“….their quality of life was significantly compromised by the presence of pests in their units.”
(Ali Naraghi, their Legal Clinic lawyer)
Two cases don’t make a trend (yet)! However this is the second case in just the last few weeks or so where ‘grateful’ Syrian refugees are suing their landlords over their accommodations in the West.
Earlier this month it was New Jersey and this story today comes from Toronto, Canada.
From The Standard:
They fled war-torn Syria only to be caught up in a new battle with a tiny but vicious foe.
Soon after Khaldoun Anijleh and his family moved into their first home in Canada, they started to get itchy red bumps and painful blisters on their bodies. Anijleh’s two kids, Samer, 8, and Joudi, 11, would be up all night crying and scratching.
Then one day they discovered the culprits — small, flat oval-shaped bugs on the baseboards and under the mattresses.
“We had no idea what a bedbug was because we had no bedbugs in Syria,” said the 32-year-old butcher, who settled in Hamilton’s east end in January 2016 after spending a few weeks in temporary housing at a Toronto hotel.
The Anijlehs were among 40,000 Syrian refugees who came to Canada between the fall of 2015 and the spring of 2017 as part of Ottawa’s historic resettlement program. The family had previously spent four years as refugees in Jordan after fleeing the civil war in their homeland.
With help from caseworkers from Wesley Urban Ministries, the community group assigned by the government to help with their settlement, Anijleh and 11 other newly arrived Syrian refugee families said they repeatedly asked the landlord at 221 Melvin Ave. to deal with the pests — bedbugs and in some cases, cockroaches.
After several failed attempts by a pest control company hired by the landlord to clean up their unit, the Anijleh family moved out of the highrise on Sept. 30, 2016, and went to another part of Hamilton. The other Syrian families also left before their 12-month leases expired.
Now the families are embroiled in two separate battles stemming from their time at the Hamilton highrise.
They’ve taken the landlord and management company — Diamond International Management and Melvin Apartments Inc. — to the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board for allegedly failing to provide them with a “safe and habitable living environment” due to the bedbug infestation.
The 12 families are claiming a total of $63,666 in compensation for “pain and suffering,” for the loss of government-supplied mattresses, sheets, clothing and furniture that they had to throw out, and for a partial refund of rent paid during the infestation. The tribunal hearing, which began last fall before adjourning, is scheduled to resume this month.
In the meantime, Melvin Apartments Inc. is suing 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 claims the families broke their leases and moved out without proper notice. Hearings are to be scheduled in Hamilton later this year.
“These were very vulnerable tenants who arrived from war-torn Syria. They were one of the first groups brought in by the Canadian government. They came with traumatized experience,” said lawyer Ali Naraghi of the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, which represents the 12 families, totalling almost 60 people, many of them young children. As government-sponsored refugees, they received support from Ottawa during their first year in the country.
“At the end of the day, whether they are immigrants or not, their quality of life was significantly compromised by the presence of pests in their units,” Naraghi said.
I have a friend who was a landlord for a small apartment building and she said the problem with the bedbugs is that VERY often the tenant would refuse to do what was necessary in order for the pest control people to get a handle on the problem. I’m guessing those who moved took the bedbugs to their new place.
I can just imagine that many of you taxpayers, here and in Canada, have some choice words you would like to express to the ‘grateful’ refugees and their lawyer.
But, please stay calm, cool and collected in your comments to RRW so I won’t have to screen them out (like I had to do with this post yesterday).