From the Forum – Bedbugs in a Unit I’m set to Rent – To Move or Not To Move?

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Bedbugs in a Unit I’m set to Rent – To Move or Not To Move?

“Looking for some advice on an apartment. I recently signed the lease but found out from the current tenant and then the management company that there is a bedbug problem – so they’ve delayed the move in for 14 days (so now I’m homeless for 2 weeks) , and are setting up 2 days for treatments. My friends in DC who have had bedbugs said its no big deal, however people I know in various other places have noted it can be a huge problem. This particular unit is in the Petworth area off of 13th Street and is an apartment building with 26 units. Checking online I’ve seen there haven’t been any problems reported for the past few years, but I am just concerned. I’ve had landlord issues in my current house and am looking to move somewhere to stay for a significant amount of time. Should I be deterred in moving to a place with bedbugs or is the management’s supposed responsiveness a bonus?”

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35 Comment

  • I think the fact that the management company is communicating this to you is a huge bonus.

  • All depends really. What does the current say about the bedbugs? How did he know they were there? Did he get any bites? Most people don’t get sick from bedbug bites, it’s more of a general fear of them.

    Also how good of a deal is the place? The rental market in DC is pretty tough so it’s not like you can find another cheap (if it is cheap) place that you like.

    And at least the management company is addressing it. See if you can talk to any other tenants since it’s a small building and ask how their experience has been with that management company.

  • Oh god, I have a deep and abiding paranoia about bedbugs, so my personal instinct would be to run. However, that may not be very rational of me, and I can definitely see where you wouldn’t want to launch a whole new housing search (or give up a good deal). In an attempt to look at this more rationally, I’d say it’s at least a good sign that management communicated this to you prior to move-in (unless they only did so because they were busted by the current tenant). I’d probably want to get a few more details about their treatment plan: what type of treatment are they doing, are they also treating the adjacent units, have there been any bedbug sightings in the adjacent units, etc.

  • You can get bed bugs any place, anywhere. I think it is good the management company is being proactive to get rid of them. Pest Control companies will do follow up treatments if there are still bug issues. I would go ahead and move in, knowing it’s been treated.

  • Try to find out how many units they’re treating and the severity of the infestation. If they’re treating one unit and it’s a large, well established infestation there is a good chance it has moved to other units, so they would need yo treat more than the one. If it’s new and it was caught very early treating the one is probably okay.

    Are they using heat or chemicals? Heat is better, it kills the eggs as well. Chemicals require multiple applications because they only kill the eclosed bugs.

  • Personally? I would ruuuuun.

    We just got done treating bed bugs in our house, and it’s been a long, expensive nightmare. I used to be skeptical of people who would talk about the emotional trauma of bed bugs, but man, I get it now. I’m highly allergic to the bites, and I am both literally and figuratively scarred. It really sucks when you feel like you have nowhere to get away from this thing that is attacking you when you are most vulnerable, in a place that is supposed to be safe.

    I echo the people who are saying to get more info on treatment. Two days to treat isn’t enough if they’re doing chemical treatments. Chemical treatments are very effective, but the reason you need multiple treatments over the course of a few weeks is due to the life cycle of the insect. Heat treatments are also effective, but if you don’t get them all, they’ll just breed back into old infestation levels. And since they’re apartments, you have got to confirm (in writing) the level of inspection and treatment that surrounding units have gotten. One of my friends KEPT GETTING THEM, because the rowhouse next door was filled with infested mattresses, and the landlord refused to treat.

    If you do decide to move in, make sure you have information about the treatments that are happening, both to your unit and to the neighboring units (don’t forget the upstairs and downstairs neighbors too!), and also get something in writing on what happens if the problem isn’t taken care of. Can you move out? Will he pay for additional treatments? Better to know now.

    • One other thing though- if you do end up moving in, you really, really should invest in some bed bug monitors. The following link has an FAQ about bed bug monitors.

      Also, that site is generally useful for their other FAQs, especially in learning how to identify bed bugs (at different stages of development), the signs of bed bugs (cast skins, fecal stains, etc), and bed bug bites. If you live in a city that has a bed bug problem (i.e., practically every city in the US at this point!), you should know how to look for this stuff.

      Also, invest in quality mattress and box spring covers that are specifically bed bug proof. That way, even if the problem isn’t contained fully, some of your more expensive furniture are protected. Even if you don’t have bed bugs, they’re all good things to have. My sister who recently bought a house is getting a useful (if super boring) housewarming gift of covers and climb up bed bug monitors.

    • We had bedbugs in my building and it took over a year to get rid of them. They spread to at least 4 neighboring apartments (not mine, thankfully) and the exterminators had to come multiple times a month. While it seems helpful the management company is being honest about their efforts to deal with the problem, I would be very careful and not assume the bedbugs will be gone by the time your delayed move-in date happens.

    • I suffered through a severe 18-month infestation in my former building. It is NOT worth it. Apart from the chronic welts all over my legs, you are facing the prospect of multiple treatments and a herculean effort to comply with pre-treatment protocols (basically, pack up all of your belongings as though you are moving). Secondly, the level of personal insecurity that they instill is psychologically exhausting. I was paranoid about transferring eggs to friends if I hugged them. I was also filled with trepidation about bringing an over night guest to my place (yes, your sex life may be adversely impacted). If you do decide to move in, you should find out if the management company is treating any community laundry facilities as well. It took some time and effort for the residents of my former building to demand that this area of the building be treated as well given that we were all bringing our soiled bedding to the same place and likely transferring eggs and nymphs to a communal space. Hope it all works out for you but proceed with extreme caution.

  • burritosinstereo

    HUGE bonus that they are being responsive. It sucks that your move-in date has been delayed, but at least you know that when you do move in, the management company has done what they can. Also, if this becomes a problem again in the future, you know that they will respond accordingly. I have heard horror stories of some management companies either denying that it’s a problem, or dragging their feet to do the treatment. But hopefully this won’t be a recurring issue!

    I hope they at least will be refunding/crediting you the two weeks that you won’t be able to live there!

  • Given they are a nightmare to get rid of and they are incredibly communicable, unless you trust that they’re treating all adjacent apartments and that those residents are taking the necessary pain-in-the-ass precautions to rid themselves of bedbugs, I would not move in there.

  • Figure out how they are treating the bugs. Short of irradiation, heat is the only sure-fire method.

  • As someone who was recently bitten by bed bugs, I would say be careful. It’s very itching and can cause some scarring depending on how many bugs bite you. If the unit is properly treated then you can move in, but you have to make sure it is properly treated. A friend who got bed bugs indicated that she had to toss quite a bit of the furniture in her apt as well as taking her clothes to a high end laundry facility in order to dry her clothes at a high temperature (not sure of the exact temp) in order to kill the bug and any possible eggs. She also had to get the unit bug bombed twice by an exterminator. I def agree with that above; find out exactly what they are doing to mitigate the problem.

    Also, check your lease and see if they are financially responsible for the time that you are homeless/can’t begin occupying the lease.

  • An apartment building that had a case of bed bugs shouldn’t scare you away. Living in a city with lots of transient activity (as in buses, metro, coffee shops) increase the chances someone may get a hitchhiker. This doesn’t mean they are dirty and poor. Bed bugs do not discriminate.

    Here’s the good, as others mentioned the fact that the management company is being so upfront about it is a very good sign. They are probably serious about getting ridding of the bugs in the entire building (vs keeping complaints to a minimum). The prep work prior to a bed bug treatment is a huge deal. Since you haven’t moved in (and assuming you haven’t brought furniture in there yet), it’s not much of hassle on your part. The pest management professional (PMP) will be able to treat all the area he needs to get to without the issue of clutter. Make sure they are licensed, highly rated, and expire fed with bed bug control (the janitor with a handful of bug bombs is a bad sign).

    Before moving in I would very carefully assess the demographics of the building. Yes, I said bed bugs don’t discriminate. But, a person’s behaviors and lifestyle will facilitate a minor problem becoming a major infestation. Does it seem like there are large groups is living in a 1 bedroom apartment? Do you think a tenant will freely pick up used furniture off the street? Call it profiling, call me wrong, but these are things I would want think about before moving in someplace. Bed bugs will travel between walls, floors, and along wires, so knowing what your neighbor will tolerate is important. If the PMPs are chasing an infestation around the building from one apartment to the next, you may have to live with this for a while.

