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B.C. tenant says she 'felt something crawling on the back of her head'

She also found flea feces in her bathwater.
In 2021, the BC Residential Tenancy Branch has heard complaints from landlords and tenants regarding cleanliness and pest issues. Many files involve fleas. 

If you've ever spotted a mouse or rat in your dwelling, you might have run in the opposite direction. 

But not all pests cause such a commotion — at least not at first glance.  

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

Tenants also bear a responsibility to uphold the cleanliness of their rental units, too. 

The RTA stipulates that a "tenant must maintain reasonable health, cleanliness and sanitary standards throughout the rental unit." 

The BC Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) sees a range of complaints from landlords and tenants regarding cleanliness and pest issues — but it may surprise you how many of the files involve fleas. 

At roughly an eighth of an inch long, fleas aren't readily noticeable in the way larger insects are, such as cockroaches (a B.C. tenant said one of them crawled into her ear). However, the pint-sized pests can cause major infestations and wreak havoc on humans and pets alike. 

Here are just a handful of the multiple decisions involving rat-related issues in past years.

Flea bites after multiple pest control visits  

Despite multiple visits from a pest control company, a B.C. tenant says she was still dealing with pest issues that included flea bites. The woman, who was in the process of finding new housing, was concerned about the condition of her belongings and her unit. However, the landlord says they tried to resolve the issue and that the tenant was not willing to take the necessary steps. Specifically, they needed the tenant to temporarily move and store her belongings so they could thoroughly exterminate the pests. 

In this incident, the RTB ruled in favour of the landlord because of the tenant's unwillingness to help solve the issue. That said, the ruling states that the RTB sympathizes with the tenant's unfortunate circumstances.

Flea infestation: 'Damage was done to every room'

A landlord was seeking significant compensation for what they say was "extensive damage" to every room in the rental unit. The damage allegedly affected the "walls, ceilings, floors/carpets, doors, shower, toilet, windows, siding, screens, blinds, [and] appliances." Pets were not allowed in the unit and the landlord notes that the "mass flea infestation" was caused by at least one cat. 

The landlord submitted photographs, receipts and damage reports.

Unit infested with fleas 

Another B.C. landlord says they were left with a flea-infested rental unit after their tenant, who had a cat and a rabbit, moved out. They note that the infestation was so severe that they "were still present in all the carpets after being steam cleaned and following two infestation treatments." As a result, the landlord ripped out the carpeting and replaced it with laminate flooring. 

The former tenant, however, alleges that the unit was full of "mould and rot" and that it was a "breeding ground for fleas." They also say that their cat was given regular flea shots and that the vet said it was not carrying the tiny insects. 

In this instance, the RTB sided with the landlord as the tenant didn't have sufficient evidence to back up their claims. That said, the landlord wasn't awarded the full sum of money they were asking for because the "older carpets" were likely "very near to the end of their useful life."

Bird mites and flea feces in bathwater

The tenant in this dispute says she "discovered the infestation when she felt something crawling on the back of her head." She went to the doctor who allegedly informed her that she had "bird mites."

In addition, she notes that there was also a significant flea problem and that a vet found "flea feces" in her bathwater. She also claims there were "lice, scabies, and bed bugs," too.