Calgary

Condo bed bug infestation a 'losing game,' says pest control company

A Calgary man says he's losing sleep over the unbearable conditions at the condo he recently vacated while the landlord tried to treat an ongoing bed bug problem.

'Every time I'd move anything I'd see bed bugs,' says renter of a Saddle Ridge condo

These are bed bugs behind a heat register at a Saddle Ridge condo. (Submitted by Calgary Pest Control)

A Calgary man says he's losing sleep over the unbearable conditions at the condo he recently vacated while the landlord tried to treat an ongoing bed bug problem.

"Every time I'd move anything I'd see bed bugs. They were in my couch. They were in my bedroom. In my clothes. They were even in the kitchen drawers," Marvin Merraro told CBC News.

"You could see where they've nested," he said of the two-bedroom unit he rented at Indigo Sky Condos in Saddle Ridge.

Merraro lived in the four-storey building for almost a year. His unit was sprayed three times between May and October and the bugs seemed to go away, before returning with a vengeance, he said.

A pest management company says it's a waste of time to do it again, until the surrounding units and common areas are also treated.

"The goal is to get people bed bug free and it's like a losing game over there," said Penny Monyatsiwa at Calgary Pest Control.

But the property manager denies there's an infestation and says he and the condo board are doing all they can to address the problem.

"If it's an infestation, we will have more reported concerns from owners, if it's been going on that for that long. We don't have any concerns from other units," Manni Kahloon said.

Indigo Sky Condo property manager Manni Kahloon says individual condo owners are responsible for treating their own bed bug problems at their own cost. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

But that's not consistent with an email Kahloon sent to the owner of the condo, Jesse Sandhu, on Nov. 20 where Kahloon calls the problem an infestation.

Crawling all over the place

Merraro says he was renting his third-floor unit for a few of months before the bugs first appeared.

"I was waking up with bites, I'd move my sheets and they were all over my bed ... crawling all over the place," Merraro said.

He says he immediately told his landlord who then went to the property manager for help.

Owner Sandhu says he was told that, according to the condo's bylaws, owners must control all pests inside a unit regardless of where they originated, and they're responsible for the costs.

Sandhu says he hired a pest control company to fumigate, but about a month later the bugs returned. 

Calgary Pest Control found nests of bed bugs behind the baseboards in Jesse Sandhu's condo. (Submitted by Calgary Pest Control)

That company, Calgary Pest Control, says it treated the suite twice in June and July and it remained free of bugs by September.

But just weeks later, Sandhu and Merraro say the bugs were back and in even greater numbers, so they reached out again for help. 

The company says it found a new crop of bugs in the baseboards, walls and furniture and has sprayed twice since then. A technician believes they may have come from the unit on the floor below.

Merraro says he had to trash his furniture before he moved out.

Sandhu says so far he has spent hundreds of dollars and knows he'll have to spend more.

"Had it been just the one instance, I would take full ownership of it, that makes sense, [but] my unit doesn't seem to be the source of it. I feel like the condo board should be intervening now," he said.

Marvin Merraro says he could see and feel bed bugs everywhere in the condo he was renting. He says he had to throw out all of his furniture when he moved out. (Submitted by Marvin Merraro)

Widespread problem

The pest control company believes the problem is more widespread than just the unit owned by Sandhu, saying it's treated nine units in the Indigo Sky complex.

"It's not getting under control," said Monyatsiwa.

Property manager Kahloon said he couldn't confirm the numbers because owners don't have to report pest management.

Kalhoon says he has only seen five or six bed bug reports in 364 units over seven years.

He says Indigo Sky asked 11 owners to have their units inspected and that one had bed bugs and another recently fumigated.

"We are doing everything within our power, there is nothing more we can do," he said.

Spread like wildfire

Calgary Pest Control says it works with many complexes that will treat the whole building when more than one unit is infested.

The company says the common areas need to be treated because the bugs can spread on furniture when people move in and out.

The property manager at Indigo Sky gave the 11 units until Oct. 18 to respond, yet Sandhu says it's the end of November and the bugs are still there.

Sandhu says without help from the board he won't be able to rent out his condo.

The Condo Owners Council of Alberta (COCOA) says boards need to take control of a bed bug problem as soon as it is reported.

Bed bugs at a Calgary condo 0:24

"Most good corporations, they will act immediately on this because bed bugs can spread like wildfire," said president Shelly MacMillan.

MacMillan says there's often no way to know where or how the infestation originated and boards should foot the bill to mitigate the problem, only charging owners for repeat problems.

"This is a grey area because the act actually does not cover issues like this at all," she said.

Meanwhile Merraro says he's lost not just his furniture and belongings, but also a good landlord in Sandhu.

Sandhu is now trying to sell his condo.

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