How Can You Tell If an Apartment Has Bed Bugs Before You Move In?


The thought of bed bugs in an apartment is enough to make any home owner shudder in fear. The best solution to a bed bug infestation is to avoid getting one at all costs. There are several ways to do this, especially if you have been thinking about moving into a new apartment.

How can you tell an apartment has bed bugs before you move in? You can tell if an apartment has bed bugs by having professionals inspect it or by finding out from the landlord or the residents of the building. You can also find out on your own using some of the techniques listed below.

Bed bugs are a home owner’s worst nightmare. They infest homes all over the world. Identifying a bed bug infestation before moving into an apartment will save you a lot of trouble. Not only will it save you a lot of money that would otherwise be spent on pest control, but will also be a huge relief mentally.

Confirm with your neighbors

Another way of finding out whether an apartment is infested with bed bugs or not is by confirming with the neighbors. This is relatively easy as all you need to do is to introduce yourself to your potential neighbors and get the inside scoop on the building.

Talking to the neighbors will let you get the general idea of the quality and the cleanliness of the apartments. Another reason why it might be a good idea to talk to neighbors is the fact that the residents will be more willing to tell you what the landlord won’t. The residents will give you an honest opinion of the bed bug situation since they are not trying to convince you to rent one of their apartments.

In case of a previous infestation, the residents will also tell you how the problem was solved. This will help you determine the risk of having a bed bug infestation in your apartment.

Talk with your landlord

Before you move into your new apartment, you should first ask your landlord about past bed bug infections. Bed bugs can spread quite easily and they arrive in a rental property through the tenants or their guests. This makes bed bug control to be especially difficult in apartment buildings. 

This is why many people looking to rent would want to know if a place has had bed bug history before they sign a rental agreement or a lease. Landlords might be required to give their prospective tenants information about the bed bug history of the rental property. This, however, depends on the local law of your area. Even if it may not be required by the law, it doesn’t hurt to follow up on the issue.

You should also know that landlords are prevented by law from renting out units that have a known current bed bug infestation. They are also required by law to investigate possible bed bug infestations in their units as soon as possible.

If there is a suspected bed bug infestation, the landlord should hire a professional exterminator to inspect the property and its adjoining units for bed bugs. The professional will then attempt to find out where the bed bugs came from and how much they have spread.

Landlords are required to provide habitable housing for their tenants. If the apartment is infested with bed bugs and you did not introduce the bed bugs, it is usually the responsibility of the landlord to take care of the extermination. However, determining the person responsible for introducing the bed bugs to the apartment is very difficult most of the time especially in a large apartment complex. Therefore, the landlord settling the extermination bill is not always a guarantee. 

Conduct a Canine Inspection

Dogs have been used to detect a wide variety of things including bombs, drugs, fugitives, termites, and mold. Bed bugs release pheromones. For this reason, canines can be used in the scent detection of bed bugs. There are several canine scent detection companies available that offer scent detection services for bed bugs.  

Properly trained sniffer dogs are capable of identifying and exposing bed bug infestations. One of the factors that makes conducting a canine inspection for bed bugs before moving in a viable option is the fact that a properly trained bed bug canine can detect bed bugs at all their life stages. They are capable of detecting live bed bugs and live bed bug eggs. A canine bed bug inspection is the only technique capable of detecting bed bugs at all their life stages by scent.

Canine bed bug inspections also record high percentages of accuracy. Certified bed bug inspection dogs are said to be as effective and accurate as bomb sniffing canines. These dogs have the ability to detect bed bug activity by following bed bug scent inside walls, mattresses and furniture.

In addition to the accuracy of the inspections they conduct, bed bug canines are also record very fast inspection times. They can search the entire apartment within a very short period of time. They take much less time to inspect an apartment than the time that would have been spent conducting a visual inspection.

The canines also inspect your rooms with minimal disruption of whatever is in the rooms. Since the dogs have strong scent detection skills, it won’t be necessary to dismantle furniture, remove the baseboards and pull up the carpet in the apartment while inspecting for bed bugs. The entire process will be carried out without any sort of damage to the apartment. In addition, conducting a canine bed bug inspection is completely legal. Properly trained and certified dogs are recognized by the court of law as scientific instruments in the battle against bed bugs. 

It should, however, be noted there are chances of getting false positives and false negatives. Canine scent detection is very effective but it is important to realize that every dog is different. You should therefore research on the dog and handler team to know what to expect from them during the inspection.

A well-trained bed bug inspection canine is capable of detecting very small numbers of live bed bugs, with some capable of finding even the one bed bug in the apartment. Some, however, are unable to differentiate between a live infestation and what’s left over from an old infestation.

The best way of conducting a canine inspection is by using a double-blind confirmation method. This method involves using at least two dogs and their handlers. The dogs are to inspect the apartment independently and then comparing the results of the two inspections. If the dogs indicate that the same areas are infested by bed bugs independently of one another, then there is a high chance that there are bed bugs present in the apartment.         

Look for the signs yourself

If you really want to have peace of mind, you can inspect the apartment yourself before moving in. But first, you will need to understand bed bug behavior. This will increase your chances of detecting a bed bug invasion in the apartment.

Bed bugs are nocturnal, meaning that they are most active at night. They feed mostly at night but they will seek food in broad daylight if they are hungry.

There are plenty of spaces where bed bugs can hide in an apartment. Their flat bodies and small size enable them to hide in thin cracks and crevices around the house. They are also attracted to warmth and they tend to hide in sheltered areas around the apartment. You should focus on these areas when inspecting the apartment. 

Where to check

When inspecting the apartment for a possible infestation, you need to be on the alert for some tell-tale signs that indicate the presence of bed bugs. Paying attention to certain areas may enable you to detect even low-level infestations that would otherwise be missed.  Some of these signs include:

1. Presence of a strange odor

Bed bugs usually leave a strange sweet odor. The smell can also be musty, similar to that of a wet towel. Bed bugs release pheromones in the presence of other bed bugs. In the case of a high population of bed bugs in an apartment, the scent can be very strong. If this is the case, you should probably have the apartment inspected for bed bugs before moving in.

2. Fecal spots and blood stains

The presence of bed bugs can also be detected by the presence of blood and fecal spots around the apartment. Although bed bugs are nocturnal creatures making it difficult to see them during the day, they are messy and leave evidence of their presence, especially when in large numbers. Bed bugs feed on the blood of their hosts. The blood may get stained on the walls or curtains.

It is important to note that the fecal spots differ from the blood stains. The fecal spots are stains from their fecal matter which is dark brown or black in color as opposed to the blood stains which are dark red in color.   

The fecal spots can be seen as dark spots on the walls and ceilings. These spots smear when touched and they leave behind a bad smell. You should also look for these spots under the wallpaper.

3. Presence of molted skins and bed bug shells

Another way of telling whether an apartment is infested with bed bugs is by looking for their shells and molted skins. Molting is the process by which bed bugs shed their outer exoskeleton. The egg shells and molted skins are usually located where the bed bugs aggregate.

Bed bugs feed on blood and the blood meal enables them to grow until they reach maturity. As they grow through to maturity, bed bugs shed their exoskeletons to allow for their growing bodies to develop new exoskeletons that will accommodate their size. This is molting.

Bed bugs molt five times in their lifetime. Therefore, each bed bug sheds its exoskeleton five times before reaching maturity. If there is a bed bug infestation in the apartment, be sure to find hundreds if not thousands of shed exoskeletons. This will indicate the presence of bed bugs in the apartment.  

4. Presence of tiny white spots 

The presence of tiny white spots in the sheltered areas of the apartment might be an indicator of the presence of bed bugs in the apartment. These tiny white spots might be bed bug eggs. 

Female bed bugs are capable of laying about 200 to 250 eggs in their lifetime. The eggs are milky-white in color and they are grain like. They are tiny, measuring about 1mm in length. The eggs are either laid in clusters or singly.

The eggs are usually hidden in cracks and crevices around the apartment. They can also be found under the carpet, particularly around the edges. You can also find the eggs by inspecting the closet and carefully inspecting the drawers. 

Once you have identified all the potential areas where the bed bugs might be hiding, you can use a playing card or your credit card by running it between baseboards and the floor and along cracks to see if any molted skin or fecal matter is visible.

Confirm with the bed bug registry

Before you move in to the apartment, it is also important to confirm your building with the bed bug registry. The bed bug registry is a site where people report bed bug activity in residential properties and hotels. However, it should be noted that the information available on the site is self-reported, hence the fact that your apartment building may not be listed on the registry does not mean that the unit is safe.

Final Thoughts

Bed bugs appear to prefer feeding on humans. They will, however, feed on other animals and birds as well. Bed bugs can also suck the blood of house hold pets. This means that your pets can also bring bed bugs into your home or transfer them to other rooms. You should, therefore, also look at your pets when inspecting for bed bugs in your apartment. 

There are no known diseases that can be transmitted by bed bugs. They can, however, affect the sleeping pattern of the people they feed on, leading to sleep related complications such as anxiety and depression. Their bites can also be very itchy, and the excessive scratching might leave your skin susceptible to secondary infection.

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author. She enjoys traveling, reading and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC. Connect with her at [email protected]

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