After fire, tenants say landlord tried to freeze them out
KALAMAZOO, Mich. —
Smoke poured out of a residence on Fulford Street on Tuesday night as residents watched their belongings go up in flames.
The residents said the cold outside wasn't much different than the temperatures indoors before the fire.
“I was freezing, so we slept in like three layers of clothes like everybody in the house,” said one resident.
The resident, who is pregnant and saw her home go up in flames Tuesday night, asked to remain anonymous to protect her privacy.
She said her landlord turned off heat to her entire building after she was late paying her rent. She said it was the first time she’s been late paying rent and that it only happened after her car broke down.
“We told the landlord about it and he seemed like he was okay with it because our situation was a major setback for the rent and stuff,” she said.
Just a few days later though, she said her landlord, Arthur Meier, came into her apartment and removed a door, a window, and told her to get out.
“We tried to put a plastic bag over the window so we could keep the air from coming in, but that just kept blowing back,” she said.
Other building residents said they witnessed Meier remove the door and window.
Then, this week, as temperatures dropped to dangerous levels, they said he turned off utilities to the entire building.
“He just said 'I'm going to turn everything off in the house,'” the resident said. “So he turned off the heat, the gas, the electric, and the water.”
Residents said they were able to get the power in the building back on before the fire started, but the gas for heat was still off.
They said they were bundled up, huddled around a space heater trying to stay warm Tuesday night when the fire broke out.
A resident said they smelled smoke and, after checking, discovered smoke coming from the attic.
Under Michigan law, landlords are required to provide a safe living environment in reasonable repair, even if tenants have missed rent payments.
In a texted statement, Meier said that gas and electricity were on in the home, but that the furnace stopped working Monday night.
Meier said he bought space heaters to keep residents warm while the furnace was being repaired, adding he was glad no one was hurt in the fire.
Newschannel 3 also reached out to the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety to find out what may have caused the fire, but they had not responded by Tuesday night.