Investigators: House fire is third in two weeks at property owned by landlord

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Investigators say an early morning fire at a home on the city's northeast side is now considered suspicious, while tenants who live there said they believe it was set intentionally.

Investigators say the fire started 8:30 a.m. Monday at the home on the corner of Clancy and Bradford NE.  The home is made up of three apartment units.

No one was injured and the damage was limited, but tenants say the home was already in fairly poor shape.

The landlord who owns the home on Clancy owns several properties across the city, according to city records. Monday's fire is the third to happen at a property owned by the landlord in just two weeks, investigators told FOX 17.

Tonya Belcher, who lives in one of the units in the Clancy home, said said she heard a loud boom in the basement and then saw a man running away from the house.

"I saw a man walk real fast coming out of the side of the house where the basement door is," she told FOX 17.

Jamie Rykse, another tenant, said while she didn't see anyone run from the house she shares similar suspicions the fire was set intentionally.

"I think our landlord did it," she said. "He was over here yesterday, I told him I’m not giving him any more rent money because he’s not fixing anything."

Investigators told FOX 17 the fire began on a couch in the basement of the home, but was easily extinguished.

The cause remains under investigation. Investigators say they are also working to corroborate claims made by tenants and wouldn't confirm whether they are looking for a suspect.

"It’s too early, we’re still trying to get all of the stories to match," said Kathleen Thompson, GRFD's acting battalion chief.

Late Monday afternoon, Sgt. Terry Dixon with the Grand Rapids Police Department confirmed to FOX 17 the fire is being investigated as suspicious.

The other two fires happened last week at two of the landlord's properties on 33rd Street.  Daniel Masser, who lives in a unit at one of the properties, said the fire seemed suspicious but he's not sure what started it.

Mark Sohlden, who lives in the same building, believes the fire was intentionally set but not by the landlord.

“I think it’s not a coincidence," Sohlden said. "I think it’s a protest against the landlord and ... it’s a protest against the apartments because he’s not fixing things."

The Red Cross is assisting displaced tenants.

Following repeated attempts by FOX 17 to contact the landlord in person and by phone Monday, he responded late Monday evening, saying he'd been advised by his legal counsel not to comment on the matter.

FOX 17s Josh Sidorowicz, Erica Francis and Michael Dupre contributed to this report.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

4 comments

  • Bert

    Except for the fact that he is actually in Michigan, this sounds like a typical MI slumlord. The city should inspect the properties, and if they do not meet habitable standards they should confiscate them and sell them to the current tenants with the longest residential seniority for the cost of fixing them up and paying the back taxes. Because there are almost certainly back taxes due. If that tenant declines, offer it to the next senior, etc. and if none of the tenants want it sell it at auction for full market value.

  • Misty Favreau

    Coming from personal experience with this landlord it does not matter if you pay or not he does not fix anything. And he does not care about his tenants. July 2015 my family was assaulted by other tenants because my husband worked for said landlord. His sulution move us to a different apartment and promise to make things right. His making things right was to fire my husband, evict us, during the whole ordeal in july we spent $3000 in food hotel and my children are still scared. Im glad we are no longer tenants of his.

  • once a tenant

    Coming from personal experience with this landlord it does not matter if you pay or not he does not fix anything. And he does not care about his tenants. July 2015 my family was assaulted by other tenants because my husband worked for said landlord. His sulution move us to a different apartment and promise to make things right. His making things right was to fire my husband, evict us, during the whole ordeal in july we spent $3000 in food hotel and my children are still scared. Im glad we are no longer tenants of his.