Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Living at Tenant Hell

--- For the Record --- written Wednesday, September 4, 2013 --- published Wednesday, June 4, 2014 

In the midst of a Public Health involved attempt to stop a Bed Bug infestation at this address - the landlord's street-smart push-back against the rule of law; a vicious campaign by the landlord involving constant harassment visited upon the three tenants involved in calling Public Health - I publish these notes held in draft since last fall.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

This essay is to allow me to get all those little things out - off my shoulders so to speak - with regards to a recent bug problem at the place where I live.

The Coach Roaches road to Primacy

Right now I have a cockroach infestation in my apartment. I've been trying different approaches to try to win the war over these incredibly adaptable insects over the last two months - but aside from:
  • the sometimes shocking way they appear out of nowhere;
  • not being able to leave food out for even minutes;
  • making sure all food is sealed in plastic or glass;
  • the possibility that they may spread to my neighbours apartments;
  • and that I may carry them to other peoples' places in the creases of my clothes

I believe that there are really no health concerns about them. The idea that they carry diseases is urban legend I believe - but the article linked below lays out some plausible health issues with them:

(a National Pest Management Association website):

"The Truth about Cockroaches and Health"
By Dr. Jorge Parada - a National Pest Management Association doctor
 - from Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - -

"..proteins (called allergens) found in cockroach feces, saliva and body parts can cause allergic reactions or trigger asthma symptoms, especially in children."

As soon as I see that last bit - about the allergens in the chemical make-up of cockroach body parts and fluids - I know in my heart there has been no research on this - and that cockroaches have simply been dumped into a job-lot of possible causes of the pandemic. This list of possible causes and triggers from the Mayo Clinic describes my point perfectly:

Childhood asthma - Causes
By Mayo Clinic staff

The underlying causes of childhood asthma aren't fully understood. Developing an overly sensitive immune system generally plays a role. Some factors thought to be involved include:
  • Inherited traits
  • Some types of airway infections at a very young age
  • Exposure to environmental factors, such as cigarette smoke or other air pollution

Increased immune system sensitivity causes the lungs and airways to swell and produce mucus when exposed to certain triggers. Reaction to a trigger may be delayed, making it more difficult to identify the trigger. These triggers vary from child to child and can include:
  • Viral infections such as the common cold
  • Exposure to air pollutants, such as tobacco smoke
  • Allergies to dust mites, pet dander, pollen or mold
  • Physical activity
  • Weather changes or cold air

Sometimes, asthma symptoms occur with no apparent triggers.


In other words, we don't know what causes this recent explosion in hyper-sensitivity in young people's airways - but note the use of  'tobacco smoke' - rather than the more obvious and ubiquitous - car, truck and industrial pollutants which form weather system sized clouds of smog that drift northeast across the North America - and local instance of carcinogenic release: residences near-by freeways, and near-by arterial roads and especially at intersections.

 - a cause-lot that studiously avoids the obvious and most inconvenient truth - that being, pollution from car and truck exhaust caused by our choice of a road transportation model over much more efficient modes - like rail.

I can see the feces and saliva issue - and the body parts are calcium based crystal exoskeletons (ceramic) - that can cause abrasions and itchiness, and that with out cleaning can lead to scratching and open wounds - that can become infected.

On top of the stress of living with this infestation - I have a landlord (who lives on site) who thinks it's his role is to be as argumentative he can be. By treating the normal and unending series of issues that come up in the pursuit of his business model (landlord of a unlicensed rooming house) - as an excuse to treat his tenants like beaten dogs, sub-human-beings; to be insulting; to name-call; to threaten with eviction at every opportunity (with no reference to Landlord, Tenant Law) - my life at this point has become a big pile of shit. But I stand for tenants rights - I will not be driven out by his inhuman treatment - and I will not use the courts or the regulatory agencies - but I will if I am forced to do so.

The house that I have lived in for going on five years, can best be described as an unlicensed rooming house - individuals rent rooms from the landlord and share a kitchen and bathroom. I have the biggest room on my floor, a nice bay-windowed space about 14 foot by 14 foot. The other rooms on this floor are smaller - in one case tiny - spaces with enough room for a bed, a desk and an area rug and not much more. As such, these other rooms turn over about every-other-month - because desperate, between-a-good-place folks move in - stay a month or two - save up first and last for a real apartment and then move out.

