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Displaced fire victims, Ohio State students piece life back together

Andrew Holleran / Photo editor

While the cause of a fire at an Iuka Avenue apartment building is still under investigation two weeks after the blaze, most residents are struggling to get back to normal.
In the early hours of Nov. 12, the apartment complex on 2135 Iuka Ave. went up in flames leaving 29 people homeless.
Twenty-six of those residents are Ohio State students, said Student Life spokesman Dave Isaacs.
During the initial investigation firefighters assumed that the fire was caused by a grill located outside on a balcony on the third floor, but those speculations haven’t been proved.
“It is still listed as (an) accidental fire, they are still doing interviews, trying to determine the cause. So as for right now, it is listed as undetermined, and the investigation is ongoing,” said Columbus Fire Division Battalion Chief Patrick Ferguson.
While Ferguson said that those inspections could take a couple of weeks, the displaced tenants are ready to move on and rebuild their lives from scratch.
Resident Katie Weber said she was happy to receive OSU’s and Student Legal Services’ support, but she was disappointed how University Manors, the company that manages the property, handled the situation.
“When I talked to University Manors and asked them about getting the security deposit back, they kept saying they didn’t know how they are going to handle everything and they wouldn’t answer me,” said Weber, a third-year in social work.
She said that one of the maintenance men told her they couldn’t start cleaning the damaged areas before the investigations are over, but University Manors told her that she might be able to move back in within the next couple of weeks.
“It is incredibly frustrating. People kept saying a few weeks, and it’s not an excuse to miss class, but I don’t have any of my clothes, I don’t have my furniture, I don’t have any of that stuff,” Weber said.
Cory Dahlstrand, a third-year in computer science and engineering, and his fiancé did not want to wait for University Manors’ final decision and signed a lease.
“We decided that we didn’t really want to wait for that, so we went ahead and signed a new lease and if they won’t let us terminate it (the lease) immediately, then we’re just (going to) have to take some legal action,” Dahlstrand said.
However, University Manors told The Lantern in an email last week that all 29 residents have been “released from their lease agreements,” so that “they may find other housing accommodations.”
But Weber said that it is very difficult to do so, without any money, since she had to buy new clothes and food. She also said it is difficult to find an inexpensive place to live that is close to campus at this time of the year because most locations are already leased to tenants.
“I am hoping (University Manors is) gonna give everyone their security deposits back, and half the month’s rent, because I feel like if they didn’t they would have a lot of legal issues on their hands,” Weber said.
Weber said that last week tenants received an email that said they needed to move their belongings out of the building within two weeks in order to start construction on the complex. University Manors did not respond to requests for comment Monday.
For those residents who have not signed a lease yet, OSU offers alternative options. Isaacs said Student Life is working with University Housing and Neighborhood Services and Collaboration and Off-Campus and Commuter Student Engagement to provide those residents with housing if needed.
“Wherever they might wish to go, we have places available if they choose to take advantage of that,” Isaacs said.

 

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