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'The landlord did not forewarn the tenants': Vancouver renter and child develop rashes from bed bug bites

The RTB said that the landlord's failure to check other units or notify other tenants may have worsened the situation.
A Vancouver renter says a beg bug infestation in her unit was worsened due to negligence by her landlord.

While they are one of the smallest pests you might encounter in your pad, they pack one of the most problematic bites. 

Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to get rid of and infestations can spread through apartment buildings. The tiny insects are also adept hitchhikers, meaning that travellers can pick them up on the road and bring them home as unwelcome house guests. 

The tiny critters are also a source of strife between landlords and their tenants since both parties bear responsibility for maintaining cleanliness in rental units. But there are some important differences. 

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 try to prevent infestations from happening and deal with them swiftly if they do. 

But tenants aren't off the hook for keeping their pads pest free. 

The RTA stipulates that renters must also maintain "reasonable health, cleanliness, and sanitary standards" in their units. 

When it comes to an infestation, B.C.'s Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) will often side with landlords who provide evidence that their tenants did not uphold their end of the bargain. In cases like this, the renters may have failed to clean their units or take their garbage out on a regular basis.

In one case, the RTB said a tenant worsened a severe cockroach infestation that spread from one unit to several neighbouring ones. 

Vancouver renter claims thousands of dollars in damages for bed bug infestation

In some instances, the RTB will side with tenants who are able to prove that a landlord's actions or negligence caused or worsened an infestation. 

A Metro Vancouver renter was asking for several thousand dollars to replace items that were ruined due to a bed bug infestation and the cost of a hotel she stayed in while her unit was sprayed. She was also asking for compensation for the medicine she purchased to treat bug bites and for her emotional suffering.

The tenant also discover a rash on her child's face, which the doctor diagnosed as impetigo. She later developed the same rash and began to do some online research. After learning that bed bugs can cause rashes, she checked her mattress and discovered a bug. When she informed the building manager, she was informed that another tenant had them.

In the dispute, the tenant said an infestation in a neighbouring unit spread to hers, and the property owner did not follow Vancouver Coastal Health's guidance to check other units for bugs. The RTB noted that the renter would have known what the bug was and what to do with it had she known that there was a nearby infestation.

The RTB found that the tenants, who were the parents of a two-year-old child, would have also been on alert for signs of bed bugs in their unit. 

"By the time their son contracted his rash, if not before, they would have known to alert the landlord and avert most if not all of the damage and inconvenience that they ultimately suffered," it wrote in the decision.

"The landlord did not forewarn the tenants and as a result are responsible for damage and loss suffered by the tenants that was reasonably the result of that failure."

Eighteen days before the tenancy hearing, the tenants filed a document claiming $7,229.55 for "bins, totes, garbage bags, bed bug pillow cases and mattress covers, laundry costs a hotel for one night, a new mattress and for general damages for trauma as the landlords’ son had an allergic reaction to bed bug bites."

The RTB awarded the tenant $5,122.58, which included the $100 filing fee.