failure to take prevention seriously causes great hardship in multifamily

I am both a landlord and an exterminator specializing in bed bugs so I put a lot of effort into bed bug prevention in my apartment block. All tenants have received prevention education in document form and also with personal conversation. Most tenants are very appreciative that this apartment block has fewer bugs than other apartment blocks. But not all tenants appreciate being bug free.

By way of history I have educated my tenants many times on the danger of bed bugs harbouring on people’s clothing (see my blog “bed bugs in clothing – purgatory is the culprit”). One day I was heating a load of furniture in my bed bug baker and a tenant and guest approached me to see how my machine worked. As we talked the guest volunteered that he lived in a rooming house (see my blog on rooming houses) that was being treated for bed bugs but he himself “did not have any.” I was immediately alarmed firstly because of the admitted infestation, secondly because he lived in a rooming house, and thirdly because the vast majority of people in multi family do not realize they have bed bugs – the guest’s statement that he did not have any bugs despite all the rooms surrounding his being infested was not very reassuring. I spent 20 minutes educating these folks verbally with the end result that they ignored my advice and entered my building. That was the most discouraging moment in my 10 year history of being a landlord. And then the guest began returning for weekly visits. Sigh.

Well, to quote Carol Burnett, “SURPRISE SURPRISE SURPRISE” bed bugs were found in this tenant’s suite two months later. An inspection and extensive monitoring process began for all surrounding suites and no evidence of bugs was found. All the neighbours successfully followed bed bug prevention guidelines but were forced into the inconvenience of living with climb up interceptors because of this one individual’s actions.   The infested suite’s furniture was heat sterilized and tempo pcp 25673 was applied to the remainder of the suite. Instructions were left that the tenant was to sleep close to where the infestation was found with the goal of baiting out any remaining bugs onto the glueboard/ interceptor combo traps under the couch. The bugs were found only on the couch where, coincidentally, the guests sat – the bed was bug free. The tenant refused to cooperate, slept only on his bed, and continued to invite the rooming house friend for visits. Indeed he welcomed many other visitors into his infested suite. All precautions were ignored. More sighs.

To make a long story shorter the process went on for 6 months with two heat sterilizations, numerous chemical treatments, and still a low level bed bug infestation persisted. Because the cooperation was so poor I decided to pressure the tenant into cooperating by charging for the extermination treatments. I figured perhaps the behaviour would change if his actions had monetary cost. But I was wrong and he hired a lawyer to represent him in court when the issue went to the Residential Tenancies Branch. The lawyer, in classic lawyer fashion, did not address the substance of the issues but rather focused on details such as a check box on the order of possession had not been checked and therefore the hearing needed to be delayed and rescheduled.

Once the lawyer was involved the tenant started avoiding me.  I would knock on his door to hand him the latest court documents and he would not answer.  I suppose the lawyer told him that not receiving the documents  would create a problem for me in the court case.  One day I noticed he arrived home in his car and I hid behind  the back door and waited for him to open the door.  As he did so I jumped out and handed him the court documents.  He refused to take them so I placed them on his hand that was holding the keys and walked away.  Then I received conflicting advice from the Residential Tenancies Branch about whether or not that was an appropriate method of serving court documents.  In another effort to serve documents I waited until a court date so I could serve the next documents in court.  The tenant, I suppose, knew I was going to serve those papers so he arranged to have his own presence served via teleconference with the excuse that his car broke down (he lived a ten minute walk from the court and was not physically handicapped).  I asked the judge if I could serve the lawyer on the tenant’s behalf and and the judge agreed.  The lawyer declined to take them.  Nice.

I also suspect the tenant began self treating with pyrethrin (I asked him to get rid of his can of RAID but he refused). As a result, 3 months after I began treating the infested suite I found 2 bed bugs in the interceptor/glue board traps under the bed legs in the suite below. The suite below is always the most at risk of bug transfer due to inappropriate use of pyrethrin. And of course this suite now needed treatment.

And then the tenant called the city health department complaining about the fact there were bed bugs in his suite. When I explained to the inspector that the furniture had been heat sterilized twice, numerous chemical treatments had been applied, and that this tenant was being evicted for not cooperating the inspector decided that I would receive no orders. Indeed the inspector could not order me to do anything as it was less than 9 days since the last chemical treatment and therefore it was illegal for me to retreat. At this point I started thinking this tenant had mental health issues.

In the end, with my third court date, the tenant’s habitual lateness with rent offered me the closest date for eviction and I applied for an order of possession on that basis (if that did not work I had more court dates scheduled for the bugs). The lawyer, I suppose, found no loopholes so she did not show up for that hearing. I received my order of possession via mediated agreement, the tenant moved out, and now owes me almost $800 in rent and late fees (in breach of the mediated agreement) plus about $1500 in bed bug costs. But at least he is out and that is the main thing. At least the damage stops.

What we learned here is that one uncooperative tenant caused 5 families to undergo regular bed bug inspections for 6 months and one of those families was actually infested as a result and had to be treated. Not very nice!   The tenant is now living in a $450 a month suite in the roughest part of the city. And the tenant was accepted with no rental references from me – wow! A part of me relishes this turn of events as I am sure he will finally enjoy living in an environment filled with untreated bed bugs – serves him right! And in a perfect world that lawyer would be living directly under his suite.

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