MIDVALE, Utah — After an apartment fire in Midvale in April, displaced renters got a bill charging them for some of the cleanup.
“This is my whole life right here. Everything that survived the fire is in my truck,” said Dick Rueckert.
Rueckert’s been homeless since the fire at Chelsea Park Apartments on April 16.
“I went and woke up my roommate, and then I tried to get as many neighbors as I could out before I was finally out,” he said.
The fire started in an empty apartment and caused enough damage to prevent Rueckert and residents of about six other units from returning to their homes.
“The lead paint, smoke damage, asbestos in the air," Rueckert said. "There was too much structural damage. It was an unsafe scene."
Rueckert considers everything he owned inside the apartment to be a total loss. He left the unit as-is when the lease was terminated.
Chelsea Park charged Rueckert $225 to clean the apartment plus $270 to repaint the walls. He says the walls were damaged by the fire.
“I was pissed. First of all, we shouldn’t be responsible for the paint. We aren’t the ones who started the fire,” he said.
“There’s no painting fee. If there was, it was a mistake,” said Jeff Williams, a representative for Chelsea Park’s owner.
While talking with FOX 13 News Monday, Williams said the painting fee was accidental and he does not expect displaced renters to pay to repaint the walls. He also waived the cleaning fee for Rueckert.
“We are not charging anybody for damage they did not cause,” Williams said.
Rueckert’s bill was revised Monday and he was given a partial rent refund. Until he finds an affordable home, he must continue living in his vehicle.
“I’m surviving. I’m not living, but I’m surviving,” he said.
Rueckert is still on the hook for about $700 to have his items removed from the damaged unit.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.