Midvale Apartment Tenant Billed For Fire Cleanup After He Was Displaced
May 10, 2021, 11:44 PM | Updated: Jul 6, 2023, 1:31 pm
MIDVALE, Utah — Imagine being told that you have to pay to clean up a fire that started at your neighbor’s apartment. It happened to a Midvale man, and he said his landlord refused to budge.
Richard Rueckert lives in his vehicle after being displaced by a fire that ripped through the Chelsea Park Apartments in April.
Rueckert called KSL Investigators when he received a bill from the complex.
Upon move out, he expected a refund of nearly $1,000 in prepaid rent and a security deposit. Instead, the bill showed he owed money.
“Them promising everybody a refund leads to us owing them almost $300,” said Rueckert.
According to the final account statement, Chelsea Park charged Rueckert a $700 “trash out” to move his burnt and water-damaged belongings. A $225 charge was listed for a “full clean” of the apartment and $270 for repainting the apartment.
“It’s wrong,” Rueckert lamented.
The KSL Investigators reached out to Chelsea Park Apartments to get details on why Rueckert was charged for things damaged in the fire. Before we could ask those questions, the person who answered told us “no comment” before hanging up.
Moments after our interview with Rueckert, the apartment manager approached with a refund check for $224 and a new final invoice.
When we asked about other tenants who might owe money and why Rueckert got a bill, the woman said it was a “mistake.”
“They took off the painting fee and they took off the additional cleaning deposit,” said Rueckert after examining the new bill. “They’re still charging me the $700 trash out.”
Rueckert said he doesn’t think the refund is enough, but will accept it “because I’m living in my car.”
We reached out to renters’ rights attorney Jacob Kent with Utah Legal Services. He told us by phone that landlords should not bill tenants for items out of the tenants’ control, like a fire.
“If they’re going to go in and have to fix the apartment anyway,” said Kent, “they shouldn’t be charging you for any of that. If you caused the damage, sure, that’s another matter.”
Kent explained that ultimately, the landlord’s insurance policy should cover things like disaster cleaning of the apartment. Renters’ insurance held by the tenant would cover the replacement of damaged and destroyed belongings.
Kent advised tenants who get questionable bills upon move out for things they don’t feel are their responsibility should object to those charges in writing with the apartment management.
Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at firstname.lastname@example.org or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you.