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Itchy Situation: No Bylaws That Specifically Address Bedbugs In Halifax

By KATIE INGRAM

Bedbugs are becoming more and more common in Halifax, but it’s an issue that often doesn’t go away quickly – even if the pests are found.

In January, it was reported that bedbugs were found on two different Halifax Transit buses and a month later a family found bugs in their Harbour View Apartment, shortly after moving into the unit. Harbour View also had reports of bedbugs last fall. Eight beds at the Victoria General Hospital had to be closed following an outbreak in late 2015.

There aren’t any bylaws or rules within the HRM or the Nova Scotia Residential Tenancies Act that specifically address bedbugs. Under the Condition of Premises section of the tenancy act, it states that landlords need to keep premises in “a good state of repair and fit for habituation during the tenancy” and need to follow laws regarding “standards of health, safety and housing.”

Either way, getting rid of bedbugs once they’ve invaded an apartment or home can be a long process. For Kayla Burgess it was about six months.

Burgess, who lives in Spryfield, first realized she had an issue in late 2014 when her children started developing what she thought was a rash.

“They were itchy, but it wasn’t a severe itch,” she says.

She soon realized it was much more than an allergic reaction. She told her building’s manager, who had already been taking precautions by bringing in dogs to inspect apartments once a month. If bedbugs were found, the manager hired an exterminator to spray the apartment.

“The spraying did not seem to help our situation and I personally found the bedbug sniffing dog wasn’t accurate on the location of the bedbugs,” says Burgess.

Eventually, she took matters into her own hands.

“We decided to rid ourselves of all the furniture that we believed to have them or showed signs of them,” she says, noting that she had to throw out three wooden bedframes, a couch, a chair and a couple of mattresses.

A document from Legal Aid Nova Scotia says tenants first need to notify their landlord about the problem; if there isn’t a response, they need to put their request in writing. If nothing is done, Legal Aid recommends seeing if neighbours have a similar problem and calling a government inspector.

“Many cities, towns, and municipalities have inspectors who can order your landlord to make repairs or to clean up your building,” says the document.

If the problem still isn’t fixed after these steps, an Application to Director can be made to Residential Tenancies for a hearing with a Residential Tenancies Officer.

An online Nova Scotia Bedbug Registry is also available for those who have concerns, but many of the reports are a few years old. Yet, no matter how quickly a situation is dealt with bed bugs continue to be a problem.

“I’m not surprised that Halifax has increased sightings of bed bugs; it seems like they are increasing in numbers all across North America,” says Burgess. “I’ve read articles about sightings being more frequent.”

Calls to Harbour View Apartments’ owners Capreit about their situation were not returned.

About Katie Ingram

Katie Ingram is a Halifax-based, freelance journalist. Along with Haligonia, her work has been featured in a number of publications including Halifax Magazine, Atlantic Books Today, the South Shore Breaker, The Coast, J-Source, Dakai Maritimes, Quill and Quire, the Queens County Advance, the Halifax Media Co-op and on CBC Radio.

 

The views and opinions expressed in this content are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of haligonia.ca.

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