Finding the perfect apartment can be a real challenge and, frankly, there’s a lot to consider before you put pen to paper and sign that lease. First off, you have to think about the location. Is your potential new flat close to work? Is it in a walkable area, or are you going to need to rely on a car or public transport to get around? Do you like the neighborhood, or will you be aching to move again in a few months?

Then, of course, you have to look at the amenities. Are the appliances up to date? Has the landlord spruced the place up and given it a new lick of paint? How about the water heater? Is the pressure up to snuff or will you be waiting forever to get some hot water out of the taps? And let’s not forget the cost. Does it fit in with your budget or will you be struggling to make the rent each month?

All of these questions should be at the top of your apartment hunting list. But there is one more point you should consider before taking a lease on a new flat. Does it have bed bugs? It may not be the fist thing you think of when you’re getting ready to move but trust me, bed bugs are the last thing you want to find in your new apartment. So, to that end, we’ve put together a quick checklist to help you find a bed bug free apartment.

Item 1 – Ask the Landlord

If your thinking about moving into a new apartment the first thing you should do is ask the landlord or building manager to give you the lowdown on any past bed bug infestations. Remember, according to the NYC Bed Bug Disclosure Act landlords and property owners are required to inform all prospective tenants about any recent bed bug infestations. Failure to do so is a violation of the law. If, when you’re checking our an apartment, the landlord can’t (or won’t) disclose the bed bug history of the building strike that flat off of your list.

However, if the building has had bed bugs in the past that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad choice. If the landlord is upfront about the problem and proves to you that the situation was handled effectively and in a timely manner there is no reason to refuse an apartment that you are otherwise happy with. It’s also a sign that the property owners are quick to address the tenants needs, and that’s always a good sign.

Item 2 – Ask the Residents

It’s always a good idea to talk to the current residents of an apartment building when you’re checking out potential flats. They are more likely to give you an honest opinion of the building, the landlord and the neighbor in general. They don’t have any financial stake in your decisions so have no reason to gloss over any unpleasant truths.

If you can, knock on a few doors and ask the tenants about the apartment building. Be specific with your questions, and ask if they’ve had any problems with bed bugs or other pests. If there was a recent infestation ask the locals how the landlord or super dealt with the situation. Quizzing the current residents is one of the best ways to determine if the apartment you’re considering is likely to have a bed bug problem.

Item 3 – Beware of Cover Ups

And by cover ups we mean new curtains and fresh coat of paint. Every landlord will try to spruce up an apartment before they put it on the rental market. That’s to be expected, and is not a bad sign in and of itself. However, rather than deal with an infestation head on some dubious landlords will try to hide a pest problem by simply covering up the evidence. Fresh paint and recently steamed carpet are not proof of a bed bug free environment.

Before you decide whether or not to take an apartment look beyond the obvious. Check along the baseboards, wall joints, and in the closets. Look for places where bed bugs might be hiding. If you find any areas covered by fresh caulking it may be a sign that the landlord has tried to seal the pest in rather than commit to a full scale extermination program.

Item 4 – Perform Your Own Inspection

Finally, after you’ve quizzed the landlord and the current residents take some time to perform your own inspection of the apartment in question. The best way to know if there’s a bed bug problem with any apartment is to see for yourself. Take flashlight and work your way around the rooms, paying strict attention to baseboards, closets, power outlets and loose wallpaper. You’ll be looking for any tell-tale signs of a bed bug infestation, including:

  • Adult Bed Bugs – Roughly the size and shape of an apple seed, with reddish brown bodies. You’ll typically find then in clusters, although the odd stray is still a bad indicator.
  • Bed Bug Excrement – Bed bugs feed on blood and their waste generally takes the form of rust colored patches or stains.
  • Bed Bug Skins – As bed bugs mature they shed their skins (exoskeletons). These will be the general size and shape of a living bed bug but will be white and nearly transparent.
  • Bed Bug Eggs – Bed bug eggs are small and white. Roughly the size of a pinhead they typically appear in clusters.

If the apartment you are considering is furnished give everything a thorough inspection. Open bureau drawers and standing wardrobes giving the insides a good going over with your flashlight. Fully inspect any and all couches and chairs giving extra attention to the seams and the undersides of cushions. You should also carefully inspect the bed, looking at the mattress and box-spring. Don’t be shy. Flip them over and inspect them thoroughly.

Once you’ve completed the inspection to your satisfaction you’ll be in a better position to decide if the apartment is right for you.

In Conclusion – Signing the Lease

Apartment hunting can be a stressful experience, and the last thing you need to be worrying about is a potential bed bug infestation. But if you plan ahead, and take the time to fully investigate any flats that you’re considering, you can greatly reduce your risk of waking up in a month or two to an unwelcome bed bug nightmare. Do your due diligence, and only consent to sign the lease when you’re convinced that you’ve found the perfect bed bug free apartment.