Rodents chew up woman’s education plan

Like many of us, rodents give Kristina Marentette the heebie jeebies.

So when the St. Clair College nursing student discovered an infestation in her rented storage unit this summer, her world turned upside down.

"I have my whole life in that unit," the soft spoken 22-year-old told The Voice recently. "Everything is either chewed on or covered in urine and feces. I don't know what to do. It's filled with ruined things."

The fouled unit has directly impacted Marentette's future. The nursing student, who is currently working in Chatham as a PSW, was unable to return to school in Windsor due to an influx of rodents. Along with close to $2,000 in ruined textbooks, Marentette needed her possessions to be able to set up an apartment for her second year of school.

The saga began on July 23 when Marentette stopped by the unit she's been renting since February, when she returned to Chatham from Windsor. The young woman needed to pick up a backpack as she was going on a short vacation, but upon entering the unit, she discovered the unwanted pests.

When opening a tote, a furry family was discovered in the bin. Further investigation revealed plenty of damage in the rest of the unit. A nest was found in a box spring and there were urine and droppings on nearly every surface, including a couch, television, clothes and household goods.

Her keepsakes and mementos, such as a vintage Grease album, are stored in the unit too as there isn't room at her parent's home.

They were also damaged.

But even though Marentette was disappointed and repulsed by the rodents, she didn't think there would be a problem covering the damage as she'd been paying $20 extra per month to a third-party insurance company, as she said she was told that insurance would cover "all" losses.

Not so fast.

Marentette has been informed that Intact Insurance, the third-party company, won't pay to replace the items, but instead is offering to shampoo and clean them.

Initially, Marentette told Access Storage at the Richmond Street location in Chatham she wasn't paying another penny to rent the unit until the problem was fixed. The company offered her a different unit which she moved into in August, however, there were rodents in there too.

There's some debate as to what the rodents are. The Marentettes claim they were told by some of the Access staff and hired movers that the animals were rats, but two area pest experts have identified photographs of the rodents as mice.

No matter what they are, Marentette's mother Joyce desperately wants to help her daughter resolve the issue.

"This is unacceptable," the elder Marentette explained. "Kristina can't afford to move out and put off school for another year.

"How are you supposed to teach your kids to be honest when things like this happen?" she asked.

For the younger Marentette, there's a new dilemma. She's now locked out of her unit and has received a bill for $630 for unpaid rent. The registered letter she received stated her items will be sold in November if the bill isn't paid.

Intact has also sent her a registered letter informing her the insurance only covers fire and theft.

"What am I paying insurance for?" the quiet young woman asked a reporter.

All Marentette's claims are backed up by way of photographs and video. There's even a shot of a big hole in the first unit's ceiling and damage to the bottom of a sliding door proving the door was not sealed.

All the nursing student is asking for is to have the cost of her things covered (approximately $10,000) so that she can replace her damaged items and go back to school.

The Chatham Voice reached out to Access Storage and Impact Insurance and was told that Access is willing to work with Marentette but did not specify what the solution might be due to privacy reasons.

The Marentettes are currently in the process of sending video and photographic evidence to the company, Joyce said, but there is no further plan.

Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice