Eradicating bed bugs in condos involves cooperative effort
By Kathy Rumleski, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor
With bed bugs becoming an increasingly common problem for condominium corporations, Toronto condominium lawyer Warren Kleiner says corporations need to have a tactful approach in dealing with the problem.
“Bed bugs have proliferated everywhere and can spread in unexpected ways. It’s hard to determine where they originated in a building so don’t make accusations,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com.
Having a balanced approach involves both unit owners and the board in eradicating the bugs, says Kleiner, a partner with Shibley Righton LLP in Toronto.
“It’s a partnership between the owners reporting and the corporations hiring a pest control company. If you’re going to charge people in a unit for extermination costs, you’re blaming them in a way," he says.
Billing a unit owner may also prevent other residents from coming forward if they find bed bugs, Kleiner says.
“The best approach is to ensure people feel comfortable to report rather than feeling stigmatized. And while there may be an argument that you can charge a unit dweller for costs incurred, most corporations will treat and pay for it because there likely is more than one unit infested,” he says.
Kleiner also advises against putting up notices about bed bugs throughout the building.
“You don’t want to alarm people,” he says.
Preventive inspections can be tricky due to the high costs and the difficulty in getting into each unit, Kleiner says.
“I’m not sure you want to incur the costs of inspecting every unit unless you know for sure there is a widespread problem," he says.
Kleiner says a condo corporation has the right to enter residences under the Ontario Condominium Act in order to carry out its duties and obligations.
“If they believe there is a bed bug infestation in a unit that is not being dealt with, they certainly have the means to get someone into the unit to check and take the necessary steps,” he says.
Some of these cases may find their way to court if there is a hazard and the corporation isn’t being allowed to deal with it, Kleiner adds.
“If that is an issue, the corporation needs to call its lawyers because we can always ensure the situation is properly handled,” he says.
Kleiner recalls an extreme case of bed bug infestation that led to renovations inside a unit.
“We had to force the owner to re-do their ceiling because the pest control company said there were so many stains on the ceiling due to the pests, it was hard to determine if there was a new infestation,” he says, adding the owner also had to agree to inspections at regular intervals.
Some boards have a policy in place that allows for inspection in the units surrounding the location of an infestation, Kleiner says.
“That’s something that helps stem their spread,” he says.
The one thing a corporation cannot do if there is a bed-bug problem is ignore it, Kleiner says, recounting the experience of a friend who struggled to rid a dwelling of the pests.
“He discovered bed bugs in his condo when he came back from his honeymoon, and actually ended up with PTSD because of it. Every single night for months he had to pour boiling water along the baseboards to try to get rid of all of them,” he says.
“This is why it is so important for condo corporations to act quickly if they become aware of a problem,” Kleiner says.