There Are Mice in my Apartment!

 

Scary Mouse

Terrifying mouse photo courtesy Ikayama’s Flickr page via Creative Commons license

I moved to Boston two years ago, into a lovely 2-bedroom apartment in Brookline with two amazing roommates. We were complete strangers who just met the day before Moving Day and enlisted the help of a realtor in our apartment search. He showed us three apartments; we ended up taking the first one we saw. Rent was steep, but it worked between the three of us and the location was wonderful. We converted the living room space into a third bedroom (the realtor’s suggestion, OK-ed by the apartment building manager,) my roommate’s mother put in a real door for the third bedroom when she visited for Thanksgiving, and our apartment was complete. Life was good.

But about seven months in, small, dark pellets began appearing on our kitchen counter top and stove. We cleaned it up once, twice, several more times until it was clear: the pellets were mouse poop, and there were mice getting into our apartment.

The first thing I thought of was that the realtor had said, very definitively, that our apartment building had no history of mice or pests whatsoever. I never saw a single cockroach or centipede in that apartment, but the mice… well, they stuck around for eight months or so before they were completely out of our apartment. Note to self: never believe what a realtor says about an apartment.

We called our super in to get the mice out. He pulled out the stove (yes, they can be pulled out, and you should clean behind them regularly) and found large gaps in the wall where the mice had been getting in and out. He filled the holes with foam sealant, and cleaned up the mice poop. We stopped seeing the poop for a short while, but it reappeared. More holes were found in the floor and walls around the heating pipes. Glue traps were set (although no mice were caught, thank goodness.) A ‘pest exterminator’ came, but the situation didn’t improve. Our super came in at least two more times, each time finding a hole that wasn’t sealed previously. The mice finally stopped coming when the last hole was sealed: a one-inch crack in the tiled bathroom wall.

Have you ever encountered mice in your apartment?  It’s pretty gross but you can do something about it!  The next time you are looking at apartments, here’s what to do before signing the lease:

  • Bring a flashlight with you to an apartment showing. Look for mice poop in dark corners, underneath the heating baseboards and near any visible cracks in the walls or floor.
  • Are the existing tenants keeping the kitchen clean? Talk to them and apartment neighbors if you can and ask about pests.
Gaps like this one can frequently be found around heating pipes. They are often left there to allow heating pipes to expand, especially for copper pipes.

Gaps like this one can frequently be found around heating pipes. They are often left there to allow heating pipes to expand, especially for copper pipes.

When you move in, look underneath heating baseboards and behind the refrigerator and stove for gaps and seal them before you block them with your furniture and forget about them. You can prevent mice living in the walls of your apartment from coming into your unit by making sure that there are no gaps through which they can enter. Often, the holes around heating pipes are deliberately left there to allow for expansion, especially for copper pipes. So do ensure that gaps are properly sealed with an appropriate material.

And if, God forbid, mice find their way to your apartment, take care of them right away. Call your landlord to bring someone in and be home when the work is done so you can ensure it is done thoroughly. Don’t let them stop after finding and sealing the first hole; look everywhere for holes and seal them all. I’d rather never see the mice again than catch them in traps, but here’s a good link for the different mouse traps both you and your landlord can install.

A seemingly-perfect apartment can be indelibly marred if you have to live with pests. My apartment’s mice problems made the other perks – perfect location, reasonable rent, free heat and hot water – completely insignificant. The lease ended recently, and I have no plans for renting from the same company, or using realtors, again.

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