A woman who lives on the first floor of a seniors’ apartment building in St. John’s contends the property owner knew about a rodent problem long before it made headlines.
“The first time I saw one was more than a month and a half ago,” said the 61-year-old, who lives at Kenny’s Park Apartments and asked not to be named.
“I got this little wicker box, and sacred heart of God, when he pulled it out I swept up about two dustpans of droppings. I thought I was having a heart attack,” she said.
The woman told The Telegram she called a pest control company and was scolded for doing so.
“(Northern Property) phoned me. She wasn’t too pleased. She said, ‘I am of the understanding you called (a pest control company) on your own. Don’t you know you have to call us first?’” the tenant recalled.
“I said, ‘Yes, but I could be waiting two weeks for someone to come in,’ and I said, ‘I’m not waiting two days let alone two weeks.’”
The woman said she pays nearly $900 a month in rent.
The woman said she was proud when one of her fellow tenants and her daughter brought the problem to the public’s attention by telling their story to The Telegram.
The concern about rodents at the seniors’ apartment building on Tiffany Lane in the capital city’s east end was raised publicly by Erin Alexander and her mother, Elizabeth Maddox. They contacted The Telegram about two weeks ago, frustrated with what they say has been a lack of action by the building’s owner, Northern Property.
When contacted Tuesday, Alexander said while nothing has been resolved definitively, they are negotiating with the company to have her mother moved to another apartment.
“So she’s still not back living there, and it hasn’t happened yet, but we’re working on it,” she said.
Maddox hasn’t lived in her apartment since then, and Alexander said in a recent interview her mother is stressed out and sick over the situation. She said her mother’s blankets and comforters have either been destroyed or need to be drycleaned and sterilized and the couch needs to be fumigated and repaired or thrown out.
Mice droppings can be seen in the 14 photos accompanying letters the women sent to The Telegram, which were also copied to St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe, St. John’s East MHA George Murphy, the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp. (NLHC) and other organizations.
Alexander and her mother also sent the letters — dated Feb. 5 — to Northern Property.
The Telegram has left several messages with the company, but hasn’t received any response.
George Murphy said Tuesday he has presented petitions, signed by more than half of the tenants, to the property owner as well as to NLHC, as it subsidizes some of the apartments.
He said some of the tenants shared their stories with him, including those who have taken matters into their own hands and set traps in an effort to alleviate the problem.
“I heard people are actually afraid to phone in with a complaint because they were afraid they’d be booted out of the building. That’s no way to live,” said Murphy.
“If that’s the type of society we’re living in these days, and housing is that scarce and you fear losing your home, then we’ve got deeper, overriding issues,” he said.
Maddox moved into the building in 2009 to be near her husband, who was in long-term care at the Hoyles Escasoni Complex. He died in March 2010.
Maddox says she has been complaining to Northern Property about mice for about a year and a half — at least three times in that period — with the last complaint filed on Jan. 22, 2014. Each time, a pest control company would show up, but the problem hasn’t been rectified.
She said she found six dead mice in the apartment in one week.
When contacted last week, Dennis Kendell, executive director of regional operations for NLHC, said inspectors have checked the building, but didn’t find anything out of the ordinary except for a couple of holes, which have been filled in.
He said the inspector said the common areas — as he didn’t go into individual apartments — was presentable and clean.
Kendell said the pest control company will revisit the building once a week for the next month and the corporation will keep an eye on the situation.