02/15/2017 18:25 EST | Updated 02/16/2018 00:12 EST

Residents evacuated after fire at Yonge and St. Clair in insurance claim limbo

Evacuees from The Clairmont Condos at 1430 Yonge Street are waiting in limbo to find out how much damage was done to their units by Tuesday's massive blaze at Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue.

Residents have not been allowed into their building, just south of the Badminton and Raquet Club that was ravaged by flames, for more than 24 hours.

Property management and staff from the cleaning and restoration company IBX Services toured the condo Wednesday afternoon to assess the damage from smoke, as well as water that seeped into the lower parking garage.

'I didn't have anything'

Alex Velarde, whose unit is on the second floor, is hoping there's no water damage, but anticipates problems from smoke. When she got the evacuation notice, she immediately called her insurance company and was told to keep all of her receipts.

"I left for work in the morning and was not able to go back in," she said. "I didn't have anything. I'm talking toothbrushes and simple things you don't think about."

Velarde's two dogs made it out unharmed, but she had to scramble to buy them food and get a refill for one of their medications from the vet. "Right now, we don't know when we'll be able to get back in," she said.

On Wednesday afternoon, Velarde stood staring at the vacant condo from across the street with fellow resident Andy Bakhtiyarov, who lives on the ninth floor.

"Hopefully damage is minimal so we can just move back in," said Bakhtiyarov, who also got a rundown of possible scenarios from his insurance company.

'Get the ball rolling'

Pete Karageorgos from the Insurance Bureau of Canada said Velarde and Bakhtiyarov both did the right thing by calling their brokers.

"You want to get the ball rolling as quickly as possible so when you do get access back to your unit, you can assess what sort of damage you may have sustained," he said.

Karageorgos explained that individual policies differ, but most will cover costs for accommodation and supplies during a forced evacuation, and the claim will start right away. "If you had to pay for a hotel, that would be part of your claim," he said.

Deputy fire chief Jim Jessop said there is no significant structural damage to any nearby buildings, but there may be smoke and water damage to units in the condo.

Who pays for what?

When it comes to insurance, Karageorgos said, the condo corporation is responsible for damage done to the building itself — such as balconies, doors, and the heating and ventilation system — and unit owners are responsible for all of their things as well as any upgrades they have made.

In this case, he said, cleanup and odour removal will likely be paid for by the building, but the condo corporation may have to go back and forth with residents' personal insurance adjusters to coordinate.

"Individuals may have to get items removed from their units so cleaning can be done by the building," he said. "That can add to the work needed to get the claims handled."

Karageorgos said things sometimes get messy for renters in these situations. Some people assume their landlord's insurance will cover their personal belongings, such as laptops.

"People think, 'oh my property is covered because my building has insurance.' No," he said. "Your landlord doesn't have a financial interest in your laptop and they can't insure something they don't own." 

Toronto Fire Services said residents will likely be let back into the building Wednesday evening.