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damage control

The question

My partner and I rented a house that needed some repairs. The house was not livable by any means, but little by little we have fixed it up a bit. I appreciate the landlady for letting us move in here, but she knew this house was infested with critters and as much as we clean and try to keep working on the house, it’s become more and more unbearable to live in. There are termites around the house and there are rats in my cabinets in the roof. I have spiders and ants and other pests all over the house. My kids are all bit up. I spoke with the landlady and she said she was going to have someone come and tarp the house so they can fumigate, but that was a week ago and now they are supposed to be coming this week, but she didn’t even offer to pay for the hotel we have to stay at while this is being done. She says there is nothing more she can do. What can I do to get out of this house?

A fling caused a pregnancy and I’m not ready to be a dad. What can I do?

My friend has had too much plastic surgery and it’s hard to look at her. Should I say something?

The new moms at work expect me to stay late because I’m single. Why isn’t my work/life balance respected?

The answer

Some aspects of this question were outside the purview of my skill set, so I asked someone involved in that game (renters’ rights) and he said: “This could wind up being a Kafkaesque nightmare.”

He also said, “take pictures.” And that you have a certain responsibility in this arrangement, among other things to keep the place clean: “Don’t leave food around.”

For my part, I would say, in order to avoid a “Kafkaesque nightmare,” you should just leave and find another place.

You didn’t say exactly where you live. Where I live (Toronto), people say: “It’s impossible to find a place! Have you seen the statistics for vacancy rates?”

And I understand it can be nerve-racking to think of moving under the best of circumstances.

In your case, I would do whatever I had to do to find some different, more congenial accommodation. You have the right to a vermin-free place to live and if your landlady is dithering and dilly-dallying and dragging her heels, I do believe it might be time to move on.

I know some might say “Go to small claims court.” But no offence (and here I’m going against my own rule – I’m always telling my kids “saying ‘no offence’ before or after a rude statement does not in fact change anything”) to people who work in the legal profession, but the little experience I have in the legal world is the law is a) a blunt instrument, b) incredibly slow moving, c) thick-witted like a brontosaurus, and d) even if the ruling goes your way, it can be difficult to make sure the landlady complies with whatever the court has decided.

No. Were I you, I would just start looking for a better place. You deserve somewhere infestation free, especially if your children are all bit up.

If you don’t want to or can’t do that, it seems to me you only have one other option: Do the extermination yourself. Now, what I am about to say may horrify some readers, so I ask the squeamish to avert their gaze from this column, and check out, say, the real-estate section, but in our house we had bedbugs once.

(My son bought a second-hand suit and suddenly: bedbugs. Thus I say unto you: Beware vintage clothing!)

Now, bedbugs have been with humanity for thousands of years and are extremely pernicious little beasts. They only have one flaw: They can’t fly. I won’t go into the details, but I had to offer myself up as a sort of human sacrifice in my son’s bed and long story short we solved the problem.

So, anyway, if you want to go this route, go online, check out “how to get rid of fleas” and “how to get rid of rats” and take matters into your own hands because it doesn’t sound like you’re going to get much action from your landlady on either of these matters.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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