PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -
Many of these residents at the Marquee Apartments said they were home when one of the units in the building caught fire last Thursday.
"We go out the balcony and we see smoke underneath us, and we were like whoa so we got our stuff as much as we could and we got out," said Jason Salazar who was directly above the burning apartment with his girlfriend.
"I had some fireman knocking on my door and the best I could do is run out in my boxer shorts and the fire blazed. It was so intense it was just unbelievable," said Michael Sharky who also lives in the building.
No one was hurt in the blaze and just one unit burned. Residents who spoke with KESQ and CBS Local 2 reporter Joe Galli said management did a poor job cleaning up.
During a tour of the hallways it was obvious that a cleaning crew had gone through, but they missed a lot. There was still soot along the top of the wall, on the floor and also in harder to reach places.
The smell of smoke is pungent and could be overpowering if a person spent a lot of time in the building.
Emergency exit signs were melted and sponges used to clean the walls were left behind. Notices were left on doors saying someone was scheduled to come and inspect units for smoke damage.
Residents said they complained to the community manager of the complex, Michael Fields, about the conditions.
"When I asked him if it was clean to his liking, to his standards, he told me that it was better than before. So I asked again and I said 'no Michael it’s a yes or no question, do you think that that is clean?' I really never got an answer for that," said Brittany Abendschoen who had recently moved into the building.
"[Fields] is telling us that people can go back into the apartment, but you can’t many of us just can’t take the toxic smoke," Sharkey said.
Residents said when they signed their lease, they were told by building management they had an option to have renters insurance through the management company. It costs an extra $10 a month.
"They did tell us that it is insurance. That you can get this renters insurance instead of your own," said Stephanie Schofield who has lived at the Marquee Apartments for more than a year.
"They are saying that we have insurance but we don’t have any proof to that I know of," Salazar said.
These people were hoping that money from insurance could go to cleaning their apartments and to replacing items that were damaged by smoke.
After looking at a copy of two different leases, it turns out that’s not the case.
The documents show that they weren’t paying for renters insurance, but were instead paying for a waiver program that allows them to rent a unit without getting outside insurance. All of these people interviewed for this story said they were lied to when they signed the lease.
Now these people are worried they will have to pay out of pocket for anything that would need to be done in their units.
Micheal Fields said he had no comment other than they are not ‘not sitting on their hands.’