Three years after house explodes, residents take municipality to court

In Rīga, Āgenskalns, just over three years ago a house was hit by an explosion. The house has not been renovated. The initiated criminal proceedings have been terminated, but residents continue the fight – now in court, demanding that Rīga municipality finally reinstate the house, Latvian Television reported on January 26.

Residents of the blast-stricken house said, both in interviews and in mutual talks, that the municipality had promised to help, but now it will not even renovate the apartment the municipality owns, from which there is only rubble left.

Residents also want to add the 2021 LTV news story, in which then mayor Mārtiņš Staķis pledged action, as a case file: “If the investigation finds that the local authority has not done everything to ensure that its tenant meets all necessary security requirements at the site, we will certainly not shy away from accountability in any way - neither material responsibility nor political responsibility.”

Representatives of the municipality now argue in court that the former mayor has not specified exactly what investigations the municipality will take into account. And what the mayor says is of no particular importance to be added to the case file.

“This view has been given formally in response to a relevant question. It makes no difference what the previous mayor has commented on,” said the representative of Riga City Council's Department of Housing and Environment, lawyer Konstantīns Krjačko.

Residents do not agree.

Representative of residents' interests, lawyer Māris Smilga pointed out in court that the information expressed in the news story could prove Rīga City Council's attitude to its responsibility.

Representatives of the City Council said the tenant is responsible for fire safety when renting the apartment. At the same time, the court repeatedly asked for an answer as to whether the municipality had ascertained the state of the municipal property, to which there was no direct response.

At the more than four-hour-long hearing, residents of the building also answered questions, including saying that the tenant of the municipal apartment has had problems with for years, but was rarely reported.

“Slightly asocial people. Well, I don't want to mislead people, a little... defecate in the stairs, shout at each other, threaten each other,” said Gunta Vecvagare, a resident of the house.

House resident Sarmīte Dreimane, for her part, said: “As soon as we approached, when we didn't like something, then something else happened afterwards. Let's just say how our bathroom started burning on the second floor at night. It was not shared but it was in the stairwell. Good thing there was a neighbor who saw it. A couple of years later, the shed burned down too.”

The representatives of Riga City Council's Department of Housing and Environment requested the opportunity to submit new evidence. Including whether the blast took place in the municipality's apartment. On that basis, the hearing was adjourned until the end of April.

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