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'Itchy and painful': B.C. tenants say they were bitten by bed bugs on numerous occasions

The tenants in one B.C. dispute said their home was "torn apart" while the rental unit was treated for bed bugs.
The Residential Tenancy Act states that landlords must maintain residential properties in a state that complies with health, safety and housing standards.

You can spot many apartment-dwelling pests from across the room. 

From rats to mice, cockroaches to large spiders, there are several rodents and insects that might have you jumping onto a table and acting like a fool. 

But there are many pests that you don't spot until they've started wreaking havoc on your pad — and bed bugs are some of the most notorious offenders. 

Whether you've ever had a bed bug problem, been at risk of having them, or you've simply been alarmed about the prospect of getting them, the pint-sized pests cause a mammoth amount of turmoil. 

And it isn't hard to see why. 

Long term issues with bed bugs 

Once a building has an issue with bed bugs, they are incredibly difficult to get rid of — and it only takes one person with the issue to wreak havoc on the entire property. Bed bugs are adept hitchhikers, and they can thrive in either clean or dirty homes.

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. 

But 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. Unsurprisingly, many of the disputes involve bed bugs. 

Itchy, painful bed bug bites 

The tenants in one B.C. dispute said their home was "torn apart" while the rental unit was treated for bed bugs. They first reported the buggy issue in March or April of 2020 and stated that they didn't know how it started but speculate that they may have been brought in with a used washing machine that they purchased. 

The unit was treated for bed bugs on four separate occasions, and the tenants paid for the first bed bug treatment. The tenants noted that this disrupted their lives because they needed to be outside of their home for several hours at a time when the treatments were being administered.  By Dec. 11, 2020, they were reportedly no more bed bugs in the unit. 

With this in mind, the tenants said that they had to dispose of many personal belongings because they were ruined by the pests. Additionally, they submitted photographs that they were bitten by the bugs. They described the bites as "itchy and painful," too.

In this instance, the RTB sided primarily with the tenants (although the decision notes that some of their dates were incorrect). The RTB stated that bed bugs are a common issue in the province but that the landlord is ultimately responsible for rectifying the infestation. As a result, the tenants were advised that they could withhold $3,125 of rent. The monies owed included various other issues, including a lack of grass maintenance, a leak, and a filing fee.