    Lastly, following the treatments (you should have at least 2, 2 weeks apart to ensure no eggs are left), I would request a final inspection from the PMP. For good measure I would want the management company to also schedule inspections for neighbors (up, down, and to the sides). If no bugs are found, enjoy your new home!

    PS: but be on the lookout for bed bug indicators – stopping the problem before it gets out of control is critical.

  • Posted this in the forum but wanted to repeat it: DO NOT MOVE IN.

    Don’t move in. Sorry but having dealt with bedbugs in a previous house they do NOT go away easily and there is no guarantee. Once you are there you are stuck with them should they return. That means the bedbugs go into your belongings, furniture, clothes, etc. And there is never any guarantee that they go away.

    Seriously, just don’t move in. Sucks but that is the way it needs to be.

  • The management is legally obligated to respond to the bed bug problem if there is one. So I’m not really sure what sort of “bonus” they should be entitled to.

    Personally I would be deterred from renting there because I know people who have been affected by bed bugs and it seems to really suck. The treatments are not always totally effective especially if they are not treating every unit.

    But on the other hand, you have to weigh the option of living in an apartment that has just been treated against the option of finding another place that may have never been treated (or may be infested with them).

  • Simply put, its not worth it. I’ve been through the same exact experience of moving into a place when the former tenants had bugs. The supposedly cleared the bugs out before I moved in, but within weeks they were back. The only way I finally got rid of them was by moving out. You need to find somewhere else to live.

  • I worked for a pest control company and it would probably scare the crap out of you all if you knew the number and variety of places I’ve treated in the city and burbs. Sleep tight…

  • Unless they are Heat Treating the ENTIRE building and all the tenants are following instructions, RUN!
    We had repeated infestations over years because our neighbor in the next house lied about having them and they just kept coming back.

    Also someone needs to be sleeping in the apartment to serve as the bait for the bugs to come out and touch the poison.

  • My coworker had bed bugs and her apartment had to be treated like 5-6 times before they were finally gone for good. It sounded like a miserable process. One day she just burst into tears mid-sentence because she was so exhausted and frustrated from having to continually bag up her stuff, wash all her clothes/bedding, etc. etc. I would not move in unless this apartment is truly a steal.

  • There is no way I would move there. On a side note, if you do decide to move there, and your lease has already started (presumably 2 weeks ago), then I would ask for some sort of per diem from the landlord for the days you were not allowed to live in your unit. I do not mean a pro-rated month, but money to repay you for the cost of staying elsewhere (even if you are staying with friends for free).

  • Thanks All – I’m the OP. I’m leaning towards moving in (apartment is a great deal, in a great area, and the management is really working hard to take care of the issue, and after dealing with an unresponsive landlord renting a unit illegally I’m ready for a change). I understand what I’m walking into, and I’ll see if I can schedule one additional inspection for move in day. I won’t move in until they send me the clearance from American Pest (which they’re sending over). Still homeless/transient for a few weeks, but I’ll let you all know how it pans out.

    • Check to see if the management is treating the entire building. If they’re just treating your unit, know that you will most likely have bedbugs at some point. I lived in a bed-bug invested apartment once and you could not pay me to live in a building that has them. It’s just too miserable dealing with the bites and the itching.

    • American Pest is good peoples. They have lots of experience with bed bug control.

    • If I were you, I would not move I’m. Prior to have them, I wouldn’t have thought it was a big deal, but was a major disruption for many months until I moved. My landlords hired an experienced pest control co and had consistent, frequent treatments of all the units in the building around those that were infested- eventually the bugs made it to my unit anyway.

      In addition to the expense that I incurred, in order to get continued treatments (the unit will need at least three treatments over a month if there wasn’t really an infestation and many more if there was a serious infestation) you have secure all of your belongings in plastic sealable bags to ensure bugs aren’t on your clothing. Treating the bugs is very difficult so even an experienced company may have trouble- that’s why they are so pervasive. Legally, landlords have to make attempts to rid the units of bugs but aren’t required to have the units bug free.

