Halifax: where the bed bug “blame game” is the law

by nobugsonme on September 1, 2007 · 17 comments

in bad ideas, bed bugs, bedbugs, canada, government, halifax, housing laws, landlords, legal, multi-unit buildings, nova scotia, spread, tenants

A new article on Halifax, Nova Scotia’s bed bug epidemic, appeared in the Chronicle Herald Friday.

According to the CBC.ca Marketplace website:

In Nova Scotia, Halifax doesn’t have clear-cut legislation for dealing with bedbugs. Responsibility for extermination falls upon the tenant if a landlord can prove a tenant brought the bugs in. The Halifax agency has found that landlords often foot the bill as it’s difficult to prove there were no bugs before a tenant moves in. Tenants are advised to write a letter to a landlord asking to deal with the problem within a reasonable timeframe. If the landlord refuses, a hearing can be conducted in front of the officer of residential tenancies.

While, as the CBC information states, it is difficult for landlords to prove a tenant brought bed bugs in, many people who discover bed bugs will assume they brought them in if they bought something in a secondhand store, were in a hotel, or accepted a used mattress.

Believe it or not, it is still possible to do these things and not get bed bugs every single time. So having done one of them recently does not in itself prove blame for bed bugs being brought in.

And it is also possible to get bed bugs from neighbors in multi-unit housing without doing anything at all. My concern is that landlords and tenants will often rush to assign blame, and as we have said many times here, it is much harder than you think to identify the party “to blame” for your infestation.

The article in the Chronicle Herald by Deborah Mensah-Bonsu demonstrates the problem with tenant laws which allow the “tenant who caused the problem” to be blamed and forced to pay for treatment, if that tenant can be identified.

First, Mensah-Bonsu describes the scope of the bed bug epidemic in Halifax:

A representative of Residential Tenancies for Nova Scotia said the government agency has been receiving calls about the bugs lately.

“It has been coming up,” said Joey, who could not give his last name.

First warning sign: the Halifax government representative who spoke to the press about bed bugs would not give his last name?

Then Joey describes the local housing laws in reference to bed bugs:

He said if the problem was caused by a tenant the landlord could hold him or her responsible for pest control but if it’s an issue with the building and the source is unknown, the landlord would be responsible for fumigation.

If the problem is not resolved, the tenant can apply to the Residential Tenancies Board for termination of the lease, he said.

So basically, if the landlord (thinks s/he) can identify the source, then the tenant must pay. But if the problem gets out of hand, and multiple units are infested, then the original source tenant is off the hook. In other words, Halifax’s law, like those in some other areas of Canada, is designed to encourage people to not report bed bugs, and allow them to spread.

As much as finding the source of the epidemic might seem like the “fair way to do things,” it’s really hard to do, and really easy to be wrong. The reason is that it is really hard to track the source of infestations. Bed bugs move around, many tenants are not allergic to them and have no idea, other tenants are terribly allergic and are likely to notice them first. You can also be bitten for a time without reacting, even if you are allergic. So knowing when and where the problem started is extremely tricky.

Some people think moving is a solution, but Mr. (Brian) Betts (of Ace Pest Control, in Dartmouth) said that is most likely the source of the problem.

“Somebody will have (the bugs) in an apartment and they’ll be frustrated, and when they’re moving they’re taking the bedbugs to a new location. You got people moving from one unit to another in metro and just dispersing the bugs more and more all the time.”

While this is true, it is also true that bed bugs will often stay put and feast happily on one tenant for a while. S/he may not even know, if they are among the great mass of people who are not allergic, and so do not react to bed bug bites. But when this tenant moves (for whatever reason), they will rush to the neighboring units, to avoid going hungry. This is another prime reason why the first tenant to notice s/he has bed bugs should not be blamed for the infestation.

TransGlobe Property Management Services, owner of the Ocean Towers apartment buildings at Brunswick and Gerrish streets, has been receiving a lot of heat from tenants over bedbugs. So much so that it released a statement saying it has been addressing the issue since buying the property in 2005.

“There is an issue with bedbugs in the entire city and nationwide,” said Paul Dillon, director of marketing and public relations for the Toronto company, which owns more than 2,000 rental units in Nova Scotia. “It’s just unfortunate that this particular property is being targeted, but it was present before we purchased the building.”

If tenants were not punished for being the first person to report bed bugs in the building, by being blamed and forced to pay (in many cases), then perhaps bed bugs would not have such a thorough hold on buildings.

