Dominika Kosowska says she’s been hearing scratching coming from her walls since 2018, and things have only gotten worse.
Kosowska lives in an affordable housing apartment in Saskatoon run by the Saskatoon Housing Authority (SHA). She says she’s been dealing with rodents for years.
“When I moved here in 2018 I lived in the apartment down below, number 30, and around winter I heard scratching in the walls and I started questioning that. So when I brought it up to (SHA) attention their comment was ‘maybe you’re hearing things’,” Kosowska claimed.
“It’s gotten really bad, the intensity of scratching. I think there’s 16 or 18 holes everywhere in the walls that I spend my Sundays trying to plug so they don’t come out. There’s mouse traps everywhere, sticky pads, like poison. That’s all they give me from Sask. housing.”
She said she moved from her first unit in 2019 into another one in the same building, but said that didn’t help.
“Nobody comes here and actually deals with the root cause,” Kosowska claimed.
“I sit here at night and I have a mouse or a rat zooming through the living room, or the bedroom, or on my toes.”
She claims SHA told her to call maintenance, and all they do is set more traps.
“He was like ‘Oh, just wait, and don’t cry. You just need to learn to be resilient’.”
Kosowska claims the SHA was expected to inspect the property on Wednesday for the first time since she’s been there.
SHA is an agency of the province’s Saskatchewan Housing Corporation, and according to its website, manages over 2,600 units.
The website also outlines what it calls, “The Four Cornerstones of The SHA Service Standards”, one of which says tenants are its customers, and that a tenant’s satisfaction is vital to the organization’s success.
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Saskatchewan’s Residential Tenancies Act lays out the expectations between a landlord and a tenant, saying, “A landlord must act promptly and reasonably when a tenant reports an infestation of bed bugs or other pests. If not, the tenant may have to arrange for an exterminator and claim the cost from the landlord.”
Global News received the following statement from the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation.
“Health and safety are a priority for the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation. We work closely with all housing authorities across the province, including the Saskatoon Housing Authority, to assist with any concerns a tenant may experience. We remain in constant contact with housing authorities to deal with tenant issues or complaints as they are reported,” read the statement.
“The Saskatoon Housing Authority employs staff to manage pest control in their buildings. All units are inspected prior to move-ins to ensure they are pest-free and all reports of pests are promptly investigated and treated. If a tenant raises concerns about pests, staff will inspect the unit, do treatments and continue to monitor with further inspections until the pest issue is resolved.”
Kosowska claimed that she found new holes or mouse droppings every day.
“It’s a health hazard. There’s 11 families in this building, majority of them have two to three little children. This really is not safe,” Kosowska said.
“I shouldn’t be living like this, nobody should be living like this.”
Jason Hiltz is the owner and CEO for Hitman Exterminators in Saskatoon, and said sealing any holes in a building is important.
“In pest control, rule number one is to seek out how they’re infiltrating the hole. So we look for all cracks, crevices, holes, around gas lines, electrical conduits, cable connections. And quite often, that’s where we’ll find the hole is a lot bigger than it should be,” Hiltz said. “And we will use materials that are non-corrosive to pipes and then we use silicone or expanding foam. There’s a type of foam that is a pest blocker and prevents them from chewing through it to gain entry.
“If you can stick your finger through a hole, the mouse can get through it.”
He added that a full assessment and bait can be used to get rid of the pests.
“We do a full assessment of the hole to see how severe the infestation is. And then there are numerous ways we can go about treating it in commercial or apartment-sized buildings. We’ll use a block bait, which is a coagulant,” he said. “When the rodent consumes it, it thickens the blood and it has a very high salt base. It dehydrates the rodent, so should it crawl into a wall or a crawl space, decomposition is eradicated due to the salt levels because it mummified the rodents.
“It becomes a dust bunny within four to six months if it’s a rat. If it’s a mouse, eight to 10 weeks. Now, we may use traps as well. So there are variables depending on the situation.”
Hiltz said he was once a resident in a SHA building back in 2005 and 2006, and that it helped him get his life back in order.
“I suffered a cervical neck injury and I became a resident of the Sask. Housing, and it was truly a godsend because it was a residence of rent control and it was something that I really needed. It gave me an opportunity to get back on my feet and get back into the workforce,” he said.
“When I lived there, the community was just phenomenal. It was it was a lot of single parent families, a lot of children, a lot of elderly. So the mix-match was pretty fantastic.”
He claimed that he struggled with his own infestation problem while living there.
“We were hit with a German cockroach infestation,” Hiltz recalled.
“I watched the population of a fully occupied apartment complex with five apartment buildings be decimated to six residents. And I was one of the six and finally left because I could no longer tolerate the cockroach population.”
He claimed the work done to try and get rid of the cockroaches wasn’t enough, and kept track of everything SHA did to try and deal with the pests.
“I watched the national firm come in and treat, I believe my records will show 13 times in 11 months through a chemical application within the building, and all it did was shift the cockroach population from suite to suite.”
He said his experience living in those conditions was his motivation for starting his pest control company.
“I wrote a business plan completely oppositional to everything they did. I treated clients with compassion and understanding because I knew what it was like to live with an infestation,” he said.
“It’s humiliating and degrading to have guests over when you have cockroaches stuck to the paper on the threshold of your door, and then you expect the professional to be treating you with honesty, dignity and integrity. They did not do so.”