: "We are committed to responding as soon as possible but as there is a huge demand on our free pest control service, the caller was advised that it can take up to 10 to 14 days.
"An appointment was scheduled at the beginning of next week - well within the advised timeline - and advice offered on action that could be taken in the interim.
"It should be pointed out that the Council has no statutory responsibility for dealing with rats.
"However, in the 12 months to the end of March 2016, we dealt with more than 2,700 requests for service and baited more than 12,200 manholes."
It is thought that the rats are invading the property through a hole over a sewer in an alleyway to the back of the house.
The landlord said his efforts to explain the situation to the local authority fell on "deaf ears".
"The council told me it would be 10 days before someone could come out and look at it," he said.
"But that's not satisfactory, particularly as it's a family with three young kids and the rats are running through the house.
"The council told me that I would need to get a private firm. My man is doing what he can do with traps, but the problem is outside the house.
"I can't stand by and let this happen to my tenants. I couldn't deal with this on my own and I'm asking public authorities to deal with that problem and that's the response I got. This is falling on deaf ears.
"The tenants have lived at the property for two years. They first noticed the problem this time last year, and the maintenance man came out and dealt with it. But that was four or five rats.
"We then got the call on Friday evening about the new rats and we set up the traps and came back on the Sunday."
Some 10 rats had to be killed after being found in the traps. The following day, the tenants found two more running through their living room. Residents in the area said they had complained to the council several times about the infestation but that no action had been taken to resolve the issue.
An elderly woman said she spotted rats running up and down the street, while others claimed that the bins had not been emptied for a number of weeks.
Johnny McCluskey, who works in building maintenance, said that the incident was the worst case he had dealt with.
"I personally caught 16 rats after I set the traps on Friday, and I came back on the Sunday and I killed 10," he said.
"I have never come across anything on this scale in my life."