Sometimes bats can show up unexpectedly while carrying out building works. If you or your contractors find a bat (or bats) during building work, there’s no need to panic – but you do need to take the situation seriously. We recommend you follow these three simple steps:
- Pause all works
- Make sure the bat is not in danger
- Seek advice about the works
Please read the FAQ below and follow the links for further advice.
Am I in trouble if I find bats during building work?
While it is illegal to disturb a bat roost, you will not be in trouble if you act responsibly as soon as the bats are found. We recommend that you pause all work immediately and seek advice from your SNCO or an ecological consultant. The aim of the various advice services is to help you continue with your work legally while reducing the chances of accidentally harming any bats or their roosts.
I only saw one bat! Is that really a roost?
Yes, a roost is defined in law as any place a wild bat uses for shelter or protection. The number of bats doesn’t matter. Neither do factors like the age of the building or how long the bats are likely to have been there. Every roost is important, and bats rely on a number of roosts in lots of locations if they are going to survive. Protecting the roost you found, no matter the size, is an important contribution to bat conservation
The bat flew away / disappeared, can I carry on with work?
A roost is protected by law whether bats are present in it or not. We strongly recommend putting the work on hold until you’ve had advice.
Can I work on another part of the building while I wait?
We strongly advise against this until you’ve had advice. There may be bats in other parts of the building too, or work you do in another area may still affect the roost.
I’m a contractor and the owner is pressuring me to carry on with work despite finding bats, what should I do?
We recommend explaining to the owner that both you and they have a legal obligation to seek advice before carrying on with work to a bat roost. If you didn’t seek advice and the law was broken, you could be held responsible along with the owner. The penalties can include an unlimited fine and seizure of proceeds and/or equipment. Many bat roosts are saved every year because contractors stand firm and do the right thing.
How do we get this advice?
In many cases, you’ll be eligible for free advice from your Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation (SNCO). If the work isn’t eligible for free SNCO advice, the owner will need to hire an ecological consultant instead.
What should I do with the bat in the meantime?
If the bat is still in the roost, please leave it there. If possible, please gently replace whichever item that was covering it.
If the bat is exposed and cannot be re-covered, or has come out of the area where it was found, please contain it according to our instructions. Your SNCO or an ecologist may be able to help you with the bat when you ring about the works, but if not, please phone the National Bat Helpline on 0345 1300 228. If the Helpline is closed, please check for a regional helpline in your area or take the bat to a local vet.
I can’t get through to my SNCO or an ecologist – can I carry on with work?
While the SNCOs service is unlikely to be open 24-hours per day, the roost remains legally protected whether they are open or not. If your SNCO is closed for the day or the weekend, we recommend you put the works on hold until they reopen, or ask the owner to hire an ecological consultant who may be able to responds more quickly. You can often make a site watertight using tarpaulin or bitumen roofing felt (not non-bitumen roofing membrane); please leave one edge unsealed so any bats underneath can escape if doing this.
Don’t forget that the best way to prevent this situation is to check for bats before you start works. Click here to read about some of the signs that bats may be using a building.