A Watson Lake resident says her apartment has been infested with bedbugs since Christmas, and the Liard First Nation Development Corporation has done nothing to fix the situation.
Nicole Beauchemin said she believes the Lakeview Apartments have had bedbug problems since before she moved in a year ago.
She said the building’s caretaker has told her there’s no money to pay for an exterminator.
Beauchemin said it took her about a month to figure out that the apartment she shares with her boyfriend and three children was infested.
“I didn’t know what they were at first,” she said. It wasn’t until the bugs started getting bigger that she was able to identify them.
She said she trapped one of them in a container and brought it to show the caretaker, but the woman told her not to cry and assured her that the bites would be just like mosquito bites.
The bugs quickly spread from her chair to the various beds in the apartment, Beauchemin said. She’s had to throw out her daughter’s bed and the mattress on one of the bunkbeds where her sons sleep. Now, her daughter sleeps on the floor and her two sons sleep together in the top bunk.
She’s kept her own bed, though it’s also infested. “We just have no place to sleep,” she said.
Beauchemin said her three children are all being bitten, but her daughter has the worst reaction to the bites.
“She’s scratching,” she said. “She has scabs all over her body.”
According to Beauchemin, others in the building have had similar problems. She said one of her neighbours has moved out because of the infestation, and she’s seen others leaving furniture outside in the cold, possibly to try and kill the bugs.
She, too, is looking for another place to live, but she said it’s been difficult to find other rental properties.
Beauchemin believes an exterminator was brought in two or three years ago to treat the entire building, but she said that hasn’t happened since she moved in a year ago. Since she’s been there, she said, an exterminator has occasionally come to treat individual apartments, but even that hasn’t happened since her apartment was infested around Christmas.
Beauchemin said the Lakeview Apartments are owned by the Liard First Nation Development Corporation. She pays rent to the corporation through the caretaker every month.
But she said the caretaker has told her that the owners are saying there’s just no money to pay for an exterminator right now.
“I want the whole building done, because it’s not going to go away until the whole building’s done,” she said.
The News was unable to reach anyone with the Liard First Nation Development Corporation.
The Liard First Nation has been under third-party management since the fall of 2014, after it laid off 40 employees, saying it could no longer afford to pay them.
It’s now the third-party manager’s responsibility to ensure continued delivery of programs and services to the community.
But that doesn’t extend to managing housing for the First Nation, according to an email statement from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.
“For First Nation-owned housing, chief and council is responsible for housing maintenance,” according to the statement.
The third-party manager also does not collect rent.
Beauchemin said she has considered filing a complaint with the residential tenancies office. But she said when she spoke with the office, she understood that she would have to come into Whitehorse to complete the process, which would be difficult for her to manage.
But Shane Hickey, director of employment standards and residential tenancies for the Department of Community Services, said that’s not the case.
The dispute resolution process changed after amendments to the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act came into effect on Jan. 1, Hickey said.
Now, dispute resolution hearings can be held by teleconference, and the office can issue binding decisions instead of requiring that the tenants and landlords go to court.
However, the process still requires that a tenant who files a complaint provide a copy of the documents directly to the landlord, either in person or by registered mail.
For the time being, Beauchemin’s caretaker has recommended that she buy Raid to try and treat the apartment herself. But so far, she hasn’t been able to find any in Watson Lake. So she’s been using tea tree oil on the upper bunkbed to try and keep the bugs away.
But Nolan Newman, a branch manager with Orkin Canada, a pest control company, said the idea that tea tree oil can fight bedbugs is “just a myth.”
He said Raid won’t help much either, as it will just drive the bugs into the walls and neighbouring apartments.
Bedbugs also become immune to pesticides very quickly, he said. “Don’t treat it yourself. It makes our job a lot harder.”
Once an entire building is infested with bedbugs, Newman said, it’s not easy to get rid of them.
“It might take us about a good six months to get them out,” he said. “It does take some time to break the cycle.”
He said bed bugs are becoming more common in the Yukon, and cautioned against buying any used bedding or furniture.
He said people dealing with an infestation should vacuum their bedding and all crevices and baseboards in their home. They should also throw their sheets in the dryer for 15 minutes and use bedbug mattress covers.
The News was unable to reach any other tenants or the caretaker of the Lakeview Apartments.
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