Dozens say company that owns apartment ‘isn’t doing enough to help’ after fire

Some residents seek additional help after their Brookhaven apartment complex was destroyed in a fire
Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 6:34 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) – Tenants of a Brookhaven apartment complex, that was destroyed by fire, claim the company that owns it isn’t doing enough to help them get back on their feet.

More than five dozen people were left homeless. The building’s owner paid for temporary housing at hotels this week, but their stay is ending after the weekend.

Tenants say they feel abandoned by Sentinel Real Estate Corp, but Sentinel tells CBS46 they’re doing everything they can to help.

“I mean if my dog had been here. There are people who lost their animals,” said Niki Counselman, who lived in the building.

Some four days after the fire many are still trying to come to grips with what happened. Another resident, Allison Dixon, vividly remembers watching her home burn to the ground.

“Then I see the whole roof about that specific unit, it’s just an inferno,” she said.

The fire early Monday morning destroyed building 2000 at the Evergreen Lenox Apartments in Brookhaven. Everyone made it out safely, but many of them lost everything in the fire. The American Red Cross helped with immediate needs.

Complex owner, Sentinel Real Estate set up tenants in hotel rooms this week, but after Sunday tenants say those stays will end. Sentinel is also working with partner complexes to find housing for displaced tenants, but the company can’t guarantee monthly rent will be the same.

“They’re charging market value for the apartments. So, I was paying $1,400. I can move into the same apartment, and I would pay $1,800,” said Counselman.

“So, the struggle has been finding something as similar to this as possible as far as amenities go, but at an affordable price. I’m looking for specifically a one-bedroom. It’s been very difficult to find something under $2,000,” said Dixon.

The complex sits on the DeKalb/Fulton County line, so while DeKalb firefighters battled the fire, the two fire agencies agreed that Atlanta Fire Department will lead the investigation into what caused the fire. Investigators are also looking into if the smoke and fire alarms were working properly. Tenants say they didn’t hear alarms going off. They also claim the sprinkler system didn’t activate.

Sentinel Real Estate released a statement to CBS46. They say there is more to the story and they’re trying to help tenants in a difficult situation.

“First and foremost, we are grateful that no one was hurt in the fire at Evergreen Lenox Park Apartments. The situation is unfolding in real-time, and we are working to assess the facts and determine the next steps, but little is known about the cause at this time. We will continue working closely with authorities during their investigation. We are also in communication with impacted residents and will provide them with updates as we have new information to share,” reads the official Sentinel statement.

Sentinel says the building was last inspected in November 2021 and turned up minor issues that the company said they addressed immediately.

Some of the tenants didn’t have renters’ insurance, although we checked and it was required under the lease. The average cost of renters insurance in Georgia is a little more than $300 per year.

Lucas Bassin of Lucas Bassin Insurance Agency in Buckhead said many renters don’t think they need insurance, but just like homeowners’ insurance – it’s a good investment.

“You might not own the property, but let’s say there’s a significant loss like a fire or some other sort of loss and you lose your belongings,” said Lucas Bassin of Bassin Insurance Agency in Buckhead. “The landlord only has coverage for the actual structure. And you won’t have any coverage to protect your contents. Or even yourself financially. So, you want to make sure you have coverage.”

Some of the displaced tenants have set up GoFundMe accounts, but many others have not. They hope the community or other charitable organizations will step forward to help.