Woman faces eviction from public housing after cockroach protest

Last Updated: Monday, November 5, 2007 | 11:28 AM ET

Ottawa Community Housing is evicting a woman who withheld rent money to protest a serious cockroach infestation in her apartment building.

Wanda Butt must move out of her highrise apartment on Ramsay Crescent by Nov. 11, said a letter she received last Thursday after a ruling earlier that week by the Landlord and Tenant Board.

She must also repay the rent she withheld and charges associated with withholding it, as well as compensate Ottawa Community Housing for the $150 they paid to apply for her eviction.

Alternatively, she can stay if she pays $1,375.50 and expenses related to the hearing on top of her rent.

When contacted, Ottawa Community Housing said it planned to respond later in the day.

Butt, meanwhile, said she plans to move out.

"I think I was basically made an example of," she told CBC's Ottawa Morning on Monday. "They want people to stop complaining, stop kicking up a stink because it just basically makes them look bad."

Exterminators began treating Wanda Butt's apartment every two weeks after her complaints that she encountered hundreds of roaches a day, couldn't keep food in her cupboards and the insects had even infested her TV.

Butt said she wrote to every city councillor, contacted Ottawa Community Housing directly five times and brought her case to the media.

She began holding back a $360 portion of her $735 a month rent after she learned that neighbouring apartments weren't being treated.

That prompted Ottawa Community Housing to apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board for an eviction.

At a hearing on Oct. 30, the board found:

  • The public housing agency acted responsibly in attempting to treat the bug problem in Butt's unit.
  • Butt did not properly document her case.
  • She didn't "consistently complain" about the infestation.

Butt said she has not yet found a new apartment, but plans to leave all her belongings behind when she moves because she is concerned cockroaches stowed away inside could follow her to her new apartment.

Ottawa Community Housing provides 14,783 homes for about 32,000 low-income residents in Ottawa. The agency has complained in the past about a shortage of funds to repair and maintain its buildings.

Earlier this year, it asked the city for for $6.3 million to remedy backed-up sewage, mouldy walls and leaky basements arising from maintenance that has been put off for years.