Relocating your family or your business is a complicated process and there are many things to keep in mind as you look at properties. Something you shouldn’t neglect is the possible presence of “roommates” waiting for you in the form of insects, spiders and rodents already in residence. Experts say that at least some of those critters are in every home in America. What home doesn’t have a single spider, ant, or moth? Some of these guests are harmless and don’t require remediation. Others, like mice, may carry viruses that can be harmful to humans, especially pregnant women. Other pests may also carry disease, or have potentially harmful venom. Still others may spoil food in storage and cost you money for replacement.
A serious infestation in some situations might be reason to look elsewhere for a new home or apartment. One way or another, the best time to deal with these creatures is before you’ve moved in. Recently, I was interviewed for an article in US News and World Report about that very thing. Here’s a summary of the recommendations from that article made by others and myself.
- Use your nose.
- Use your eyes.
- Look out for spots.
- Bring a flashlight.
- Look at the baseboards.
- When leasing, ask about the landlord’s pest control policy.
As you step into the house or apartment, take a moment to notice any unusual smells. Infestations of roaches and rodents typically carry a signature aroma. You should be able to detect the odor of a pretty heavy roach infestation—often described as oily, musty or sweet. Rodents, too, especially if they have established themselves, will have a characteristic scent. If you notice something, ask.
What do you see as you scan the area? Are there cockroaches visible in any of the cabinets? Are there traps or insect baits set out under the sinks? If so, you have a natural opportunity to ask the agent if there are ongoing pest problems that should be disclosed, what the history of that problem is, and if the issue has been resolved. Especially if there are live pests, you could stipulate that the problem be solved before you begin occupancy.
Brown spots in and around cabinets, which could be fecal matter, can be a sign of pests. Again, such evidence should initiate a conversation about the problem, its history and its resolution.
Take a few minutes to look at less obvious places. We’ve already mentioned kitchen cabinets where food might attract pests. Also look in closets and storage areas, away from the more heavily tracked area in front of the entrance. Again, the presence of spots or actual debris might indicate the presence of unwanted guests. Spider webs are often easily discovered in placed where people don’t walk. Not every spider is a problem, but some can be. A web may be the first clue on their trail.
Rodents will chew holes where the floor and wall meet as entry points into a room. They won’t be the perfect little arches you see in cartoons, but if you see holes, you may have evidence of mice or rat infestation. Baseboards are also a good place to spot evidence of bed bugs. In a room where the furniture has been removed, many of their usual hiding places will be missing. But around outlets and on baseboard, however, and particularly in bedrooms, you may find clues that bed bugs are in residence.
Because infestations in apartment buildings or commercial spaces are potentially embarrassing and may be reported and addressed piecemeal, it’s possible that a problem in one unit has affected another, even if there is no record of it. Bed bugs can travel from apartment to apartment even without some object on which to “hitchhike.” Rodents are equal opportunity pests, and having been evicted from one location, may simply move to another. Be sure to ask the leasing agent or property manager what pest control company they work with and what their policy is when it comes to pests.
In a perfect world, serious pest issues would be disclosed to you, and you could proceed with other aspects of home buying or space leasing with that information in hand. Often, however, it isn’t a perfect world. Protect yourself, your family or employees, and your own future comfort and piece of mind by taking some extra time and vigilance before the papers are signed. At ATCO, we are experienced, Diamond Certified, and ready to help you with your move.