30 rats, mould prompt tenants to leave Halifax rental house
Dozens of rats trapped in Duncan Street house within last few months
A tenant and her roommates are calling it quits after a nightmare period spent dealing with a series of problems at her rental home in central Halifax.
Devon Berquist has lived in the Duncan Street building for 2½ years and said she has never missed a rent payment. She and her five roommates are moving out of the house, which Berquist considers unfit to live in.
Berquist said the house on Duncan Street was OK for the first couple of years, despite large gaps around the windows and doors and cracked and peeling plaster. The apartment was cold but livable, she said.
Then Berquist, and her roommates went away for a few days in January.
"I was away in Quebec for about four days and I came back home, opened the door and I heard water running so I ran upstairs and there was a geyser up to the ceiling from a pipe ... in the laundry room," she said.
Berquist went downstairs and shut off the main waterline, then assessed the damage.
"A fuse or something had blown. The furnace got turned off in those four days because I came home and as I looked around, I noticed that the toilets were solid, solid ice blocks," she said.
"There was ice on the floor, everything was cold to touch. The house was completely frozen over."
When the landlord came by the next morning, he told them it would take a day or so to fix the leak and let them stay in another nearby property — a property Berquist said was also inadequate.
Berquist said the apartment provided had only three habitable bedrooms for six people. She said the oil tank leaked and there was a strong smell of oil in the basement.
Berquist said the temporary apartment also smelled strongly of black mould, had two functional burners on the stove and the toilet was filled with brown sludge and smelled strongly of sulphur. The tenants were there for two weeks.
Started setting traps
When they moved back in, the roommates started checking the property more closely and said they found black mould. They saw evidence of rats and started setting traps.
Berquist said they've caught about 30 rats in the last couple of months. Because the foundation is full of holes, they keep coming.
Evan Coole is with the national anti-poverty group Acorn Canada. He's been helping Berquist and her roommates extricate themselves from the house.
"It's pretty bad between the plumbing issues, the electrical issues, the house — even with the furnace working now — is freezing cold. Several violations of the M100 — minimum standards for housing bylaw — and the obligations set out by the Residential Tenancies Act are not being met," he said.
"I'm honestly very concerned for who might unsuspectingly sign a lease there."
CBC News contacted Wise Man Investments, which owns the house and manages the property. Wise Man Investments is owned by the Metlege family.
A woman who answered the phone at Wise Man Investments told CBC News the problems are minor. When CBC challenged her on that characterization, she said the company has no comment and hung up the phone.
Berquist said she and her roommates are hoping to break their lease without financial repercussions.