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'Rat sh*t on your pillow': Vancouver renters face 'rampant' rat infestation

"Come and check the traps every day for dead rodents."
A Vancouver rental dispute that made it to the BC Residential Tenancy Branch involved a pest control company and two parties that disagreed about rodents.

While it's bad enough to have a mouse in the house, a rat infestation might convince you to pack your bags and skip town.

Rodents, bugs, and other critters are a common source of frustration in B.C. tenancy disputes, with many renters alleging that they moved into a unit that became infested and their landlord did very little or nothing to solve the issue. 

On the other hand, landlords sometimes have to deal with particularly slovenly tenants who cause infestations during their stay. In some instances, they may even bring the pests with them when they move in (bed bugs are notorious hitchhikers). 

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 complaints involve vindictive parities. 

"Rampant infestation."

In one incident, the landlord first attempted to solve the rodent issue by obtaining a pest control company called CPC, which set up an eradication program of baiting and traps; the tenants also filled many of the holes that the rats were gaining entry into the building by using steel wool and expandable foam supplied by CPC.  

While it took a couple of months and one emergency visit, the tenant "Mr. D" said CPC resolved the issue. Unfortunately, the issue arose again a few months later. 

In the second instance, the landlord again retained CPC for the extermination and it started a program of trapping and poisoning the vermin outside of the house. Weekly visits were made to the premises to assess the situation. 

According to the tenants, however, the issue had worsened and the rats were "larger and more frequent in numbers." They could also be heard in the walls at night and renters could actually see them running around rather than just finding evidence of them (which was the case before). 

Tenant Mrs. B, who was pregnant at the time, was tasked was cleaning up after the rodents on a daily basis, which involved bleaching. During the months of July, August, and September, she estimates she spent an hour a day cleaning.

The tenants supplied photographic evidence to the RTB and also stated that the doctor ordered Mrs. B to stop cleaning. They even supplied a photo of Mrs. B's makeup case, which had allegedly been chewed by a rat despite containing no food items. 

Mr. D characterized the issue as a "rampant infestation."

Rent reduction 

The landlord issued a $300 rent reduction for July and August to compensate for the work the tenants were doing cleaning the house. The renters were still unsatisfied with the living arrangements, however. On Aug. 29, they stated that they would be moving out as of Sept. 30, citing an "unsafe living environment" due to the rodent infestation. 

The renters noted that CARE pest informed them that the house didn't have a proper foundation, which was leading to the ongoing rodent issue. They noted that the problem was so bad that they found "feces on pillows, and in our [six-year-old's] room."

In response to these allegations, the landlord's agent stated that the tenants were elaborating on the extent of the issue. After reviewing the evidence, however, the RTB stated that it was unlikely that either tenant was exaggerating the claims since the landlord gave them money off their rent due to the infestation. Further, they pointed out there were instances of a great deal of activity, such as a dead rat under a child's car seat. 

The RTB also pointed to a note left to the landlord by an exasperated Mrs. B, which spelled out the extent of living with the infestation.

At one point she writes, "Come after being at work for [eight] hours to find rat sh*t on your pillow. Come and check the traps every day for dead rodents."