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Solin bedbug victim denied rent compensation

McGill is refusing to terminate the lease or provide rent compensation to a student whose Solin Hall apartment was infested with bedbugs for months.

Bedbugs, the pesty blood-suckers discovered in the New Residence Hall and the MORE house at 522 Pins last year, surfaced in Solin last semester.

While representatives from McGill’s Residence Services insisted the hall is now bedbug-free, U0 Education student Aaryn Secker is still living in her boyfriend’s single Solin apartment. Worried that even a few tenacious bedbugs hanging onto Stecker’s clothes could spread the infestation, McGill refused to give her a new room in Solin.

“I could stay in my infested room, live with my boyfriend, or live on the street and have no other options,” Secker said.

Secker notified Howard Zinman, Services Coordinator for Solin Hall, after discovering tiny red bites all over her body in September. Residence Services was initially responsive to her concerns, replacing her mattress and couch, paying for dry cleaning, and spraying her room with chemicals to kill the bugs.

But despite the intensive cleaning, Secker said that the bedbugs returned.

“They kept coming back. McGill [Residence Services] replaced my bed about twice. By the end of it they ended up taking out my bed and my fridge,” she said.

When the problem persisted, Secker moved out for good and sought rent compensation from the Student Housing Office for the entire academic year.

McGill’s refusal to reimburse Secker for rent or to terminate her lease has caused Secker to threaten bringing her case to the Régie du Logement, Quebec’s housing office.

Zinman refused to comment on Secker’s case, citing confidentiality reasons. He said the process of treating bedbug infestations has not changed since last year’s incidents in MORE Houses and New Residence, where bedbugs were found in several rooms.

Rooms go through an extensive cleaning process before each academic year, including a final survey by a professional cleaning company to ensure that they are bug-free, Zinman said.

But Myrna Wyatt Selkirk, Director of Solin Hall, said that even with cleaning, it’s often difficult to know when rooms are bedbug-free.

“Even when we closed down [the MORE house] we still had a fear of what would happen when we opened it back up…because you can’t actually tell there are bedbugs until there are people. They need warm beings to come out. You can’t tell they’re there until they bite somebody,” Selkirk said.

The three rooms infested in New Residence last year are still under quarantine, according to James Guthrie, Services Coordinator for New Residence.

He said that the rooms were closed according to exterminators’ recommendations, and New Residence has been free of infestation ever since.

“I don’t want to jinx anything, but we’re hoping [that they’re gone],” Guthrie said.