Landlord says pests entered home because family didn't keep it clean and he'd take care of the problem
Warning: This story includes a graphic video of mice and bugs:
Muhammad Ali and his family came to Canada from Pakistan in hopes of a better life and were working toward learning English and securing stable work.
But those dreams quickly turned into a nightmare.
The London, Ont., refugee family was forced to relocate to a hotel paid for by the city after they were urgently evicted from their rental unit due to deplorable living conditions they say were impacting the young children's health.
The basement of a south London home the family was renting was infested with cockroaches and mice. According to Ali, 40, despite pleading with his landlord numerous times to get the property in order, the situation got worse and led to his three-year-old son's hospitalization.
"I rented the basement floor for $1,700 [per month] and there were already drain clogs in the sinks and bathroom before I moved in which I kept asking him to fix, but he kept delaying it telling me he'll eventually get to it," Ali said in an interview in Urdu that CBC translated to English.
A pediatrician treating Ali's children wrote a note, viewed by CBC News, that details conditions at the house and how it affected the youngsters.
"Aun and both his sisters have several bug and insect bites. Parents showed me photos of several mice, cockroaches and bugs in their home," the letter said.
"Aun and his sisters need a clean home to live. These pests and mice are directly and negatively impacting their health, causing skin infections, and the children are in constant pain from bug bites and scratches."
Pests and bugs in London, Ont., rental home
6 hours ago
Featured VideoMuhammad Ali filmed videos of mice and cockroaches in the south London home he and his family were renting, along with the leaking ceilings and renovations the home was in need of.
Landlords are responsible for any maintenance and repairs to a rental property, and must take steps to control pests such as cockroaches and mice, according to Tribunals Ontario.
The family and landlord have had interactions that have involved London police as well, police have confirmed. Ali claims the landlord has threatened and harassed them on multiple occasions.
Legal service says family's unit 'deplorable'
Neighbourhood Legal Service London and Middlesex, a community legal clinic funded by the province, wrote a letter summarizing their experiences with Ali. The letter states the family's situation and the multiple agencies they've worked with for assistance.
"Mr. Ali's unit appears to be in deplorable condition. He has shown us photographs of bedbugs and other repair issues," wrote the clinic's housing support worker, Theresa Kiefer.
Ali is working with agencies like LUSO, a London community service that helps integrate newcomers. While he's grateful for the help, he said, getting by is hard with a language barrier.
"It feels like I'm being passed around like a football the past eight months."
Landlord refutes allegations
Ali met his landlord, the home's owner, Ehsan Ul Haq, through a mutual connection in the Pakistani community. They entered into a lease agreement and Ali initially rented the upstairs floor, but said the family couldn't keep up with the hydro and electricity bills, so the family moved downstairs.
The lease agreement wasn't updated when the family started living in the basement eight months ago, Kiefer wrote in her letter. Ul Haq said the two had a verbal agreement.
Last month, Ul Haq served Ali an N12 notice ending the tenancy so he could move into the apartment. Ali believes Ul Haq is taking advantage of the fact he isn't aware of how the landlord-tenant system works.
Ul Haq told CBC News the assault allegations are false. He claims the pests entered the property because Ali's family didn't keep it clean, but he assured them he would take care of the problem.
"I told him pest control needed 24 hours to treat the situation so the family had to go elsewhere for the time being, and I offered to reimburse him for the stay," Ul Haq said in Urdu.
But Ali said that never happened. He said Ul Haq offered him $1,000 to permanently leave the home on short notice and $1,000 wouldn't be enough to cover rent in most places.
Ul Haq said he's a taxi driver who requires rental income in Toronto to make ends meet. He said he gave Ali shelter, but needed to move into the London house himself because the cost of living is getting hard to manage.
LUSO's executive director, Elizabeth Rodrigues, said her agency is working on an urgent housing application for Ali, but given the shortage of affordable housing, that's been a challenge.
"You will see apartments listed for rent, but it's beyond what people can afford per month," she said.
Ali's family is set to be at the hotel until Oct. 30 and has no other living arrangements after that date. He said this ordeal has been stressful and he wants better protections, against landlords, for newcomers who don't speak English.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Isha Bhargava is a multiplatform reporter for CBC News. She's worked for Ontario newsrooms in Toronto and London. She loves telling current affairs and human interest stories. You can reach her at email@example.com
Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca