I was chatting with a friend the other day. She manages a number of rental properties. A combination of commercial and residential units. One of them is a quadplex located in a small neighboring college town. She tends to rent to a lot of students who don’t want to live in the dorms.
It’s a good deal. More often than not the rent is handled by the parents. So things tend to get paid on time and without any fuss. But of course college students, even when their parent’s help, tend to be on a fairly tight budget. So when it comes to furnishing their apartment second-hand furniture is an attractive option.
But there can be problems with used furniture. Sure, you can pick up a couch or a bed on the cheap – but you may end up getting more than you paid for. Namely – bed bugs.
The Hazards of Used Furniture
The fundamental problem with second-hand furniture is you just don’t know where it’s been. What looks like a great deal on Facebook Marketplace may be harboring some unpleasant secrets.
One of the side effects of a bed bug infestation is home owners getting rid of old couches and comfy chairs. Sometimes it’s a necessity. If the infestation is particularly severe it can be more trouble than it’s worth to save older pieces of furniture. Sometimes, the infestation becomes a good excuse to buy some new furnishings. Either way, it leads to people either giving away their old stuff or selling it off for cheap.
But bed bugs can live for hundreds of days without food. If that sweet deal of a couch comes from an infested home it may well have hungry bed bugs hiding inside. And when it’s taken into a clean new apartment those bed bugs have hit pay dirt. They have a new environment to explore and new hosts to feed on.
Bed Bugs and Neighbors
But the problem doesn’t stop at one apartment. Which brings me back to my landlord friend.
Bed bugs may not be terribly adventurous, but that doesn’t mean they don’t travel. It’s not unusual for bed bugs to move throughout an apartment complex. Traveling from one unit to another in search of new environments and new sources of food. A single apartment can easily become ground zero for a larger infestation, and that can be a costly headache for both the tenants and their landlords.
How to Avoid Bed Bugs in Second-Hand Furniture
Saving money is never a bad idea, and buying second-hand doesn’t have to bring trouble. But if you are going to buy a used piece of furniture you need to be careful.
Here are a few tips to help reduce your risk of bring bed bugs into your new apartment:
Shop Smart – Rule one is always avoid anything left on a curbside for pickup. No exceptions. Beyond that try to limit your purchases to reputable second-hand outlets.
Avoid Upholstered Furniture – Couches, beds and comfy chairs are prime targets for bed bugs. The cushions and fabric provide a lot of hiding spaces. If you decide to take a gamble on an upholstered piece inspect it thoroughly.
Buyer Beware – Most people selling second-hand furniture do so in good faith. They aren’t trying to trick you. But they may not have a clear idea where the item came from or what it may contain.
Always as questions of the seller. Find out where the item comes from and if the previous owners had any history of bed bug infestations. Ask if it’s been inspected and cleaned. If it has follow up by asking for details on the process. These are fair questions to ask any seller.
Inspect Your Purchases – Finally, inspect anything you’re thinking about buying. And I mean really look it over. Check under the cushions, along the seams, in the nooks and crannies and along the joins.
Look for staining from blood or fecal matter. Check for shed bed bug shells and eggs. Use a flashlight and magnifying glass.
Parents Take Special Note
College students are notoriously short on cash. Saving money is baked in to the college experience. But parents should keep one thing in mind. If your college student finds their dorm or apartment overrun with bed bugs those pests will eventually come home to you. When your kids come home for the weekend to do laundry or head home for the holidays they’ll likely be bringing some bed bugs home with them.
Before they hit the second-hand shops or start browsing the online listings let them know about the danger of bed bugs and used furniture. It may not be THAT talk but it’s still a talk worth having.
Published by Scott Palatnik
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