A family displaced by a North Vancouver apartment fire faces a big bill to get its belongings back that survived the fire.
Not only does the family have had to find a new, more-expensive rental, it's facing thousands of dollars in fees to reclaim belongings in the apartment that the property management company says are contaminated.
An investigation of the International Plaza fire, which sent two people to hospital on Dec. 28, didn’t come to a definitive conclusion.
“We got to the point that our investigators were able to determine location, but due to the amount of fuel load and significant damage we were unable to determine a cause,” said Brian Hutchinson, fire chief for District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services.
While investigators weren’t able to discover the cause in this case, Hutchinson said that historically it’s not uncommon for things like smoking materials and overloaded appliances or outlets to start fires.
A letter from management company Capreit states that damage from the fire created a “significant risk of exposure to hazardous, such as asbestos, which are contained in the debris created by the fire. The hazardous materials have contaminated your possessions.”
Capreit said it would cover costs to clean five items. Beyond that, tenants’ insurance may cover the cleaning; tenants could pay the restoration company directly for the work; or the possessions would be discarded.
A bill from On Side Restoration puts the cost to clean the family’s possessions at $2,983.
Meanwhile, the family's rent at their new home is $1,000 more a month, they have no furniture and they sleep at a hotel.
Capreit says it’s too early to provide a timeline for when the work will be complete. Capreit hasn’t said if tenants displaced for a longer term would have the choice to return.
Most tenants on the first two floors of the building have since been able to return, and North Shore Emergency Management director Emily Dicken said support for people still displaced has been extended to Feb. 15.
“We hope by that time, we’ll be able to support those folks through the remainder of their displacement and into some permanent housing,” she said, adding there have been some good news stories of people finding new places to live on the North Shore or elsewhere.