Posted by: Mr Bed Bug in Canada Bed Bugs on July 24th, 2021

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On the outside, 125 Van Order Dr. appears to be a picturesque building, conveniently located near a major bus route and nearby shops. The building is surrounded by beautifully maintained gardens, with a large lawn, a cute picnic table and large trees for shade.

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The inside of the building is a different story.

In one hallway on the second floor are remnants of a stabbing that occurred in April. There is a large smear of human blood evident on the exterior of a unit door with a crime scene tag.

Nobody sent anybody to clean up the blood that was all over the apartment floors. Somebody got stabbed upstairs. It was all over the walls, all over the floors. Nobody saw anybody from housing clean it up, Kendra Freeman, a tenant at 125 Van Order Dr., said in an interview with the Whig-Standard.

While Kingston & Frontenac Housing Corporation would not speak to the specific incident at its property, corporation CEO Mary Lynn Cousins Brame said that when it comes to cleaning up human fluids, the corporation must hire an independent company and crime scenes must be preserved for the police.

We wouldnt do that ourselves. We would actually hire a company to come in and do that. It depends on how long the police have the units, so it can vary, she said. There is no timeline on were going to do it in two hours. The thing is we want to do it as soon as possible because that is an issue.

Remnants of human fluids are not the only issue that is immediately apparent in the building.

Walking down the hallways, there is visible water damage on the ceilings, the mailboxes are mostly broken, and small pests, including cockroaches, can be seen flittering across the floors. In the common room, a large section of the ceiling has crumbled off and there is a large pile of plaster sitting dormant on the floor.

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Residents living in rent-geared-to-income units with the Kingston & Frontenac Housing Corporation are speaking out about the property conditions, and the failure of the corporation to adequately address their concerns and maintain the property.

Upon entering the front door of the building, the mailboxes are wide open, with some dangling from the wall.

Residents have reported that mail is frequently stolen, and requests to maintain the mailboxes have been denied. Residents have resorted to purchasing C/O boxes, which can cost upwards of $300 a year a steep price for those living in rent-geared-to-income units.

Cousins Brame recognized the issue and explained that there is simply not enough room in the budget to address the issues.

Some of (the responsibility for maintenance) is us and some of it is Canada Post. Again, I want to stress that our budget is very slim, and in order to do a lot repairs, its city taxpayers, so we have a budget we have to work within. We only have a certain amount for capital repairs, so we have to prioritize what needs to happen, she said in an interview with the Whig-Standard.

Freeman explained the maintenance issues she is dealing with in her unit.

Theres mould in the corner of my apartment. My bathtub will start to back up sometimes; its just dirty water that comes up. I called housing and they just told me to plunge it. My sink flooded, literally backed up and flooded my kitchen, Freeman explained. My cabinets were all moulded and they didnt replace them and I called the emergency line. There has consistently been, and no matter how much I clean it or what I do, in the corner of my apartment opposite of my kitchen, just black mould. I have to wash it all the time and Im allergic to mould.

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My tiles are coming up, and I dont know how theyre going to fix that. When I vacuum, my tiles will come up. I had eight of them come up yesterday when I vacuumed before mopping. My toilet doesnt work properly the top shelf part is completely broken and they just wont replace it.

The condition of the building, and the cramped space, has been weighing on Freeman, who lives with her fiancee and her newborn baby.

I didnt even want to be here a month with her. Its literally a one-bedroom apartment. I feel so stressed all the time, because I just want to clean and clean and clean, she explained.

Like many new parents, the two have had a lot of laundry, something that has proven difficult to do with limited funds and faulty machines.

Its so hard doing laundry when (the machines) break 24-7. This one doesnt even take loonies sometimes. It just steals your money. With the washers breaking all the time, I cant even afford to do my laundry when it all piles up. Because, with a baby, you know, this is two or three days worth of laundry, Freeman explained, pointing to a pile of baby clothes and burp cloths.

According to Cousins Brame, unless issues are raised by tenants, the corporation cant do anything.

For a maintenance issue to be addressed by the landlord, first it has to come to the landlord from the tenant, Cousins Brame said in an interview with the Whig-Standard. Theyre well aware that theres a tenant complaint process, but tenants (are) not accepting of the answer. Often theyre bringing issues forward that arent really issues and something that we would not get involved in.

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However, tenants expressed frustration that relevant concerns for unit maintenance were being ignored.

Its a frequent issue where you will contact staff members especially if its about the same issue they will just stop responding. And then youll get pushed to a new staff member, who stops responding, Jessica Seaton, a tenant at 125 Van Order Dr., said in an interview with the Whig-Standard. They just dont want to deal with the issues and they just keep pushing it off. Eventually most (tenants) just give up.

According to Seaton, she has a multitude of issues that have yet to be addressed, namely a serious bug problem but also holes in the wall, water damage, my ceiling was leaking for months before did anything about it which all contributes to the bugs, she said.

Recently, Seaton found dead bedbugs in her unit and promptly reported it to the housing corporation.

They actually did provide a notice of treatment for the bedbugs, which was super extensive. I had to put all of my clothes in the dryer even if they were already clean and then tightly seal them in garbage bags. I spent half the day doing this. I had to go to a laundromat to do this, because our dryers dont work. All this money, all this prep work, all my time. And then later that day, about four to six hours after receiving this notice, I received an email saying, We included treatment for bedbugs, and that was a mistake and they actually cancelled the treatment. Fortunately I havent found too many, she said.

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Since moving in in January, Seaton estimated she has received between eight or nine pest treatments, but none of them seem to have worked.

Whats happened is instead of being in the kitchen and bathroom on the floors, theyre in my kitchen cupboards. Theyre in my food cupboards, theyre in my bedroom and living room, she said.

According to Seaton, pest control explained that if the bugs are in the building itself, no amount of treatments will help unless the entire building is treated, and bugs can be seen throughout the building. Seaton believes the housing corporation has some level of awareness of the issue.

When I first moved in here, the very first comment ever made while I was signing the lease, they told me not to get anything used to buy all of my furniture brand new, she said. They specifically told me I had to buy all of my furniture brand new because theyve had bedbug issues, so even before I moved in here, they were aware that bugs were an issue in the building.

Seaton has been working to get the issues in her unit addressed since she moved in. In her correspondence with staff, she has found that the maintenance issues she flags are often not addressed.

As set out in Section 27 of the Residential Tenancies Act, landlords must identify the reason for entry when issuing notices. According to Tribunal Ontarios interpretation of the section, The notice should provide as many details as possible with respect to the proposed entry with respect to the repair or replacement or with respect to an inspection of the rental unit.

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After reporting 28 violations to Kingston & Frontenac Housing Corporation, Seaton received a notice stating the KFHC maintenance staff will be in your unit to perform multiple repairs.

She emailed the housing corporation, seeking clarification for what issues specifically would be addressed. Staff responded that the multiple repairs that will be taking place in your unit is in response to your email citing multiple maintenance violations, and when a tenant sends such an email, we respond by giving notice to enter to address those concerns.

After that back and forth, Seaton says none of the repairs were actually completed.

When they came in, they actually didnt do any of the repairs. They left a few pointers, they repaired my oven light, they created a hole in my ceiling and patched a hole they created. They didnt fix the original crack where the water was coming through thats still there. And the baseboards they put on arent even secured to the wall. If you poke them, they go like in and out, she said.

The vague nature of maintenance requests also makes it difficult for Seaton and other tenants to receive support from City of Kingston Property Standards.

They would forward this to Property Standards, and because of the way Property Standards works, as long as they are making an effort, they dont really get involved. So Im forced to restart this process again and again, she said.

On July 7, Property Standards finally inspected the unit and issued a Notice of Violation, giving the housing corporation one month to complete the repairs.

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According to the notice, the following violations were identified: cockroaches in the hallway of the unit; unfinished patch work on the bathroom ceiling, cracked floor tiles, loose floor tiles, tiles missing under baseboard heater; multiple instances where baseboards are not tight-fitting to the wall, gaps between baseboards along the wall, damaged baseboards; kitchen tiles were cracked and chipped and the bathroom floor was not sealed near the tub, with a piece of tile lifted up; a bent window screen for the living room window; bathtub had rust spots and the tub surrounding the drain appears to be rusted.

Cousins Brame claims a lot of these issues are localized to units and occur after tenants take possession, and said units would never be issued in that poor of a condition.

There would be no unit that we would be turning over with bugs or mould, because it goes through a thorough check maintenance turnover, Cousins Brame said. (A) whole unit turnover process happens where its repaired, its cleaned. If there are any kinds of bugs, we have a pest control company. If there are active bugs, we hold it until its cleared by pest control.

However, the Notice of Violation issued by Property Standards identifies multiple maintenance issues that are the responsibility of the landlord to maintain. The intervention of Property Standards also recognizes that the housing corporation had failed to adequately address these issues.

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According to Cousins Brame, tenants must sign off on the condition of the unit before receiving it. However, in Kingston, tenants who are offered rent-geared-to-income units are offered only one option, and if they turn down the unit, they must return to the bottom of the wait list where they can wait for years before being offered another unit.

It used to be that you got three choices for low-income housing. Now its only one choice. If you walk into a place after being homeless and see bugs crawling across the floor, you get no other choice before returning to the bottom of the list. So your choice is between remaining homeless and getting a bug-infested apartment, Seaton, who was homeless for one year before being offered a unit at 125 Van Order Dr., said.

At that rate, some people have been on the wait least for years. Its not a choice anymore. They cant afford to be put back on the bottom.

Seaton is exhausted by her living conditions and her experience with housing corporation staff.

The people are great; I love my neighbours. But theres nothing good about this place. Its been constant stress and anxiety, she said.

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See the article here:
'There's nothing good about this place': Tenants speak out about conditions at social housing property - The Kingston Whig-Standard

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