In these days of great global migration, lower standards of health management, and lax regulation of unlicensed residences - we are seeing an on-going bed bug infestation in Toronto that tenants flee and then restart at new locations.This metric means that the more folks move in and out of this clean space, the higher the likelihood that an infestation will start here (again).

As well, houses in the core of the City of Toronto, run for the most part by absentee landlords trying to squeeze every buck they can out of them; put as little money in as possible - waiting for the wreaking ball to make way for (they must hope) an expensive condo development - are over-run by cock roaches, that eventually force their tenants out to look for better places.

One such individual moved into the room above me a couple months ago (he has since moved) and brought some of those cockroaches with him.

My landlord is getting old and has some health issues that prevent him from walking up flights of stairs without getting very winded - so he comes up here to the second floor less regularly now, then he would probably like to - as a result the cockroach infestation that began in the kitchen was allowed to get a little out of hand. For three months I would come into the kitchen at night, flick on the light and watch dozens of little bugs scurrying for the cover of shadow off the counter-top area.

His 'boy' on the floor (a 'rat fink' as we know it in this culture, who tells the landlord absolutely EVERYTHING that happens and is said up here) somehow missed telling the landlord about our bug problem. I didn't because I thought rat-boy would - and more to the point - I try to avoid talking to the landlord unless it is absolutely necessary.

Soon enough I told him about the problem and he had it fixed in two days (with some truly evil neurotoxin that the cockroaches carry with them back to their nest  for the others - wiping them out in very short order).

As the guy who brought in the cockroaches, left, he gave away some things to people he liked - including me - a computer keyboard for example.

A week later I started seeing the odd cockroach around my writing area - and soon elsewhere in my room.

I thought since there was only a few of them, that I could win the battle with them through starvation - so I took great care in making sure there was absolutely nothing for them to eat. I found out that cockroaches are very adaptable. From my observations I believe that they live in colonies who's collective behaviour can change very quickly - generation to generation - in order to suit the environmental situations which are evolving around them.

Soon the cockroaches were colonizing my desk drawers to survive - where they were apparently eating the glue on each envelope and the paper also I understand. My desk drawers quickly became surprises on open - a half dozen or so little tiny cockroaches scurrying for cover as the light spilled in.

I have also discovered that cockroaches love carbohydrates - given some brown sugar vs a bread crumb - they eat the bread and leave the sugar. I expect they'll eat sugar - but I'm not seeing it here. To confirm or destroy my hypothesis I looked it up.

Some cockroaches apparently, have developed a revulsion to sugar:

Time Magazine, Mutant Cockroaches Have Learned to Evade Sugar Traps

The bait traps known as 'roach hotels' had no effect on the buggers at all - they walked through my roach traps (perhaps because I bought them at a convienence store, and they were too old -  perhaps the stickiness of the medium that's supposed to stick them in place (leading to their starvation) had dried out.

In short - I have lost the first battles with the cockroaches; and so my next step was to inform the landlord and get some of that neurotoxin I saw him use in the kitchen - in here.

The Bed Bugs Begin Their Rise to Primacy

But before I could talk to him about it, he over-heard me discussing it with a new neighbour who has a bed bug infestation starting in his room. (the landlord seems to have lost that rooms anti-insect bag which was on the mattress in that room - and thus the eggs from an earlier infestation, have been activated by the fellows' body heat - and since there was no bag to keep them in, they got out and started eating his blood and producing more eggs.

I found out last year that my basement dwelling landlord listens at the bottom of the forced air ducts in order to hear every word his tenants say. From knowing him for more than four years, I think it's because he lives in a terrible world where none tell the truth, and everything that anyone says to him is a lie; where conspiracies against him are everywhere.

I believe this paranoia has lead to another dysfunction that could be a non-sexual form of voyeurism; which is the result of a disconnection from reality where the sufferer tries to resolve his insecurity about who he is - and what the nature of the culture that he lives in, but apart from - is - by watching people when they don't know they are being watched. In order to see what 'normal' life is really like with out the pretenous masks that people wear in public, and especially at work --- such that the patient can then practice that behaviour - and deceive others into thinking they do not suffer from the disconnection that so concerns them that it has resulted in a life of loneliness.

Stuck in this night-mire he is probably *becoming* right - I for one, after four years experience, try to talk with him as little as possible. I don't need to get yelled at, belittled and muy faith in human nature gutted from my soul. For some reason, I chose to try to avoid that.

So having heard through the heating ducts (or from his 'boy' on our floor) about the bugs - now here's the landlord in my face accusing me of husbanding bugs to try and destroy his house.

