The former tenant of a bedbug-infested apartment says the building’s manager and owners knew of the problem long before a family of Iraqui refugees moved in.
The Al Dulaimis signed a one-year lease for their three-bedroom, $1,400-a-month unit back in November with the help of the Immigrant Services Society (ISS).
Days after moving in, they found bugs crawling on their mattresses and bite marks on their bodies.
READ MORE: Iraqi refugees say temporary home in Burnaby is infested with bedbugs
The moment William Dejeu saw a report on the News Hour on Wednesday about the Al Dulaimis’ situation, he knew all too well what this family are now dealing with.
“Sure enough on their apartment was black garbage bags and furniture,” said William Dejeu. “Having gone through that, my heart kinda sank.”
Bedbugs first spotted in summer 2015
For six years, Dejeu, his girlfriend and a roomate lived in the exact same unit the Al Dulaimis’ are now in.
For Dejeu, the problems started on July 18, 2015, when he found the first bedbug.
“I was putting on a jacket and I noticed something crawling out onto my neck,” he said. “I showed my partner and she said that’s a bed bug.”
He said they immediately contacted the building manager.
“Her first response was that she didn’t know what the insect was and that she didn’t want to see it,” recalled Dejeu.
It wasn’t until Dejeu and his girlfriend insisted the problem be dealt with that a pest control company arrived later that month.
Between July 31 and mid-September, there were several inspections and the unit was sprayed. During that time, other tenants were also reporting bedbugs in their units.
“At first they told us it was our fault and they told us, by law, we would have to throw out all of our belongings, our furniture,” said Dejeu. “We had enough by month two.”
Dejeu says he never felt as though they were being taken seriously. It’s why they moved out on October 31. Not too long after, the Al Dulaimis moved in, unaware the bedbugs were still there.
Today, a pest control company arrived at the building, however no one from Pinnacle International Realty Group – the company that owns the building – would return our calls.
More tenants report building has a history of pests
A tenant who still lives in the building, who’s asked to remain anonymous, said the building has had multiple issues with pests, including, bedbugs, rats, mice, cockroaches and mold.
He said, in the past, tenants were told not to voice their concerns or else they would forced out of the building.
“When things get reported, it takes the Landlord a very lengthy period of time to do anything,” he said, adding that tenants are often blamed for any problems that arise.
Bedbug outbreaks not tracked by Fraser Health, City of Burnaby
Fraser Public Health said they do not track reports of bedbug outbreaks.
“We recognize that bed bugs are unpleasant, but they do not present a public health hazard in that they do not directly cause or spread disease in humans,” writes Tasleem Juma, a Fraser Health spokesperson, in an email.
In addition, Juma writes that public institutions are not required to report bed bug infestations to Fraser Health.
The Mayor of Burnaby said there was nothing the city could do and that the Al Dulaimis should contact the Residential Tenancy Branch, their MLA or the federal government.
In an email, a spokesperson for the Minister Responsible for Housing also pointed to the RTB for a resolution, adding that the Residential Tenancy Act “requires a landlord to maintain a rental property in a state that is suitable for occupancy by a tenant and meets all housing, safety and building standards required by law.”
Dejeu worries the refugee family, who are unfamiliar of the province’s laws, or how to navigate the system and are unaware of their rights as tenants, will never get the help they need.
“It just shocks me,” said Dejeu. “It’s not so much about what our condition was…but, at least kind of help their case.”
While Immigrant Services helped the Al Dulaimis find this apartment, they do not typically help families move into a second unit when problems arise in the first.