Refugee families settle fight over bedbugs
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.