buying a home using owner-financing

3 Tips For Recognizing An Infestation Before You Rent

by April Perry

There are so many things to think about when you're looking for a new apartment or townhome for rent in your area. The number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the lease terms, the affordability of the rent, the school district, the potential new neighbors – all of these things and more will be on your mind when you start touring rental homes. It can be easy to miss something important when there are so many different things to keep in mind. But the one thing that you don't want to miss is the signs that the rental home you're looking at has a pest infestation. Unfortunately, an infestation can be easily missed, especially if you're in a hurry to sign a lease and get moved in. Here are a few tips that can help you avoid moving into a rental home that's already occupied by pests.

Schedule a Late Viewing

Many of the pests that commonly infest rental homes are nocturnal. That's why it's sometimes difficult to see an infestation during a regular rental home tour that's scheduled during daylight hours. While it's unlikely that you're going to get a landlord to agree to show you a rental home late at night, scheduling a viewing of the home for dusk may give you a clearer idea of the pest situation in the rental unit – especially if you take your time poking around in the nooks and crannies of the townhouse or apartment while the sun goes down.

Take a flashlight with you so that you can get a good look at places that are hard to see at any time of the day, like the space underneath the kitchen sink or behind the hot water heater. You should also be on the lookout for any sense of something scurrying away just as you turn the light switch on. You may not actually see a quick rodent, but you should trust your ears and your other senses as much as your eyes.

Follow Your Nose

No matter what time of day you visit your prospective rental home, you may be able to use your nose to determine whether or not the home has a pest infestation. Different types of pests give off their own distinctive odors, and if you can make out those odors when you walk into a rental home that you're considering, it can be a pretty big red flag that it's not the home for you.

Roaches have a somewhat oily, musky odor that's usually only detectable when there are many of them in one place, although German cockroaches can have a strong odor individually. Bed bugs, on the other hand, give off a scent that resembles the spice coriander (in fact, "coriander bug" is an old name for bed bugs). However, when there are many bed bugs together in one place, the smell more closely resembles the scent given off by a stink bug. Furry pests like mice and rats produce an ammonia-like smell, because they tend to spray in an attempt to mark their territory. Look for this scent in closed locations, like cupboards and closets. Any of these scents should warn you off of a potential rental home.

Talk to Other Tenants

If the previous tenant of the rental home that you're considering is still living in the home, take the time to ask them about any problems they have in the home, and especially with pests. Unlike a landlord, a departing tenant should have no reason to downplay a problem with the property. This will also give you a chance to see how the previous tenants live. If they don't keep a clean kitchen or take out the garbage often enough, the place is more likely to have pests.

Apartments, townhouses, and condos all share close quarters with neighbors, and that means they also share pests. Roaches, bed bugs, and rodents all travel easily between connected properties. So talking to your potential neighbors can also help you discover whether or not the rental home you're considering has a pest problem that you need to be concerned about. And if there are no pests, then you've already taken the first steps toward getting to know your neighbors!

Once you move into a place with a pest infestation, it can be hard to get rid of the bugs, and you may be stuck with the problem as long as you're bound by the lease. Or you can be stuck with them even past that point – when you pack up and move, some pests will hitch a ride to your new place via your furniture or bedding. It's best to avoid infested rentals in the first place, which is why you should pay close attention to the signs of an infestation. 

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