Landlords and tenants are both victims of this epidemic. But the blame game– and by this I mean the attempt to single out one tenant as the definite source of bed bugs in a larger building, or workplace infestation– does not work with bed bugs. The source, really often, is not what you think. The best situation for both landlord and tenant is for bed bugs to be treated as soon as possible, thus preventing their spread.

Click here to read the article in the Chronicle Herald. Click here to see a rundown of Canada’s laws regarding bed bugs and who pays for treatment.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
1 September 1, 2007 at 8:46 am

And what exactly does the landlord expect a tenant to do who simply has no money to pay for the treatment? Let them grow and infest other units? We are a Canadian family who may or may not have bed bugs, and whose landlord has stated that he will not pay for treatment, that if we have them it’s our responsibility to deal with it. We have no credit cards, no way of getting a loan, and we’re on financial assistance (welfare) due to our family’s low income. There is simply no way we could pay for anything. Can’t get blood from a stone.

2 BBsBlow September 1, 2007 at 2:01 pm

My parents were just there two weeks ago!!!! That very area. I told them to be extra vigilant when they were at hotels. I just hope it worked…

3 NotHappy October 7, 2008 at 5:02 pm

I had lived in the Ocean Towers (TRANSGLOBE) on Brunswick St. in Halifax N.S. from 2004-2007. I moved out in the spring of 2007 when I finished school. I had numerous problems with my apartment, from bed bugs, mice, poor maintenance, rents rising with no improvement to the building, lack of security. The worst was trying to survive a winter with absolutely NO HEAT in 2006-2007! The “boiler” was said to be non operational, but would be fixed immediatly. It took months, and no matter how many complaints were filed, my roommate, my 5 yr old and I were ignored. I know that more people had the same problem.
I’m currently being taken to court by TransGlobe.
Please, I would truly appreciate anyone’s feedback on this.
Did you have the same issues?

4 Rose October 17, 2008 at 1:45 pm

Dear NOT HAPPY…

Transglobe does not appear to give a darn about
their tenants. Not a good company, from the looks of things. We, in Toronto, are experiencing similar complaints (with the exception of the bed bug issue). We went days without heat in the winter time and it was inhumane.

You must contact your Municipal Licensing and Standards Office (the folks who work for the city and ensure that health, safety and security codes are being met). One call to them and they contact Transglobe to put the heat on or fix the boiler.

For your court case, you may wish to contact someone from your city’s Tenant Federation who can counsel you on your rights and/or accompany
you.

It also helps to set up a Steering Committee within your own building, consisting of a few strong-willed tenants who will collectively band together to secure the rights of all tenants in the building. I hope this helps.

5 Megan November 29, 2008 at 6:21 pm

my boyfriend and I moved into halifax ns location. There was crime that took place within the building and bed bugs were terrible. We were told the problem was taken care of and a month into our lease, we had bed bugs and fleas to top it off. We called the landlords and no one returned our calls.

After we moved out they continued to take money from our bank accounts.Very unorganized group. They are rude to their tenants and they just dont care. One of our building supervisors, had scars all over her arm and she claimed that it was from bed bugs and she told us that we should just get used to it. However I wrote a large, demanding letter that we be let out of our lease. Which we were, still many complications in that process as well.

6 nobugsonme November 30, 2008 at 12:57 am

Megan, I am glad you put some pressure on your landlords since no one should have to live with bed bugs.

I hope you will take extreme precautions when moving, since it is pretty easy to move bed bugs to a new home.

Please come to the forums if you have further questions or want to discuss this:

http://bedbugger.com/forum/

7 Kristin December 3, 2008 at 2:54 pm

Hi there. I am currently living in Ocean Towers. We just moved in mid-October and the infestation started a few weeks ago. I am so fed-up and don’t know where to turn. We were told that there were no bedbugs upon signing our lease and soon after noticed welts all over us! The exterminators have come but when the building itself is infested they aren’t much help. After 15 loads of laundry, hours of vacuuming and taking every precaution imaginable (i.e. double sided taping all cracks and bed legs, etc) they are back less than a week later. We both have problems sleeping and our lives have become somewhat consumed by this. We were also told by our building representatives that its something we need to deal with. Megan, how did you go about getting out of your lease? We desperately want out because we realize this problem is going to be a continuous battle.

