Neo 200, a CBD tower block located in Melbourne was damaged in a blaze, and residents have been told it may take up to a year before they can return to their apartments.

The Age reports that investigators uncovered that the fire had likely been fuelled by combustible cladding on the exterior of the building, and may have started on a balcony with lit cigarette butts.

Residents have been slapped with bills for packing and moving their belongings, some totalling almost $2000, which they will need to pay in order to recover their possessions. Residents were not given access to move their own belongings out.

"They had gone into our apartment, packed all our stuff, boxed it all, cleared the whole apartment and said they were sending it to an off-site location in Glen Waverley," renter Dion Aleksovski was quoted as saying.

"On top of that, we have to pay the removal company $1850. We have to pay for something that wasn't our fault, they never rang us or even asked us permission ... hopefully all my stuff is there and not damaged." 

At least 14 damaged apartments are reported to require "major works" following the fire. Those affected have been advised to consider a six to 12-month lease in alternative accommodation.

Further adding to residents’ woes, an emergency order issued by the council was extended beyond the original two-week period, as the building had been found unfit for reoccupation.

"On that basis, the building will not be available for the anticipated first stage of re-occupancy today," an email to residents was reported to have read.

A previous report by the publication revealed that the entire smoke alarm system of the block lacked proper maintenance and was "dilapidated" prior to the fire. Significant issues which had the potential for risking lives were found. 

"They have to fully rebuild those apartments and the surrounding ones are water damaged due to fire services going off in the hallways. Water soaked through the floor and under the doors of everyone's apartment and it's gone into the walls," said Aleksovski.

"The most frustrating thing was no one has seemed to relay any information onto us. No one contacted us individually, we are hearing things through everyone else."

Aleksovski has chosen to relocate due to the uncertainty.
"It's just annoying, it's really, really annoying. Imagine you were to go on holidays and you come back and are not able to go home and are living out of a suitcase, and they keep telling you, 'Just one more day, just one more day'," said jeweller Jenny Zhang.

"It's been terrible."

Residents were provided with up to $2500, for emergency accomodation in the interim.But that amount is running out, and residents are still in the dark as to when they will be able to return to their homes.

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