Stressed-out tenant says his apartment has been treated for cockroaches 18 times in 18 months

A Toronto man says he's being driven to distraction by a problem that's familiar to many apartment dwellers in Toronto, cockroaches. But Kyle Iannuzzi says it's so bad he has had to have his apartment treated 18 times in 18 months.
Isabella Street resident Kyle Iannuzzi holds baggies in which he has collected roach carcasses from various areas of his apartment. He's had 18 pest treatments in 18 months, to no avail. (Chris Glover/CBC )

A Toronto man says he's being driven to distraction by a problem that's familiar to many apartment dwellers in Toronto: cockroaches.

But Kyle Iannuzzi says this isn't just any pest problem. It's so bad, he says, he's had to have his one-bedroom apartment treated 18 times in 18 months. 

He says his problem began the day he moved in. Since then, he says, he routinely sees roaches, ranging from babies to centimetre-and-a-half-long adults.

"I've made a couple of doctors appointments to deal with the stress," he told CBC Toronto. "Some of my closest friends would tell you that they've seen a mental health decline. I do suffer from PTSD and this is very triggering for the anxiety that I have."

He says before exterminators fumigate his apartment, he has to pack all his belongings in the middle of his one-bedroom, seventh floor unit on Isabella Street near Jarvis Street in the city's downtown.

CBC Toronto has asked the property manager at 105 Isabella for comment but  so far the company has not returned calls.

Iannuzzi says he's kept a diary documenting his run-ins with cockroaches and his efforts to have his landlord and the city solve the problem. (Turgut Yeter/CBC)

"I have to pull the couch away from the walls, I have to pull everything two feet from the walls, so it's a total apartment pack-up, like you're moving, and I've been through that 10 or 11 times now, since moving in 18 months ago," he said.

On seven other occasions, exterminators injected a gel into cracks, he says, which is less invasive.

He said he's complained to building management and the city, but neither has solved the problem.

Iannuzzi says that while the city has ordered the landlord to fix the problem, that order doesn't appear to mean ridding the apartment of roaches, once and for all. Simply sprayingthe unit seems to satisfy the city, he says.

But Mark Sraga, director of investigation services for the city's licensing and standards division, said in a written statement to CBC Toronto his department is taking Iannuzzi's problem seriously.

Geordie Dent of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations says landlords have an obligation to provide pest-free apartments, even if treatments are expensive. (John Lesavage)

"The city is actively engaged in this matter and is ensuring that the landlord has responded appropriately to the identified pest concerns," the statement reads.

But, it adds, "the city cannot direct or specify the manner or method of treatment employed by a pest control company, as this is regulated by provincial legislation."

Iannuzzi says he'd like to see a building-wide awareness campaign launched, rather than have the city act only on individual tenant complaints.

And he says he knows others in the building are also being impacted:

"I've spoken with 10 other people who have said they've got the same problem."

Iannuzzi has to pack up all his belongings and leave them in the middle of his living room prior to every fumigation - a chore he's had to do 11 times since moving into the building 18 months ago. (Turgut Yeter/CBC)

But Iannuzzi's infestation sounds particularly bad.

"Especially in the summer, the balcony was like a horror movie," he said.

"You move a piece of furniture, you move a planter, you move a bag and up to a hundred cockroaches would scurry away."

Iannuzzi says at a cost of $1,450 a month for his one-bedroom unit, he cannot afford to move.

"You feel hopeless. It's your home. Your home needs to be where you can get away from the stress, not where the stress increases infinitely."

Geordie Dent, the executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations, says it's not the first time he's heard of pest problems harming a tenant's mental health.

'The Freddie Krueger of maintenance issues'

"It's kind of like the Freddy Krueger of maintenance issues," he said.

"You can't sleep if you've got bedbugs on you, if you hear rodents, if you hear cockroaches running across the ground. It's a really difficult situation; it really bothers people and that's why landlords are supposed to deal with this issue and fix it."

And he says pest infestations can be ended. It requires a concerted effort by a licensed exterminator to deal with the problem building-wide.

"If you're just treating one unit, you're re-arranging the deck chairs on the cockroach Titanic," he said. "You need to get them all at the same time, get them out of the building to ensure you're in compliance with the law."

Tribunal can order rent cut

Dent recommends that tenants with similar problems take their cases to the provincial Landlord and Tenant Tribunal. He says the tribunal can allow tenants to treat the problem themselves, then deduct the cost of those treatments from their rent.

Mark Sraga, of municipal licensing and standards, recommended in his written statement that tenants suffering through an infestation contact the RentSafeTO Apartment Buildings Standards Team by calling 311.

"The team will investigate all such requests and direct landlords to take the required actions."

With files from Chris Glover


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