8 nobugsonme December 3, 2008 at 5:33 pm

Kristin, You may need advice from a tenants’ organization or legal source. You might also consider contacting the media (especially reporters who have covered bed bugs in Halifax: put “Halifax” in the search box in the search box at bottom left to find posts we’ve done, and contact people who did the stories we linked to in the local news media). Contacting the news is not for everyone, but since you say you were lied to on moving in, the media might like to cover this, and it might help you get out of there.

9 AlsoFedUp December 7, 2008 at 11:12 am

Hello Everyone

I want to shed some light on this situation. I lived at ocean towers 2000-2005. Had to leave because of bed bugs. Lost all furniture as well in the process. Moved to North End Halifax, near new bridge. Went 2 years bug free. Neighbors moved in last Sept with used furniture. I found bugs beginning of Nov. I advised the management on this apt. I was blamed and treated with disrespect for 2 weeks until i persisted they check surrounding tenants. Finally 2 weeks ago i see furniture in the garbage covered with plastic, come to find out it was the neighbors furniture. I have lost mattresses and all i have left is a pull out sofa. Which is starting to be infested. I am a single father of 2 small children. We are having a hard time sleeping all in one room with the fact i can’t sleep now because I’m constantly looking for bugs.

I have excepted the fact that most of my belongings will be lost and i am currently looking to relocate because i feel management is not taken this seriously and the problem will not go away on its own. I have been sprayed and PCO has done an inspection. This is all done while I’m at work so i really don’t know what exactly is happening , i am just being told things.

Having to start over and over again is painful knowing that the next person who moves next to you might bring them in and there is nothing you can do.

Landlords need to step up and take some responsibility for their existing tenants. It is a disgrace that i pay close to a 1000 dollars a month now to sleep in one room , keep all my clothing in plastics bags, be biten almost every night now and still be expected to pay for rent.

I have no choice and I must pay. Like i meantioned , its a disgrace

10 Kristin January 6, 2009 at 11:05 am

Hi Hi! Ok people I have found the saving grace to this problem. I was on a mission to get out of my lease (see above statement) and went to the tenancy board office (in Halifax it is part of the West End Mall) where they gave me physicians forms and told me to go to my doctor claiming bed bugs have given you insomnia, show them your bites (or bring pictures), and tell them how they have affected your lifestyle negatively. Most doctors will sign and then you immediately give those forms to your landlord. By law, they cannot dispute such forms and must terminate your lease (you have 30 days then you can leave). Bye bye Ocean Towers!

11 nobugsonme January 6, 2009 at 11:22 am

Kristin,

This is helpful for those in Halifax to know.

It may help others elsewhere.

(A note to others: always seek advice from tenants’ groups in your own area, or a local lawyer. We are not lawyers.)

Thanks!

12 katie June 28, 2009 at 7:34 pm

I also live in Ocean Towers and started getting bites about a month ago. We were not told that the previous tenants had a bed bug problem, but were informed when the tenant came to talk to me since she was being sued by Transglobe for unpaid rent.
I found a bug a few days ago and the next day my roommate went to the legal aid office and the tenancy board.
The legal aid office (Dalhousie) has a tenancy lawyer and he gave us some good advice. Next we went to the tenancy board. They gave me forms which I took to the doctor.
We only have to pay for one more month AND we might get reimbursed for our stuff that we’re losing (along with any extra expenses incurred by this).
I suggest anyone that lives in Halifax talk to legal aid and then the tenancy board. It is a medical issue and you can easily get out of the lease if the doctor fills out the forms.

13 nobugsonme July 1, 2009 at 9:03 pm

katie,

I am sorry to hear that you have bed bugs.

Thanks for sharing your tips. Good luck!

