Infestation Risk
August 2, 2011 7:14 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking to rent a studio or one bedroom apartment in Arlington, Virginia within walking distance of the Courthouse or Clarendon Metro stations. After a week or so of pretty intense searching (dozens of calls, two days spent wandering around) I finally found and visited a place in my price range (under $1250) a 10 minute walk from Courthouse. Unfortunately online reviews (20 or so) are largely (80%) negative and frequently mention roaches and bedbugs. How do I decide whether I can look past this or not? How do I broach the topic with the management?

There are several buildings under the same name, is it possible the problem is confined to only a few? Do any government agencies record complaints about this sort of thing?

Would it be reasonable to ask for a clause in the lease allowing me to terminate early if a third party (chosen ahead of time) determines there is an infestation? Will that sort of legalistic approach immediately kill my chances of getting accepted as a tenant?

Are these the sorts of problems a building can realistically overcome? Is my wishful thinking that these reviews are posted by spiteful competing landlords at all plausible?
posted by elektrotechnicus to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
80% negative? Not even worth a discussion. Move on.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:18 PM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

You don't look past this, ever. This is a dealbreaker. If the building is infested, you will never -- at least, not as a renter -- overcome it. A detached single family home, sure, with lots of work. An apartment with that many negative reviews? Run.
posted by ellF at 7:20 PM on August 2, 2011

80% negative? Not even worth a discussion. Move on.

I think a week of effort deserves a little investigation. If you can't determine online, call and ask if they are under new ownership, or how they have addressed the complaints. If not reassuring, then walk.

I would have no hesitancy attempting to put in a clause. I would not bank on the reviews being from other owners; probably not worth the risk for them.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:22 PM on August 2, 2011

Response by poster: I should also mentioned I visited the apartment in question tonight. It's just been repainted, it's appliances and cabinetry replaced, and was clean with the exception of some dust-clogged ductwork. I spent more than an hour looking around and saw no signs of insects.
posted by elektrotechnicus at 7:26 PM on August 2, 2011

The building I currently live in has horrible reviews on the internet. Stuff about homeless people living on the plaza downstairs, rape and violence on the hallways, nasty nasty stuff with no footing on reality whatsoever. My theory is that people who have a beef with management, or are delinquent on their rents or whatever just go on the internet and mouth off. These management companies of large buildings are not in the business of making friends and the result can be an internet slander campaign. Not saying thats the case with YOUR building, but certainly seems to be the case with mine.
posted by gertzedek at 7:32 PM on August 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

Having lived in the area, I don't think you'll find a one-bedroom for that price that's roach-free. I'm sorry, but I don't think it's possible.

I was in an apartment within walking distance of both Clarendon & Courthouse for a while (maybe more like 15 that 10 but close enough). And we had roaches. We had roaches no matter what we did -- if we were meticulously clean or if we were not. I'm not even going to blame it all on our neighbors -- I just think the buildings were old and the rent was cheap so no one really cared.

I'm farther from the Metro now (it's more of a half-hour walk to Ballston or Virginia Square) but I don't regret it.

(Feel free to MeMail me and I'll tell you the name of the complex where I lived. But I'm sure it's not the only one with this problem. Rentals -- especially one-bedrooms -- are expensive here.)
posted by darksong at 7:36 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I can deal with the roaches. It's bedbugs that scare me.
posted by elektrotechnicus at 7:43 PM on August 2, 2011

My husband and I just moved from the area, and we found that raising our budget to ~1400 made of world of difference, even though we were broke. That being said, we had a lot of success using a realtor to take us around. I can MeMail you the contact information for the woman we used, if you want.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:16 PM on August 2, 2011

I've been though those apartment review sites, and don't think I've ever seen a place that was positively reviewed. Lots of selection bias there.

Also, new management can have a huge impact on a place. It's not unusual for companies to shuffle around every few years, especially if the place is being renovated to attract more upscale residents (and rents). Check to see if the company's changed at all in the past few years...

$1250/month shouldn't have you living in squalor. (But do consider all of your options, including unmanaged or independently-owned buildings/sublets.)

Also, bedbugs seem to be endemic to any large building these days. Odds are, the complainers were complaining about the extermination process rather than any actual bedbugs they found in their unit. Good management companies tend to take bedbug infestations very seriously, given the impact that an infestation can have on its tenants.
posted by schmod at 8:22 PM on August 2, 2011

It might help if you could have a word with some of the tenants currently living there — they would be a more reliable source of information. Is there a way to do that, maybe by hanging out in a common area and chatting people up briefly?
posted by orange swan at 8:37 PM on August 2, 2011

I lived in that same area for almost ten years, and when I moved in 2009 I did a LOT of visits to various complexes in that area, which often including talking to tenants. In the end, I decided to move out further a bit to get a nicer place for less. I agree that anything in that price range in that area will have some issue - including roaches. Bedbugs, though.. Let me agree that you want to stay as far away from anything that even has a hint of them - it's one huge reason I moved from my old place. Feel free to mefimail me with the complex name or any specific questions. You may consider finding a place further out by Ballston to reduce the prices a bit.
posted by gemmy at 10:44 PM on August 2, 2011

On the bedbug front, all you have to do when you move in is caulk EVERY CONCEIVABLE crack in your apartment. Every baseboard, every door/window frame, etc. Then, for good measure, get an exterminator in (or one of those bedbug dogs). Do this before you move anything in. When you do move in, keep your bed slightly away from the walls and put double-sided tape on the bed legs. Then sleep soundly.

In some ways, it's better to know you'll probably have bedbugs than to be completely blindsided.
posted by oohisay at 4:34 AM on August 3, 2011

An occasional roach isn't the end of the world...I see one once every month or two in my apartment, a little more often during the summer. If you live in an old apartment building in a city, you will probably see a roach now and then.

But bedbugs....I would not be taking any chances with that. I honestly would simply not take the apartment. I understand the selection bias and all, but you do not want to risk it with bedbugs.
posted by breakin' the law at 6:00 AM on August 3, 2011

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