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Persistent cockroaches at Edmonton condo a 'major problem' for owner

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The owner of a Glenora condo unit says she is beyond frustrated after dealing with re-emerging cockroach issues for years, with local experts saying this specific species is considered rare to the Edmonton area.

Lisa Gagnon told CTV News Edmonton she recalls having issues with roaches in her unit at Crescent Place for years, with the first sighting as far back as 2012.

She believes her condo is a hotspot for the critters because it is directly above the building's pool, with her floor almost always running warm.

"I knew there'd been some in the building," Gagnon explained. "They weren't really affecting my unit. There wasn't much talk about it.

"At one point, I remember hearing from a neighbour — while I was travelling — that they had found the nest, so I thought the problem was over," she added.

'CRAWLING OUT OF HER SHOE'

In 2014 the issue of cockroaches was discussed at the condo corporation's annual general meeting.

Before Christmas two years later, Gagnon was renting her unit when she received an email from her confused tenant about an insect they had seen.

"I wrote to her, 'Oh my god, I am so sorry. That's a cockroach," Gagnon said. "I had honestly believed we didn't have that problem anymore."

Her tenant in 2017 told Gagnon that they saw roaches regularly, ultimately leading them to leave. Just as new tenants were preparing to move in, Gagnon said 34 cockroaches were found.

"I would get messages," Gagnon said, "[that] they're crawling out of her shoe."

More cockroaches are seen in Gagnon's condo unit in Glenora (CTV News Edmonton).

'NO IMPEDIMENT TO ADVERTISING YOUR UNIT'

According to Gagnon, the condo board started more aggressive pest control treatments on a biweekly basis. She expressed concern to the building's site manager about securing a new tenant during treatments, hoping for some compensation for lost rent.

"I can't let somebody uproot themselves and move into my unit without letting them know the risk of cockroaches," she said.

The condo corporation's lawyer got involved, writing in a letter provided to CTV News Edmonton that "the corporation continues to monitor and treat your unit for cockroach activity" and "there is no impediment to advertising your unit."

Additionally, Willis Law stated: "failure or refusal to secure a tenant is solely within your control and is demonstrative of a failure on your part to mitigate your damages."

When pressured by Gagnon in 2021 about how widespread the cockroach problem was within the building, Willis Law disclosed 14 units had reported the pests, with only one or two spotted each time.

Crescent Place in Edmonton's Glenora neighbourhood (CTV News Edmonton).

Since then, Gagnon has sporadically rented out her suite for short-term rentals and opted to furnish it. She now lives in Ontario.

"Of course, invariably, when I would tell someone there was a history, even if I offered discounted rent or no deposit or whatever, I mean people don't want to move into a unit and take that risk," Gagnon said. "It's gotten to the point now where I can't.

"I just can't deal with this anymore."

Shelly MacMillan, a condo owner advocate, visited Gagnon's unit several weeks ago, where she documented almost two dozen cockroaches, including one live one.

"I kind of thought, how bad can it be?" MacMillan said.

"I was horrified by what I saw," she added. "It was terrible… I had to walk around and make sure he [the cockroach] didn't drop off the ceiling."

Cockroaches were even found in the toilet tank of Gagnon's condo unit (Supplied).

INFESTATION A 'MISCHARACTERIZATION': CONDO BOARD

Crescent Place's board of directors said it is working with the unit owner and pest control experts to "implement preventative measures" to stop future issues.

"Crescent Place employs a proactive, coordinated strategy to manage pests (including cockroaches) in the building based on professional advice," the organization said in a statement.

The board says a certified pest control company treats common property at the condo for cockroaches every month, and residents have been instructed to report any sightings so they can be addressed.

A dead cockroach is seen in Gagnon condo unit's bathroom (CTV News Edmonton/Brandon Lynch).

Due to privacy concerns, no further specifics could be provided with regard to Gagnon's unit and the history of "pest control issues in the unit."

"Crescent Place is not alone in dealing with pests in our city," it added. "The term 'infestation' is a mischaracterization of our situation based on the knowledge of the experts we consulted.

"Even after following the advice of the experts, perfect results may not be achievable due to the challenges of dealing with pests."

'ALL HANDS ON DECK SITUATION'

CTV News Edmonton and certified entomologist Jun Bukht were provided access to the unit a week after the last cockroaches were found.

"We have found 31 cockroaches dead so far in this unit, lying on the floor," said Bukht, who owns Major Pest Control, the company providing services to Crescent Place for more than three years.

After reaching out to multiple pest control companies, CTV News Edmonton has found that the type of roaches in Gangon's unit are rare in the city.

"If they're seeing 30 to 40 American roaches, which are usually about two inches, there's a major problem there," shared Neil Ritokoski, Ecopest technical supervisor with 20 years of experience.

Typically, Ritokoski says German cockroaches are encountered in northern Alberta. In his view, cockroaches are "established" in Gagnon's building, and Ritokoski says the issue should be considered an "all hands on deck situation."

"That means the condo association gets someone in, flushing all the piping, literally that whole building's piping," he said.

"Every time the suite is empty, the roaches reappear, which tells me, they're not doing everything could do."

'THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE GENERAL UPKEEP'

Gagnon has enlisted the help of MacMillian, a Condo Owners Council of Alberta director, to help resolve the situation.

Alberta's Condominium Property Act does not specifically address pest problems, MacMillan says. Some corporations have guidelines dealing with pests in their complex bylaws. According to her, Crescent Place does not.

The closest line states the corporation must maintain and keep common areas, outside surfaces and utilities in "a state of good repair."

MacMillan says she and Gagnon tried contacting Alberta Health Services but were turned away since a tenant must report pest problems.

"I asked AHS: How can a tenant report it when an owner can't get a tenant in this kind of condition?" MacMillan said.

Alberta doesn't have an agency that directly oversees condo boards, MacMillan said. The Real Estate Council of Alberta only provides oversight for condo managers.

According to MacMillan, Gagnon's only options are continuing to push the condo board for action or filing a court application.

"They are responsible for the general upkeep," MacMillan said. "She has to constantly beg for the management and the board to do something, but if they choose not to or move at the pace recommended by pest control companies, the only other recourse she has that she can do anything about is she can file a court application.

"And hopefully, the judge will force them to do what they're supposed to do," she added. "And that's not a cheap proposition." 

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