14 Deedee November 1, 2009 at 9:20 am

Hey all! I moved into a building in the Northend of Halifax October 2008 and recieved a letter from Templeton Management about 2 wks later stating that the pest control were coming to do a YEARLY INSPECTION of the building as percaution. little did we know that it was not a precaution the ppl below us were completely infested with bedbugs. They were made to get rid of everything and were not allowed to get new stuff until they were rid of the bugs and the new stuff was inspected. they came from a couch they had got from a furniture bank. Not even a mth later we were being bit..I have 3 small kids and always thought bed bugs were just in a nursery ryme. I know diffrent now. We have been fighting the owners with this problem for a yr now. Been sprayed 8 times and keep getting them back. They have never sprayed the whole building at 1 time. They spray eaach apt as the complaints come in so I know they will never rid the place of the pests. They sprayed about 2wks ago and my 1yr old has just got 11 welts on her leg in a circle. when we told the owners they said they ar not spraying any more. If I want out of my lease they will let me. Thats all fine and good but what about in the meantime!!!! What about all my stuff. We have not been infested yet so our furniture is fine but it will NOT be coming with me. I have tons of toys and cloths. I cant afford to let everything go. By the time I find a place my stuff will be unusable. the day the owner let us out of the lease my husband confronted him about the bugs cause we have a hard time getting rsponses back from that office. The owner said “Bed Bugs….the building dont have bedbugs” He lost it! My husband ran upstairs and grabbed the bug I had caught climbing around my 4yr olds head and brought it to him, opened the lid and the owner jumpd out of his skin. They are such high mucks, you know it just discussed any of them to talk with us low life. I pay 900 for rent plus myutilities I dont deserve to be treated like I dont matter.. I have looked online for answers to my delema…. these comments have help alot. Im gonna talk to the tenecy board. Im allowed out of my lease but I need to be sprayed again. at least when they spray we usually get a week to a mths grace. I can get sleep, otherwise im up makin sure they are not around my kids. another thing that bothers me is that we are in a 13 unit building and one of 4 tenents left in the building everyone else moved . Templeton Place is letting new pple move in!!!! There has been 2 apts occupied since the summer and they were not told. Many pple have been told by my husband while coming to look at the place, and they turn right around and leave. Thank you everyone for the info and guidance
signed
out numbered :)

15 KJL November 3, 2009 at 2:02 pm

HELP ME SOMEONE!!! I’m going absolutely insane! My apartment is infested for the THIRD TIME in a year! We did EVERYTHING we were told to do before the extermination and after. BUT My landlord was doing the same thing as Deedee’s, a unit at a time, months apart…so where are the bugs going to go? Into the units that no longer have the barrier, duh. I’m sick to death. My mental state is questionable. I don’t sleep at night. I get bitten and react BADLY! The bites swell and itch sooo bad. I have a job to keep, it’s hard when I’m not sleeping. I sit in my chair at work and scratch profusly at the thoughts of having to go back to my bug infested apartment after work.
It’s also playing a toll on my love life: Who wants to be intimate on a sofa or a bed with BEDBUGS? Social life: Who wants to invite friends over and chance they get bitten or even better carry them back to their own homes? Not to mention my mental and physical states.
I don’t care if you pay $1000 a month or $500 NOBODY should have to live like this. I paid for the first extermination cus I was the only one who seemed to be having the problem. PCO told the landlord to do the WHOLE BUILDING cus they would just move on and on…but he didn’t listen. Come to find out, it WASN’T ME who started the infestation it was the guy downstairs who we’ve seen hauling second hand EVERYTHING into his apartment. When he was finally evicted due to the stench coming from his apartment, it was discovered that he was SWIMMING IN BEDBUGS, as was the gentleman in the unit next to us. My “infestation” was mild in comparison. I didn’t pay for my second extermination and I’m not paying for my third. This is an epidemic, they are running rampid throughout our cities, people WON’T speak up due to the emabarrassment and the stigma attached. I think it’s time our government got involved and try to find a way to get a handle on this. It’s a viscous mind warping cycle that someone has to end. In the meantime I’m off wash my WHOLE LIFE in hot soapy water at the laundromat for the third time in a year.
Frustrated and Insane in Dartmouth, KJL

16 KJL November 3, 2009 at 2:54 pm

In reading this back, I’d like to clarify: I do NOT believe in the blame game; however, we were told by a professional that the guy who was swimming in an infestation downstairs was most likely where it started. The landlord was informed and advised by the PCO to exterminate the WHOLE building! As a result of the landlord’s carelessness, I think it’s now his responsiblity to provide humane living quarters for his tennants.
Also, by opening this rant with a plea for help, it was more of a plea for the lend of an ear. I am greatful for this forum and my being able to vent. It’s unfortunate, yet comforting to know others are experiencing the same thing.
KJL

17 nobugsonme November 3, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Hi KJL,

This is an old post and most people will probably not see comments on it.

Please copy your story and post it in the Bedbugger Forums, where you will likely get more responses and support: http://bedbugger.com/forum/

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: