How Can You Tell If An Apartment Has Roaches Before You Move In?

How can you tell if an apartment has roaches before you move in - 1

Before new tenants move in, a majority of landlords and property managers usually ensure that a rental unit is that is to be occupied is well prepared by cleaning it properly and ensuring that is habitable. This is why it can be disappointing when you move into your new apartment only to discover that there is a roach infestation that you have to deal with. To avoid running into such an issue, read on to find out the signs that might indicate the presence of a cockroach population as well as the common hiding places of these critters that you might want to check.

How can you tell if an apartment has roaches before you move in? If there is a pungent, musty odor especially near typically food rich areas such as the kitchen and basement, the rental unit could be infested by roaches. Another common indicator of a roach infestation is the presence of roach feces.

Their droplets closely resemble oval pellets or coffee grounds depending on the species present. You might also come across dead roaches, and in rental units where the roach infestation is severe, you might even see live roaches scurrying across the floor. Since roaches are rarely in plain sight during the day, consider checking common roach hiding spots such as appliances, furniture, kitchen cabinets, and the various nooks and crannies in the apartment to determine if there are signs of their presence.

The presence of roaches in apartments that have no occupants is not unheard of. In fact, cockroaches are known to survive for weeks without food so even without the presence of a tenant, they can still survive. Furthermore, they have a diverse diet that allows them to feed on other organic matter than human food, so any items that may be present in the unoccupied unit such as cardboard and wallpaper paste can serve as food for roaches.

Signs of a cockroach infestation to look out for before moving in

There are various indicators that can help you determine if there is a cockroach in a rental unit that you intend to live in.

1. Visual sighting of a cockroach

Since cockroaches are nocturnal creatures, they are most likely to come out of hiding at night to look for food and water. However, it is not unheard of to spot a roach in broad daylight. This is a sign that the infestation in the apartment has been going on for a while, and due to overcrowding and limited food sources, the roaches have been forced out in the open so as to survive. 

You may also come across dead roaches around the areas where they usually hide out. Dead cockroaches are not a definite indication that the infestation is over, but rather that it is ongoing.

2. A pungent odor

A roach infestation that is established emits a lingering odor that is often described as musky and oily that taints all the areas of a home they come in contact with. For apartments that are infested by German cockroaches, there will be an odor even if they are in small numbers. Roaches also emit an unpleasant odor when they are dead due to the production of oleic acid as their bodies decompose.

3. Cockroach droplets

Roaches feed on a wide range of organic matter, and since they have a high metabolic rate, they tend to leave their fecal matter wherever they go.  Roach droppings can resemble oval pellets, flecks of black pepper, or coffee grounds, depending on the species present, and they also vary in size. If you notice a significant number of droppings in the apartment, the level of infestation is likely high, and you will want to avoid it at all costs.

4. Shed skin

Since the bodies of roaches have a rigid outer cuticle that does not stretch, they need to molt in order to be able to keep growing. When the time comes for them to shed their skin, they will find a secure location for the process to take place. Therefore, if there are roaches in the apartment you move into, you will likely come across light-colored roach cuticles of varying sizes in their hiding spots.

5. Egg cases

Roaches are known to be aggressive breeders, and their populations can grow incredibly fast when the conditions are favorable. Like other similar pests, roach eggs develop in casings that are referred to as oothecae. These casings are often deposited in sheltered areas that are rarely disturbed such as the space under sinks or behind appliances. If you check these areas and find broken casings or intact eggs, this is an indication of a roach infestation.

6. Smear marks

If there is water in the apartment that roaches can access, they will likely leave behind irregular smear marks that can as they move around. Check for these marks on flat surfaces and at the junction where the floor and wall meet.

7. Damage to the property

As previously mentioned, roaches have a diverse diet, feeding on just about anything that they find in their way. They might leave behind chew marks on items such as cardboard, wallpaper, and leather, and any other item made of organic matter that may be present in the unoccupied unit. Ensure that you inspect the items that come with an apartment before you move in for signs of roach damage.

Hiding spots you might want to check

Roaches are quite good at staying out of sight, and an apartment that is yet to be occupied offers plenty of hiding spaces. These are some of the areas you might want to look in order to determine if there are roaches in a unit.

1. Electronics

TVs, clocks, stereos, and other electronics that may be provided in the apartment prior to your moving in could be harboring roaches. Electronics tend to be overlooked when they are being cleaned, yet they have small crevices through which roaches can crawl through and hide.

2. Trims and moldings

Trims and moldings are dark and tight areas that provide great hiding spaces for roaches. These creatures are nocturnal, hence their preference for darkness. They are also thigmotropic, which means that they like the feel of solid substances against their bodies, hence their preference for tight areas.

3. Appliances

Large appliances such as refrigerators and ovens are great havens for roaches since they provide the dark, rarely disturbed environment that they seek. Smaller gadgets such as microwaves are also quite popular with these pests. In general, any machine that has a running motor will draw roaches since they provide heat, refuge, and food debris when a tenant moves in. During a walkthrough for an apartment you could potentially move into, be sure to check under or behind the appliances that may be provided.

4. Furniture

Pieces of furniture tend to have crevices that are dark, making them ideal spots for roaches to live and lay their eggs. Ensure that you inspect these areas carefully for egg casings and live or dead roaches before signing the lease.

5. Pipes

Another area of an apartment where roaches thrive even in the absence of an occupant is the plumbing pipes. This is because they are moist and dark, conditions that allow roaches to thrive. Although exposed piping in an apartment is a desirable aesthetic for some tenants, it could be a hiding spot for roaches that you might want to have inspected.

6. Utilities

Roaches have been known to hide in utilities such as water heaters, window air conditioners, and humidifiers since they provide them with moisture. As a result, you will want to look for roach activity around or within these areas.

7. Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets and pantries also tend to harbor roaches even if they are empty. This is because they are dark, and if they are not thoroughly cleaned, they might still have food crumbs that the roaches can feed on and sustain their populations even when there is no occupant in the unit.

8. Cracks and crevices

Apartments, in general, have all sorts of nooks and crannies that can make ideal roach hiding spots. This includes cracks in the wall or even in the ceiling that may have been overlooked during repairs that are usually carried out before a new tenant moves in.

How to avoid roaches when you move out

Finding the ideal, roach-free apartment is a great achievement, but before you move out, you will want to inspect your belongings for any signs of roaches. Otherwise, finding a rental unit that doesn’t have these pests would be pointless since an infestation will likely occur anyway. To avoid this possibility, here are some tips on how to keep roaches out of your new apartment.

1. Check appliances and electronics

If the infestation in your apartment is extreme, you may be better off getting rid of small electronic and electric appliances such as alarm clocks and coffee pots. These items provide great hiding spots for roaches, and it is practically impossible to treat such appliances. However, if you are keen on bringing these with you, ensure that you inspect them carefully check them, keep them in sealed plastic bags that are unpacked, and leave them there until you have to unpack. Do this for televisions, video equipment, computers, audio equipment, etc. Inspect them before you put them in the plastic bags, and check them again before taking them out.

2. Check kitchen items

Ensure that your pans, pots, and cooking utensils are clean and dry before packing them. Discard any food items that show signs of being infested, and store the remainder in airtight containers.

3. Use the appropriate packing materials

Consider using plastic bins that have lids which can be sealed rather than cardboard boxes when packing your items. Cardboard boxes are convenient hiding places for roaches since they can effortlessly squeeze through the crevices within the cardboard. Furthermore, if you use cardboard boxes from other sources such as your local store or supermarket, there is a chance that they could be already infested. If your only option is cardboard boxes, ensure that you shake them out and check them before storing your items in them.

4. Check any plants you are taking with you carefully

Ornamental plants are a great aesthetic addition, but they could also be harboring roaches without your knowledge. If you intend to take your plants with you to your apartment, inspect them. Check the dirt for any signs of movement, and also check the stems, leaves, and the pot as well. If you are not too sure about the plants, you are better off getting rid of them.

5. Wash your linens and clothes

Although roaches are not commonly found in clothes and linens, taking the extra caution may reduce the chances of an infestation in your new place. Before you move out, wash these items using warm water to get rid of any lingering roach eggs. Pack them in sealed plastic containers or vacuum-sealed plastic bags to prevent roaches from accessing them.

6. Treat your cabinets and dressers with residual insecticides

If you suspect that the cabinets and dressers that you intend to take with you to your new apartment have roaches, treat them using a residual insecticide after you empty them completely. Pay extra attention to the corners, shelves, and any other hard to reach areas where roaches might hide.

7. Inspect the bags you plan to use

Before packing your belongings into your backpack or suitcase, ensure that they don’t have roaches or their eggs. Wash them with hot water just to be sure and make sure that they are completely dry before packing.

Final Thoughts

Roaches can be quite difficult to get rid of when they find their way into your home, so moving into a rental unit that is already infested is hardly the ideal. Ensure that you look out for all the signs that may indicate the presence of roaches, and if you notice any, consider looking at other units. If you are set on moving into a unit that clearly shows signs of infestation, ask the property owner to carry out extermination before moving in.

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author, and she enjoys traveling, reading, and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC.

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