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Bedbugs and cockroaches: International students in Sudbury, Ontario criticize landlord for converting 14-bed house

Bedbugs and cockroaches: International students in Sudbury, Ontario criticize landlord for converting 14-bed house

When Chinmoy Kar Victor first arrived in Greater Sudbury, Ontario, it was after midnight on May 2. After paying for an expensive taxi ride from the airport to his new rental unit on Bond Street, he was shocked to discover that it was nothing like the photos he saw online.

What was supposed to be a three-bedroom house had become seven rooms, with multiple people living in each room.

As an international student, Victor had no extra money to go to a hotel, and his job placement was due to start at 9 am that morning. So he stayed.

“My first night was the hardest night, because I had to stay in a room where there was no heating. He had no bed, he was cold. I wrapped myself up in my warm jacket, but it still wasn’t enough. ,” he said.

“Then I realized there was something bigger, that it was bedbugs, cockroaches, rats running me over.”

Victor says that the rental house is infested with cockroaches, even in the kitchen. This image shows them around the refrigerator. Bed bugs and rats are also in the house. (Submitted by Chinmoy Kar Victor)

Victor is originally from Bangladesh, but moved to Canada in the fall of 2019 to attend Memorial University in Newfoundland.

He moved to Sudbury in northern Ontario earlier this month for his four-month job placement to earn his engineering degree.

He saw the rental ad on Kijiji, but it was also posted elsewhere on social media. She agreed to pay $525 per month.

Victor has tried to get his money back from the landlord with no luck. It’s the same for his seven housemates, all of whom are international students attending school in Sudbury.

When they try to ask for their money back, Victor said the owner threatened and harassed them. They have screenshots of texts and recordings of phone calls with the owner.

“I insisted that he pay me back and he mentioned all the legal implications that I have to face if I want to move,” said Sibi Soundarajjan, one of the other tenants.

“I called my friend who studies law, and according to what he told me, I contacted the landlord again and tried to convince him to return my money and he cut me off.”

Tenants said they feel the landlord is taking advantage of the fact that they are new to Canada and do not know Canadian laws or Ontario tenants’ rights.

“He himself was contacting potential tenants whom he thought of as newcomers,” Victor said of the landlord. “Their only target of him is newcomers because it’s going to take a while for newcomers to realize what’s going on.”

Victor and his housemates are among the 622,000 international students studying in Canada. That number was 248,000 10 years ago.

CBC left multiple messages for the owner, with no response. The phone number provided to tenants is in New Jersey.

A spokesman for the Ontario Courts said tenants can apply to the Landlord-Tenant Board for multiple reasons. There is a fee to apply, but applicants can apply for a waiver if they meet the financial eligibility requirements. The spokesman suggested tenants obtain legal advice before proceeding.

fire safety investigation

Tenants in the Sudbury home were concerned that it did not have working smoke detectors.

During an initial inspection, Greater Sudbury Fire Services found no working smoke alarms or carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. These were immediately installed by the fire services, with the costs billed to the owner.

“We take complaints about smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms very seriously,” Deputy Assistant Fire Chief Nathan Melin said.

“Should a fire happen that night, they need to be able to be alerted to that emergency and be able to evacuate that building in a timely manner.”

Greater Sudbury Fire Services is moving forward with legal proceedings against the landlord for serious violations under the Provincial Offenses Act for renting a home that did not have working smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors. If convicted, the fine could be as high as $50,000.

Melin said a full joint inspection involving fire services, along with Greater Sudbury Building and Bylaw Services, is now being planned.

Creating a secondary unit in a house requires a building permit. If that is not the case, the city will issue a notice of violation of either the building code or the zoning statutes. The owner must take steps to comply. If that doesn’t happen, enforcement ensues, which could include court orders, fines, or other repercussions.

Sudbury County. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann said that she is especially concerned because this situation involves international students.

Joscelyne Landry-Altmann, who represents Greater Sudbury’s 12th district on the city council, says slum landlords have been taking advantage of international students in her district. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

“You have a vulnerable population that comes to our city, chooses to come to our city, and is taken advantage of by the slum lords,” he said.

“We want to make sure that the students that are welcomed here are safe, parents want to know that, but we also want them to be responsible with the areas that they are moving to. This applies to owners. They will be identified one by one,” Landry-Altmann said.

“When you have landlords who are slum owners who don’t advise their tenants and/or don’t take advantage of their tenants, then we have a problem.”

At least one of the students living on Bond Street attends Cambrian College. Most post-secondary schools have departments that help newcomers settle in, a university spokesman said, adding that they have no jurisdiction over the behavior of private landlords.

public health complaint

Construction has taken place on the basement of the house on Bond Street to build four more rooms for rental space. The work left a gap between the wall and the floor from which cockroaches and other insects have emerged. (Submitted by Chinmoy Kar Victor)

Tenants at the Bond Street location filed a complaint with the local public health department. Complaints can be filed by concerned tenants or neighbors and friends.

An inspector will attend to check for any violations of the Health Promotion and Protection Law, a department spokesman said. The landlord will be responsible for correcting the problems. Failure to comply with that order carries heavy fines.

“Staying with rats, staying with a lot of bugs, it’s definitely making us sick,” Victor said, adding that it’s also taking a toll on his mental health.

“I don’t feel completely safe in this place, but at the same time I don’t have many options.”

Victor said he wants to make sure no one else goes through the same experience.

“As soon as we move in on June 1, I have a strong feeling that he will bring in another new group of students and do the same thing,” he said.

“He just took so much advantage of us… And I don’t want anyone else to feel the same way.”

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