Ottawa tenant wins historic decision on bed bug treatments

“For bed bugs, or any other problem, you can’t keep doing the same thing. To meet your obligations, you actually have to get to the source of the problem.”

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Landlords of a Heron Gate skyscraper were slapped on the knuckles by the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board and ordered to pay expenses to a former tenant for failing to properly respond to tenant complaints regarding a bedbug infestation.

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The decision against Timbercreek Communities (now known as Hazelview) was released in August 2020, but it was only recently that an appeal process was allowed. In their decision, the arbitrators say it is not enough for a homeowner to continue spraying pesticides as the “cheapest” option for insect control. If the spray does not work, there must be a more effective action.

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The ruling sets a precedent that will help tenants across the province struggling with bed bugs, attorney Daniel Tucker-Simmons said.

“There has never been a decision as clear as this that imposes an obligation on the landlord to step up,” said Tucker-Simmons, whose client and his family were residents of the 13th floor of the Cedarwood Promenade apartment tower from July to November. 2019.

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“It will be a precedent that other owners will have to follow. For bed bugs or any other problem, you can’t keep doing the same thing. To meet your obligations, you actually have to address the source of the problem.

It’s a victory for the tenant, even though he and his family have long since moved on, frustrated by the experience and worried about its impact on their five-year-old daughter.

“It’s a win for others,” said the man, who asked not to be identified to protect his family’s privacy.

The family had just arrived in Canada from Morocco when they moved in on July 1, 2019. Without references or a credit check, the family had no other choice of accommodation and had to pay one year’s rent. in advance for the apartment. At first, they had no idea what was causing the painful, itchy bites. It was a CHEO doctor who said bed bugs were responsible for the marks on the couple’s daughter.

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“She was afraid to fall asleep at night because she knew she would get bites,” the man said. “Every night it repeated itself. We couldn’t protect her. If you’re a parent and you can’t protect your daughter, she doesn’t trust you. It was a terrible time.

The family complained and the landlord sprayed the apartment seven times between August and November 2019. Each time the bedbugs returned within days.

The man spoke to neighbors on his floor and on the upper and lower floors, and all complained of bed bugs. Yet the owner did not spray any of the neighboring units. The company’s lawyer argued before the Landlord and Tenant Board that it was only a “low level” infestation. The referees didn’t buy it.

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“No level of bed bug infestation is acceptable and cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely while the homeowner seeks only the cheapest available treatment and does nothing to prevent the spread of bed bugs to and from from other units,” the decision states.

“It’s also just plain logical: when one method or approach doesn’t work, it’s time to try another method.

“In this case, the owner was aware of various other treatment options, but at no time took more serious action to eradicate the problem. The owner’s failure to do so is a recipe for recurring and persistent problems. bed bugs.

“I don't want other people to have the same experience as us, other children to have this,” says the former tenant.
“I don’t want other people to have the same experience as us, other children to have this,” says the former tenant. “That was the main reason I followed.” Photo by ERROL MCGIHON /Postmedia

The company appealed the arbitrators’ decision and it wasn’t until April 2022 – 2½ years after the initial complaint – that the board upheld the original August 2020 decision. Even so, Tucker-Simmons and his client only learned that the decision had been rendered last week.

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In its ruling, the board ordered the company to pay the tenant $2,515 in fees to cover hotel bills from when they had to vacate the apartment, pesticide treatments, medical treatment for their daughter, moving expenses and legal fees. The tenant still hasn’t been paid, although in an email Friday afternoon, the company said payment was being processed and would be delivered this month.

In a statement to this newspaper, the company said: “Hazelview Properties takes pest control in all buildings extremely sseriously and acts diligently to solve pest problems”, and it uses experienced and licensed professionals.

“We will continue to do so and are convinced that their expertise is the most reliable in solving potential problems safely and efficiently.

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The family moved into a new home in November 2019, and although it’s been years since they’ve been tenants of Timbercreek/Hazelview, the tenant says the battle was worth it. His daughter forgot the experience, he said.

“When your daughter cries, you become a bed bug expert,” he said, now able to laugh at the experience.

“I don’t want other people to have the same experience as us, other children to have this. This is the main reason why I followed.

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