20 May Bug and Scrub and the private sector

A number of jurisdictions and authorities have recognized the importance of tenant cooperation and preparation in regards to successful bed bug treatments. If a tenant does not cooperate the likelihood of success is very low. As such the Manitoba government instituted “Bug and Scrub” program which assists social assistance people with an inability to cooperate with a team to help them prepare with zero cost to themselves. Personally I think the program has excellent potential though it will be expensive. Cudos to MB housing for giving it a try. I have been using a similar program in my apartment block with zero cost to non social assistance tenants for years with excellent results.

I have watched a crew in action and it appeared that a crew of three people spent the better part of a day in their preparation. A back of the envelope calculation suggests a cost of at least $500 for the initial preparation with subsequent visits to be added. But that is still cheaper than years of ineffective treatments.

The private sector landlords with tenants not on social assistance do not get free service but they are eligible to pay for the service. Tenant compliance is sometimes very difficult to attain so I called the Residential Tenancies Branch for information on, including in the lease, a mandatory Bug and Scrub visit in instances of non cooperation which the tenant would pay for. As a landlord I could then use the threat of an expensive bug and scrub visit as a stick to coerce cooperation from tenants. And if the tenant refused entry to the Bug and Scrub team, or refused to pay for the service, the landlord would be responsible for the costs which could then be taken to the RTB as reasons for eviction. This would be infinitely better for the landlord to prove non compliance in court than arbitrary definitions of what constitutes “cooperation” from the tenant. And true to form the Residential Tenancies Branch gave the circuitous answer, that “I could put whatever I wanted in the lease but could be challenged by the tenant before the Residential Tenancies Branch for legality” – the classic non answer. I guess someone could try and see what happened. It would be similar to Manitoba’s no smoking in suites challenge a few years back. It took a court case to set the precedent.

The downside of this approach is that a non complaint person will likely not comply with bed bug protocols even if there is a threat of huge costs or eviction. And applying the Bug and Scrub stick would result in a confrontational relationship between tenant and landlord that might do more harm than good. The landlord might get the eviction more easily but suffer great consequences elsewhere through the tenant spreading the bugs throughout the building. And given the matter could be appealed to the Residential Tenancies Branch for months the damage could become immense. This would be a tool to be used wisely by managers.