      I ultimately spent thousand of dollars on wash, dry cleaning, bags for clothing, bedding, etc, a mattress cover when I lived there, a new mattress (there is no way to guarantee a mattress is bug free when you move), fumigation for my remaining furniture (exterminators found bugs in my living room chair eventually), and moving expenses.

      These costs made what was a cheap apartment, an expensive rental in the end.

      I’ll reiterate that what may seem like an easy thing to handle right now will likely end up in significant inconvenience and cost, not to mention prevent socializing (both at your place and from people who don’t want you visiting their homes).

    • I don’t know how else to put this, but DON’T DO IT. Unless they’re heat treating the entire building, two days of treatment is not going to kill the bugs, because they just hide. You actually need to have someone in the house for chemical treatment to work, because they don’t get the poison until they come out to feast on you. You’re going to move in, get bedbugs, and then spend weeks and more probably months packing everything you own into plastic, heat treating every bit of fabric, throwing out pillows, encasing your mattresses in mattress covers . . . there is absolutely no rent reduction that is worth it. Repeat, they cannot possibly be getting rid of the bugs in the stated time unless they are encasing the entire building in a vikane tent, or heating the entire building up to 130 degrees. Not. Worth. It.

  • I had bed bugs avoid it like the plague. They are so difficult to get rid of they can survive for 2 years without blood. I had them then got rid of them then they came back. I would not move in that place unless you like waking up with bit marks.

  • If you are truly interested in advice, DO NOT MOVE IN. I got bed bugs from a subletter a few years ago, and it was a deeply traumatizing situation, and I’m not typically a neurotic person. It may seem like a great deal for an apartment until you consider the consequences, like needing to throw away all your stuff – your favorite books, your alarm clock, your bed, your furniture- because the bugs have taken up residence. Or constantly wondering if you gave them to a friend who slept over or just dropped her purse near your couch, from which a bug hitched a ride. I was terribly allergic to the bites and broke out in red welts. I would neurotically inspect the sheets for 2 years after the infestation in case I let one live/got one from work travel. i didn’t sleep well for months as I would imagine them biting me at night.

  • I think we all ate exposed to bedbugs right now, and if you happen to be at rentals, even more. May be the ones who vacated did it because of it (may be they brought them). My advice, make sure the new landlord treats the place, if done correctly and consistently, that will kill them, and give it an inspection first, and put a contingency in case they are negligent you can get out and remember, check baseboards, the seams of the mattress and the mattress labels, the corners of the room and ceiling, you can see the dark stains from their droppings if you see them clean them , if you see droppings, they are with you, good luck

  • Difficult decision – lots of good advice here, especially about realistically assessing the type of people likely to be living in the rest of the building and thoroughly quizzing the pest control process. I’ll weigh in with – perhaps un-comforting advice – Like computer viruses, there are those who know they are infected, and those who don’t know they are infected. Bed bugs can and do show up anywhere. But will you be forever creeped out if you move into this place? That might not be worth the anguish.

  • My advice would be to move in, but don’t move in all of your upholstered furniture and other stuff until you’re certain that the entire building has been cleared. Keep it in storage until then. And if you bring in a mattress make sure its in a bed-bug protector (you can buy them at target or bed bath). That way if a retreatment is necessary you won’t have to pack everything up/wash everything, etc. Besides, you’d basically have to get rid of anything that was upholstered that became infested. That’s my 2 cents.

  • saf

    What building is it?

    A friend of mine had bugs several years ago at the Raymond on 11th Street. Took them SOOOOO long to get rid of the bugs. If it’s the same building, perhaps they never really did.

  • Had the bugs in my row house a few months back. Had a one day (though pricey) heat treatment and have been fine ever since. If they are doing a heat treat and the neighbors are bug free there is no reason not to move in.

  • I’m a little late seeing this….any building in DC at this point is open torecurring infestations of the critters because of how they get brought in. They are effective little hitchhikers who can latch onto your clothing, shopping bags, etc. and bingo there’s another infestation. So if you like the building, and the management is being responsive, I say go for it.

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