Gotenstraße fire still affects residents

Tenants in Bad Godesberg complain about Vonovia

Bad Godesberg. The residents of Gotenstraße 96 in Bad Godesberg feel abandoned by their landlord, the real estate company Vonovia: the company has done little since a fire in the stairwell at the end of December.

"Almost nothing has happened," Jerzy Gosciniak says angrily. The 62-year-old has been living in the Vonovia house for more than 15 years. During the fire, he was already at work, but his wife had to save herself from the flames. According to the police, ten people were injured by flue gas. The police are examining whether the fire had been deliberate. For Gosciniak everything is a serious trauma. It is all the worse that more than six weeks after the fire, the situation in the house is still unacceptable. The electrical system has been destroyed. Corridor and exterior lighting are defective, washing machines, dryers, the Internet, telephone and bell no longer work at all. "The hallway is dirty and disgusting, cables hang out of the wall," he describes. He fears danger for the five children living in the house who could play with the exposed cables. The smell of smoke is still perceptible.

"That's not acceptable," the resident complains. The first renovation work was carried out by Vonovia, but only inadequately: "The light in the stairwell has been on day and night since the provisional repair and cannot be switched off. And the electricity costs are borne by the tenants.“

Toxic and irritant substances

But what annoys him the most is the communication with Vonovia: contact attempts by the concerned tenants with the company are repeatedly blocked. "All calls end in ridicule or the handset is hung up," he says. Vonovia did not take complaints and worries seriously and dismissed them with sentences such as "That doesn't happen overnight.“ 

Vonovia was informed directly on the day of the fire and also appeared to get an overview of the situation. "A few days later someone came again. But it was only cleaned very superficially", says Gosciniak. The cleaning of the stairs has finally been taken over by the six tenants, after Vonovia had told them that they could do it themselves. The tenants were told by the fire department that cleaning the floors was not safe.

Marcus Schmitz of the press office of the city confirms: Soot and burnt or charred materials could contain toxic and irritant substances. Yet, even if pollutants were released during the fire, this did not mean any immediate danger. The necessary cleaning and renovation work could be carried out by specialist companies or by the residents themselves, but only with the observance of several protective precautions such as wearing disposable suits, protective gloves and, under certain circumstances, breathing protection.

"The fact that our tenants were able to stay in their apartments over Christmas and did not have to go to a substitute accommodation was first of all our primary goal", says Vonovia spokeswoman Bettina Benner at the request of the General-Anzeiger. The power supply had been provisionally restored for this purpose. "We have been able to restore the house to a condition that meets the minimum of safety requirements," said Benner. Therefore, the fire brigade finally released all apartments again. The cables in the stairwell are secured by cable ties and therefore do not pose any danger to the residents of the building, said the spokeswoman.

Load reduced to an "unavoidable minimum“

In the days after the accident there were two short-term fire cleanings by Vonovia. "The load could be reduced to an unavoidable minimum," they said. However, Benner cannot say when the extensive damage will be completely repaired: "A completion date can only be stated once the measures have been approved by the insurance company's expert.“

Her colleagues tried to contact all residents immediately after the fire, but this was not always successful. The Bonn/Rhein-Sieg tenants' association had also been involved. "If further communication went badly, however, we regret that," says Benner. 

(Original text: Lailah Atzenroth, Translation: Mareike Graepel)