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‘Really harsh:’ White Oaks residents fired up over restoration fees following devastating blaze

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BAYSIDE -- After their home in a Bayside apartment complex burned down, residents in White Oaks Apartments were told they would have to pay hundreds of dollars to get their stuff back -- and many were not pleased with the news.

The outrage was caused by a miscommunication. It all sparked from a letter sent to those affected from the restoration company that's preparing to enter the charred building.

Fire at White Oaks Apartments in Bayside

Claire Stillman

Claire Stillman is sifting through the images she had, hoping to uplift her father's spirits. The artist and photographer had much of his work and belongings damaged when his unit was caught in the midst of a blaze.

"This is a beautiful shot of my sister in the woods," said Stillman. "He took all of these photos. He wants his art around him again. It's just sad and hard."

With a couple of social media groups, Stillman has been helping her father pick up the pieces and start fresh while helping others get the information they need to start over.

Fire at White Oaks Apartments in Bayside

"I'm hoping we can figure out ways to help meet peoples' needs," said Stillman.

Like many, she was initially taken aback when she saw the letter sent from the Paul Davis Restoration Company, which read in part:

I am offering to spend up to 30 minutes with my team in each unit to retrieve items for the costs of $250 per unit, which would need to be paid before any work began.

"My initial reaction was wow, that was really harsh," said Stillman.

Claire Stillman's father's photos

An estimator says the fee is required for their services, noting their technicians have the training and special equipment for a dangerous scene like the fire.

"I have to pay for my employees, and pay for the insurance and liability," said an estimator from Paul Davis. "Only qualified contractors are allowed to go into this place."

The news is troubling for the affected families.

Fire at White Oaks Apartments in Bayside

Fire at White Oaks apartment complex, Bayside

"We just want access to our own things, and we want to be able to figure out whether these things are worth holding onto or letting go," said Stillman. "I don't want anyone else making decisions regarding our possessions. I'm hoping Katz Properties is going to show compassion and support for people who have been suffering this problem."

As it turns out, White Oaks Apartments never signed off on the letter -- and it was sent out prematurely. Management told FOX6 they are working on several options for residents to be able to retrieve their belongings, and will provide them next week.

Meanwhile, the restoration company says they do have between 8 and 10 people who have already agreed to pay.

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