Having lived in a house for a year and a half with a bug bed bug infestation - scenes from which could be used in a psycho-horror film - I'm not a likely candidate in infest my own house with the little bastards. While I've found my time with the cockroaches very interesting - in discovering their many adaptation capabilities - I am not crazy enough to bring them in to my own home - a place where I have lived bug free for four years.

My procrastination in acting on the cleaning issue, and the cockroach issue - I think - is a function of clinical depression (intensified by the bugs); the landlords' terrible social skill set, and the fact that I haven't cleaned properly in six months. As such I knew the landlord would be all over me about it if I told him about the cockroaches and he toured my space in order to fix the problem.

So, true to form, the landlord has threaten eviction, yelled and berated me - all the weapons at his disposal to grain primacy - in a place where he already has primacy.

A little politeness can go a long way; a lesson this landlord it seems - despite all my trying - is unlikely to be able to learn.

The Landlord Switches Faces - again

Harassment Log

Sunday, September 1st - The landlord and I are sitting in my room talking about the cockroach infestation - suddenly out of the blue he accuses me of bringing in the roaches in a little jar - mischief - that I am purposely trying to ruin his house (which contradicts what he just said in the sentence before that one - where he accused me of making up the stories I have just told him about the cockroaches) - and also bringing in bed bugs (which the tenant next door has just discovered in his room - the result of a missing bedbug 'bed-bag' a control system he bought 2 years ago that isolates bed-bug eggs from the person using the bed (they hatch with the body heat that they sense, but cannot get out of the bed-bag - and so die).

Monday, September 2nd - Landlord told me 'Robin' (the building owner) wanted to move into my room. Knowing that this is not the way that section of the landlord tenant act works, I shrugged my shoulders. He retorted that if I made trouble leaving this place he would get some big friends of his to evict me another way.

Tuesday, September 3rd - The Landlord is upstairs for about 2 hours in the evening - spying on me I think - to see if I'm slaking off or actually cleaning my room towards the cockroach treatment he has agreed to buy and apply. His attitude does not reflect the previous days threats, he seems friendly and conversational. I sit with him in the kitchen for a minute while I'm doing my laundry there - hoping to smooth out the previous days threats. We talk a little bit about the treatment process, and then he comes out of left field with this statement:

"I have affidavits from the last five tenants saying they moved out because of you." 

(referring to me?!).

This must be a lie - as I have been friends with everyone who has come through this place. Most often the tenant leaving has to my knowledge, been either simply moving to a better place or a different location - closer to a new job or family.

The reason, I believe, for the high turn-over of tenants is the size of the rooms - they are small, big enough for a bed and a dresser and a path between; plus the house is uninsulated and the air conditioner system is too small for the building and does not cool the second floor more than a couple of degrees; and plus the building is very old frame house with no insulation that is very cold depending on what direction the wind is blowing; and the way the landlord purports himself: he is aggressive in the way he talks to the tenants - using a macho style of .verbal intercourse better suited to the locker room or a bar, and not appropriate when talking to women tenants, as his discourse is offhandedly sprinkled with inappropriate sexual allusions (a defensive construct I believe, that many men use in conversation with their male friends - but which is wholly inappropriate with-in an unequal power relationship like that between a male landlord and a female tenant).

I'm thinking of asking every tenant who moves out to sign an affidavit as they leave that I am not the reason they are leaving --- in case the landlord tries to evict me on the basis of quiet enjoyment.

I am a quiet, respectful, clean roommate who makes sure the shared parts of the house are clean after I use them; and in many, many cases - clean up the after younger tenants (and offer hints towards better, future habits) who don't quite understand the accepted protocols regarding cleaning up the stove and sink area after they have finished cooking - or wiping up the floor and counter tops, shelves and mirror in the bathroom after they have finished there.

I have sweep and mopped the common areas many times over four years living here - and I regularly clean the bathroom tub and walls, and the toilet and floor. All of which - if this is considered a rooming house in the law - are the landlords' responsibilities. He has never offered to pay me for these jobs I do - even though his deteriorating health has made it so he needs to soon hire someone to do these jobs for him. I would be happy to be in charge of this - I could use the extra pocket money - but the landlord swings from being a good friend off mine to paranoid delusions that I am out to destroy his house, set the other tenants against him and even bring bugs into the place.

Written Wednesday, September 4, 2013 - Published Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - Because I feel like any day now, the landlord is going to carry through on his threat to implement an extra-judicial eviction process.