Mattress bugs: Wild disputes between B.C. tenants and landlords

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Have you ever lived in an apartment building that had a bed bug problem?

Whether you’ve ever had a bed bug problem, were in danger of getting them, or just worried about getting the little pests, they are causing a huge amount of commotion.

And it’s not hard to see why.

Once a building has a problem with bed bugs, they’re incredibly difficult to get rid of – and it only takes one person with the problem to devastate the entire property. Bed bugs are skilled hitchhikers and can thrive in both clean and dirty homes.

According to Section 32 of the Residential Rent Act (RTA), landlords are responsible for providing and maintaining their residential properties in a state that meets the statutory health, safety and housing standards. In other words, they need to keep your pad pest free or deal with pest issues if they arise.

But tenants are also responsible for the cleanliness of their rental units.

The RTA stipulates that “a tenant must adhere to appropriate health, cleanliness and hygiene standards throughout the rental unit”.

The BC Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) is seeing a number of complaints from landlords and tenants regarding cleanliness and pest infestation. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the disputes involve bed bugs.

Here are just a handful of the numerous bed bug related decisions made over the past few years.

Years of infestation

In that dispute, tenants testified that the building had long struggled with a bed bug problem. In July 2019, their mattress had to be replaced and the “landlord did not react properly to the bed bug infestation,” they said. According to the tenants, the landlord advised them to buy a mattress cover to prevent “further infestation”.

In 2018, the landlord said they tried a heat treatment that failed to resolve the infestation problem. However, they stated that a 2019 “building-wide spray / mist” appeared to solve the problem for everyone in the building except for the tenants in question.

In this case, the RTA sided with the landlord based on sufficient evidence.

Sleep on plastic boxes

In another dispute, the tenant stated that in the first year of her tenancy she had to sleep on “plastic boxes” and get rid of her sofa because of a bed bug infestation. They also said that water was dripping from the ceiling and that their roommate moved out because his daughter thought it was “dangerous” to stay there.

Too many bed bugs or too little rent? That is the question

In that dispute, the tenant said he stopped renting because the landlord refused to resolve the bed bug problem in his rental unit. While the landlord hired a pest control company to “fumigate the building three times,” the tenant said she “continues to have bed bug problems, bed bug infested and dirty.”

Itchy, painful bed bug bites

The tenants in this dispute say their home was “ripped apart” while the rental unit was being treated for bed bugs. They also submitted photos showing they were bitten by the pests. They also described the bites as “itchy and painful”. In this case, however, the RTA favored the landlord’s statement as to when the bed bug problem was reported. The landlord said the issue was first raised in July 2020, while the renter claimed to have raised it in March or April 2020.

Bed bugs?

In this dispute, the landlord wanted to clear the tenant of bed bugs but refused to allow the landlord to treat the rental unit. When inspecting the unit, the pest control company did not find any dead bed bugs. However, they saw “evidence” of the pests – there were traces of feces on their bedding. While the tenant disagreed with this finding, the RTA sided with the landlord.