Refugee fam­i­lies set­tle fight over bed­bugs

The Hamilton Spectator - - Local - NI­CHOLAS KEUNG

HAMIL­TON — Twelve Syr­ian fam­i­lies em­broiled in a land­lord-ten­ant dis­pute in Hamil­ton over bed­bugs have set­tled their com­plaints against their for­mer land­lord.

On the eve of Wed­nes­day’s sched­uled hear­ing be­fore the On­tario Land­lord and Ten­ant Board, the com­plainants re­solved their dis­pute with Melvin Apart­ments Inc. over a bed­bug in­fes­ta­tion the ten­ants claimed they en­dured while liv­ing in a Hamil­ton apart­ment build­ing in 2016.

“Our clients are happy to have reached a set­tle­ment with Melvin Apart­ments on terms that are sat­is­fac­tory to both par­ties,” said Ali Naraghi of the Hamil­ton Com­mu­nity Le­gal Clinic, which rep­re­sents the 12 fam­i­lies, to­talling al­most 60 peo­ple, many of them young chil­dren.

Naraghi said Michael Klein, an of­fi­cer and di­rec­tor of Melvin Apart­ments Inc., “ex­pressed his de­sire for the refugees to feel at home in Canada and to feel that they have been treated fairly.”

The com­plainants, who were spon­sored by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment un­der the Syr­ian refugee re­set­tle­ment pro­gram, were ini­tially housed in a Toronto ho­tel upon ar­rival in Canada. They claimed their prob­lems with bed­bugs be­gan soon af­ter they moved into 221 Melvin Ave. in Hamil­ton.

They said they had com­plained re­peat­edly to the land­lord and the man­age­ment com­pany, Di­a­mond In­ter­na­tional Man­age­ment, but the pest prob­lem re­mained de­spite treat­ments by a pest con­trol com­pany hired by the land­lord to clean up the units. As a re­sult, the Syr­ian ten­ants moved out of the high­rise be­fore their 12-month leases ex­pired.

In their com­plaint to the land­lord and ten­ant tri­bunal, the fam­i­lies said bug bites left them with itchy red bumps and painful blis­ters on their bod­ies, and they had to throw away their gov­ern­ment-sup­plied mat­tresses, sheets, cloth­ing and fur­ni­ture. In to­tal, they sought $63,666 in com­pen­sa­tion for the losses and a par­tial re­fund of rent paid dur­ing the in­fes­ta­tion.

Mean­while, Melvin Apart­ments Inc. sued the 12 ten­ant fam­i­lies in small claims court for rental ar­rears for the months re­main­ing on their leases and for re­pairs re­lated to al­leged dam­age to their rental units. The com­pany claimed the fam­i­lies broke their leases and moved out with­out proper no­tice.

Hear­ings were to be sched­uled in Hamil­ton later this year.

Both Naraghi and Klein re­fused to dis­close the terms of the set­tle­ment due to a con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ment, how­ever the land­lord told the Toronto Star that the par­ties have also set­tled the mat­ter at the small claims court.

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