ROCKLAND — Six tenants who lost their homes when a fire struck a Rockland apartment building a year ago have filed a lawsuit against the landlords.

The lawsuit was filed Friday, Jan. 14 in the Knox County court against Dona Bergen and Erik Nelson of St. George. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Scott Brinckerhoff, Leslie Vangel, Mark Libby, Robert Kliewer, Brian Kliewer, and Alison Hill.

The lawsuit alleges negligence and intentional mistreatment of abandoned property.

The legal action stems from a fire that struck shortly after midnight on Jan. 29, 2021, at 666 Main St. in Rockland. The residents of six apartments of the building, located between Cottage Street and Blake Lane, were able to get out without injury.

The lawsuit claims the landlord knew of defective conditions in the building prior to the January 2021 fire. There was a fire in the apartment building in 2016. The building was cited by the code enforcement officer for a number of code violations, including some electrical in nature and some of those involving the removal of old knob-and-tube wiring, according to the lawsuit.

The March 2016 fire was determined to be the result of a malfunctioning vacuum cleaner left in a hallway, according to a news article after that fire.

Nelson told three tenants he had done a significant amount of the wiring in the building himself, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit states it will seek to determine whether he is a licensed electrician since, if not, it would have been negligent for him to be doing the electrical work.

The January 2021 fire was determined to have started from an electrical problem, fire officials said at the time of the fire. The lawsuit said the fire started in the ceiling of Vangel’s apartment.

Due to the age of the building, the heating system was supplemented by a number of Rinnai space heaters, the lawsuit stated.

The lawsuit by the tenants further claims on two occasions, prior to the January 2021 fire, Vangel complained to Nelson that the Rinnai heater in her apartment was malfunctioning and overheating. Immediately after the fire, and before an inspection by the state fire marshal, Nelson removed the Rinnai heater and disposed of it, the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit also claims the landlords were aware, in old buildings, fires can travel through walls and floors. The fire that started in Vangel’s apartment first burst through the wall in Brinckerhoff’s apartment a floor above and on the opposite side of the building, according to the lawsuit.

The tenants suffered damages including property damage, economic loss, as well as discomfort and severe emotional distress, according to the lawsuit.

The tenants are represented by attorney Gregory Snow. There is no attorney of record listed for the landlords. The two have not yet been served the lawsuit.

And, after the fire, the lawsuit claims Nelson ignored state law about handling property left behind by tenants, in this case involuntarily, and impounded one of the tenant’s vehicle without authority and repeatedly harassed the tenants by telephone with demands they remove their property at their own expense by various “spurious deadlines” he claimed were required by law.

The suit seeks compensatory damages for lost property, emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and other non-pecuniary losses, loss of sleep, lost wages, and compensatory damages for great humiliation, embarrassment, and mental suffering.

Bergen and Nelson sold the apartment building in July 2021, and renovations have been ongoing since the sale by the new owner.