How to avoid unwanted roach passengers in a move, and the ethics of informing potential tenants
April 2, 2008 9:50 AM   Subscribe

2 questions about cockroaches and moving house, one practical, one moral.

All right. So our apartment has cockroaches, we've lived there about a year and they have been a fairly constant presence. It's not a full blown panic now infestation, but it's not nice. We see one or two at least 3 times a week. We've used boric acid, roach gel, and found and removed a major food source. (Who the hell leaves a giant, open bag of rice in a roach friendly furnace room???). Regardless, they're still around.

My man and I are both finally working full time and bringing in enough money to move to a slightly nicer place. Target move date is in two months.

So the questions are:

1) How do we make sure they don't move with us?
2) Judging from how I found the place, it will be my responsibility to list and show the apartment. Should I disclose the nasties to prospective tenants?

The girl who showed me the place mentioned "a few bugs" when I asked if there was anything wrong with it. Didn't realize that meant creepy crawly roaches. The apartment is otherwise not that bad, nothing special but dirt cheap.
posted by yellowbinder to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Were I in this situation, I would feel I'd done my duty to prospective tenants if I had an exterminator come and give the place a once over before I left. I'd tell the prospective tenants that I'd done that as part of preparing to leave (kind of like sweeping up before you go). That way, they'd know both that I'd done my best to keep the place in good shape, but they'd also know that the apartment is the kind of place that needs the exterminator every once in a while.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:04 AM on April 2, 2008

You can have the place roach-bombed by a professional. Let them in before you go to work, then stay away for ten hours and you should be good to go. That being said, they're pesky and have a habit of not dying. They cannibalize their dead if there's no other food source, so it's an all or nothing battle.

I don't think (especially since it's an apartment) you have much responsibility to point out such a shortfall. I've moved into apartments with similar problems, and was never told beforehand. If you choose to do so, you'll feel better morally, but it seems you won't be stuck for the bill if it doesn't rent, correct? If that's the case, I'd take the high road, give full disclosure if asked, and let the landlord deal with extermination before someone new moves in. That's what he should do anyway, at the least.
posted by Lucy2Times at 10:05 AM on April 2, 2008

question 1: some of roaches' favorite harborage spots are in cardboard boxes and paper bags. if you have any of these around now, throw them out and don't use them for your move. think about sealing any loose papers and magazines in a plastic container. don't bring your nonperishable food with you when you move if it's not sealed in a can or jar. when you're packing, keep your suitcases, purses, tote bags (etc), zipped up when not in use. roaches can hitchhike in there.
posted by mirepoix at 10:08 AM on April 2, 2008

I personally reboxed every moving box, dismantled every piece of electronics I owned and scrubbed them out with rubbing alcohol, inspected every book, took my clothes to the laundromat and dropped them off at the new place w/o returning them, and left most of the furniture there... and they moved with me anyway. I'd say contact a professional(bring a sample bug) and get the new place exterminated before you move in, so they'll get zapped when they try to set up shop there.

As far as the old place: Unless you can access the whole facility, you don't have a chance. Found out afterward that I was fighting(and losing) a pitched battle while my next-door neighbor was storing refuse two feet deep in his kitchen(!!!).
posted by Orb2069 at 10:16 AM on April 2, 2008

1) How do we make sure they don't move with us?

Short answer is, they won't move with you - cockroaches prefer a specific environment - so don't worry about it. It does remind me of returning to Canada after an extended stay in summertime Japan. The old house I was living in in Japan was *full* of cockroaches. Basically, the doors and windows were always left open, there was a lot of garbage and clutter lying around (the downstairs was a coffee shop), there was lots of water in sinks and drains, it was an old house; in short it was a perfect haven for roaches. It was so bad that I dreaded going to the first floor after dark, because the fucking place would be full of big ones and small ones and red ones and brown ones.

The big, shiny, hairy, black flying cockroaches scared me the most. They were the ones that usually found their way to the second floor (they probably crawled up the drain in the bathroom or the kitchen) and into my clothes and magazines, which were piled around my tatami room. I also neglected to wash my dishes. Bad move.

But I went back to Canada, where it was nice and dry and quiet and cool after the hot summer of Japan. It takes about 24 hours to go from door to door to get home, and I was pretty spaced out, paranoid, really, after such a long trip.

I collapsed on my nice bed and started to sleep. But I woke up and stared at my suitcase.

Did I bring cockroaches back with me? It is the most anxious I have ever felt.

But I didn't. And even if there was an egg pod in my suitcase, it probably would have been okay.

The cockroaches that invest your apartment were already there, and their presence contributed to the critical mass that resulted in chronic infestation.

As long as there are no food sources, no water leaks, the house or apartment is in reasonably good shape, you keep it clean and wash the dishes and take out the garbage, you will be fine.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:47 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

As long as you're leaving your lease legally and you're not at risk of getting screwed by a lack of a new tenant, definitely tell people who come to look at the place. I know I would appreciate it a lot if someone told me. I find little graces like that very humanizing. (Like the time a girl came up to me in a park at night just to warn me that a dude over yonder had been acting creepy to her and just to be careful.) Power to the PEOPLE!
posted by loiseau at 10:59 AM on April 2, 2008

Short answer is, they won't move with you

My experience is the utterly total opposite of this. When I was younger I had the same extended family of the small brown things we get up here follow me through 3 successive apartment moves. It was only when I finally trained myself on the proper ways of securing items I want to keep and throwing away things I didn't really need--plus a little luck--that I finally escaped them.
posted by gimonca at 11:02 AM on April 2, 2008

I think that the folks who believe they have had cockroaches move with them from place to place may be suffering from the general paranoia and anxiety that accompanies roach infestations (I've suffered from it), and were unlucky to move from infestation to infestation.

I say this because roach infestations (at least minor ones) can indeed be controlled. I lived in a different house in Japan where, in the beginning, we saw cockroaches every day. The place we moved into was pretty messy, so we got rid of the garbage and junk, got rid of the carpet, fixed some leaky faucets, installed some screens (cockroaches, like mice, also live outdoors) and generally kept the place spic and span.

I put down glue traps. We went from a roach a day, to a roach a week, to a roach a month, to a roach every three months (usually caught in the storage room, which had a door that led to the yard).

Luckily, we had a house. But it would have been much more difficult to do had we inhabited an apartment building, and I think that's where the previous posters in this thread had been living.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:14 AM on April 2, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for responses so far. Honestly I'm more concerned about not taking them with me than anything else. I would much rather be honest with people looking at the place, if it doesn't go it's not really my responsibility.

Like I said, move is 2mos away, and I'm going to start sealing away unimportant stuff in heavy duty garbage bags or plastic containers asap. Small appliances (toaster, blender, microwave) I will probably leave, or discard. Most furniture too, I need a new couch anyway.

What I'm most concerned about is my mattress and television/video game consoles. Any tips?
posted by yellowbinder at 11:17 AM on April 2, 2008

Response by poster: Oh and just to clarify, I'm not in an apt. building, but a basement apartment in a duplex. So still pretty hard to nuke 'em especially because I don't think my landlord owns the other half of the building.
posted by yellowbinder at 11:19 AM on April 2, 2008

With regards to question #1, I (and other folks) had some suggestions in this thread.
posted by tdismukes at 11:33 AM on April 2, 2008

We had a pretty terrible infestation in an old apartment, so here's what we did before we moved:
- packed everything up but left the boxes open
- fogged the hell out of the place, then spent the night in the new apartment
- preventatively put some roach gel down in the new apartment
- returned to the old place to get our stuff, and sweep up the dead roaches.

It seemed to work, we didn't have any in the new place. (Except for the few corpses that fell out of packing boxes.)
posted by Mr Bunnsy at 11:41 AM on April 2, 2008

After reading the responses and links in this thread, I feel that I may have to revise my opinion on whether or not you can take roaches with you. I thought that I had it bad in Japan with roaches, but it seems like I only touched the tip of the iceberg.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:58 AM on April 2, 2008

I think - as you say you are doing - you need to think seriously about what you take with you. some things won't be worth it. It also might help if you literally keep the boxes in your car or somewhere outside your apartment - walk them in the door, pack them, and then walk them back out immediately. Do not prepack anything or they will nest in the boxes.
posted by chickaboo at 12:38 PM on April 2, 2008

Just throwing out any old cardboard boxes and using all fresh moving boxes will minimize them moving with you. Your mattress isn't of much interest. Your video game consoles...different story, but if you haven't found a buggy tenant in your console yet, you're probably ok. Seal in plastic if you can live without it for the next two months.

As for the next tenants, well you're in a basement apartment. Of course you have roaches.
posted by desuetude at 1:06 PM on April 2, 2008

In regards to your mattress I would suggest vacuuming the hell out of your mattress and box spring and then covering both with allergy covers (vinyl for box spring and fabric for mattress). The weave on the covers are tight enough to keep dust mites from taking up residence and will work on roaches.

I purchased covers when my building experienced a bed bug outbreak and they helped a lot.

Vacuum out suitcases and bags before moving. Throw away vacuum bag and filter before moving the vacuum.

I'm not sure about the TV. I would try a combo of vacuum and hair dryer (blow em out and suck em in).

Have you called an exterminator about what they would recommend before moving?
posted by brookeb at 1:10 PM on April 2, 2008

Seconding the fogging idea. We moved into a (dog) flea infested house and fogged it to make it comfortable for our dog. It turned up a ton of cockroaches that we didn't know we had. Works a treat.
posted by sgmax at 6:38 PM on April 2, 2008

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