Some rental properties provide a thorough cleaning, new coats of paint, and even renovations between tenants. However, some don’t do much preparation at all except hand you your key. Even if your apartment looks sparkling clean and inviting, there might be some nasty critters, nestled in that thick carpeting, or inside the walls. When I moved into my very first apartment, I soon discovered (after many bug bites) that the apartment had a flea infestation from the previous tenant.
So don’t be like me, discovering pests after you move in with all your clothes and furniture. Instead, walk through the apartment carefully before you sign the lease, looking for these signs of unwanted housemates. By diligently checking for a possible pest infestation, you can address the issues with the landlord and take precautions to avoid contaminating your belongings (and yourself).
The presence of roach feces guarantees that the rental apartment harbors these creatures of the dark. Roach feces resemble coffee grounds or small cylindrical pellets. Since roaches are nocturnal, seeing one in the daytime or seeing evidence of dead roaches in the property is a sign that the infestation is active and extermination should be scheduled before you move in. Some roaches also give off a distinctive smell, so be aware of musty or oily odors especially near moisture and food-rich areas like the pantry, kitchen, or basement.
Bed bugs are wingless insects that look like apple seeds – round, flat, and about as big. Bed bugs give off a sweet chemical odor and can survive a year without food. The presence of shed skin from young bugs will show that the infestation is active. Dark stains on pillows and mattresses (which probably won’t come with your new rental), or dark mounds on hard surfaces are actually bed bug feces. Bed bug bites are notoriously itchy and can leave welts on the skin.
The possibility of a flea infestation is likely in apartments or rental homes where renters are allowed to keep cats or dogs. Look around the floors and counters for evidence of flea dirt. This will look like coarse pepper, and it will turn brownish-red if you get it a bit wet. Flea dirt indicates the presence of adult fleas that expelled the “dirt” as feces. Another way to identify fleas is to find the fleas themselves. If possible, wear long white socks to check out the apartment, and take your shoes off. If you walk around (especially on carpets), and you notice dark specks against your white socks, look a little closer. Those specks may be fleas.
Termites are very harmful because they can ruin the wooden structure of a building – everything from staircases, support beams, and walls. First, look for a film of gritty dust on wood in the apartment, a sign that termites may have been digging. More obviously, look around for mud tubes – long tubes, about the width of pencil, that look like dried mud. Termites create these mud tubes when they can’t directly tunnel through wood. The presence of wings or a swarm of flying insects is a sure sign of active infestation.
No one wants to deal with a mice infestation, but the furriest of the bunch tend to leave behind signs of their existence. The best method to use in searching for mice is to keep an eye out for the droppings they leave behind. Mice are nocturnal animals, so if you see them during the day, or hear them in the walls when you visit an apartment, there’s likely more than one around. However, even if you don’t see one directly, check around for some other telltale signs, including signs of chewing – to keep their teeth in line, mice will chew almost anything. Also search for a musky scent, or tracks in any dust in the apartment. As another precaution, be sure to look for droppings in places your landlord may not have cleaned carefully, especially in closets, cabinets, or corners.
Mold isn’t strictly a “pest” but it can definitely be unpleasant and possibly dangerous. Mold loves moisture, so before you sign the lease, be sure to look for signs of moisture in unusual places. Open cabinets to check whether sink pipes might be leaking. Examine the walls for bulging or discoloration, in case there is a roof leak, or moisture within the walls. Spend a little extra time checking the bathroom around the sink, toilet, and shower areas. A musty odor, especially in the kitchen, bathroom, or basement, may indicate the presence of mold.
What to Do?
It’s much easier to clean an apartment or perform an extermination before a tenant moves in, rather than after there’s furniture and bedding everywhere. By keeping in mind these signs to look for, you can request that the property owner fix any problems before you move in. That way, your rental won’t bite you, and you don’t have to worry about what might be crawling in the carpets.
Our guest blogger, Maya Rodgers, gets her expertise from working in termite treatment for Terminix and doesn’t want anyone to have to worry about termites or anything else. Also a mother, animal lover, and gardener, she can be found blogging at her own site www.petsandpests.com