Tenants at Denver's Cedar Run Apartments TenantsCollaborate to Bring the Heat to Landlord | Westword

Cedar Run Apartments Tenants Turn Up Heat on Landlord

Residents want Apartment Management Consultants LLC to take responsibility
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When a polar vortex brought single-digit and sub-zero temperatures to Denver at the end of January, it spelled disaster for tenants of the Cedar Run Apartments at 888 South Oneida Street in the Washington Virginia Vale neighborhood. The entire nine-building complex was without heat and hot water for multiple days, with no acknowledgment from management for five days.

“It became quite a serious issue, because it's families here,” says Phoelix Rutty, a tenant at the building. “There’s elders and folks with disabilities. You can't really have no heat for that long.”

In Denver, landlords are required to maintain heating systems that ensure buildings can reach 70 degrees even when temperatures drop to -5 degrees, according to the city’s Rules and Regulations Governing Residential Health.

“Five days into this, having no heat, no hot water, the office sent out a mass email kind of just telling everyone there was no heat, there's no hot water,” Rutty recalls. “We're like, ‘Yeah, we know.’”

But management made an error that turned into a boon for the residents: forgetting to blind copy everyone’s email addresses. Rutty mass-contacted all the other tenants, asking if they were having other problems and wanted to work together to take action.

Since moving in in October, Rutty has had issues with work orders not being completed in a timely manner. The garbage disposal was left broken for weeks, and hot water and water pressure were spotty.

“Given the way that they've handled my relatively mild situation, I assumed that there had to be people who are going through worse,” Rutty says. ”After reading through some Colorado statutes and things, I was pretty sure they are in violation of at least a couple laws and guidelines as far as housing goes.”

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Cedar Run tenants' homes were cold after their heat broke during a cold snap.
Cedar Run tenants

The heat requirement is definitely one of those regulations. Rutty’s garbage disposal could fall under legal regulation, too. According to Denver's housing regulations, "All supplied facilities, pieces of equipment, or utilities in or about the premises of any dwelling unit shall be capable of performing their intended function and shall be constructed, installed and maintained in a manner that prevents against possible injury or harm to persons."

And in the more than 300 units on the property, it turns out there are problems bigger than Rutty’s self-described “mild situation.”

Speaking with fellow tenants, Rutty found that many people had mold in their apartments for extended periods of time or consistently lacked hot water.

“It kind of depends on the building and the unit they're in, but mold, no hot water, no heat,” Rutty says. “Oftentimes, there’s just water main breaks that they won't fix, so then the units are just constantly damp, which is obviously a huge health hazard.”

Rutty started a WhatsApp group that comprises about 75 residents, and the residents plan to take action together to try to get Apartment Management Consultants LLC, which manages the building, to do its job better.

Residents say there doesn’t seem to be enough staff to properly maintain a property as large as Cedar Run.

Theresa Foss, vice president of operations in Colorado for AMC, says the heat issue that spurred tenants to organize was the result of a problem with the boiler system.

“As with many industries, we are impacted by labor shortages and supply-chain issues, which has impacted our ability to make some repairs immediately,” Foss says. “We currently have a temporary solution in place for the leaking boiler while we await the permanent fix, which our vendor has indicated is scheduled to be completed by mid-March.”

Foss says AMC addresses maintenance issues brought to its attention in “as timely a manner as possible” and is committed to keeping the property clean and maintained despite tenants’ perception that their maintenance requests are ignored.

Rutty wishes the tenants didn’t all have the same experiences to report.

“If this could have gone perfectly, I would have reached out to everyone and been like, ‘Is everyone having the same problems?’ And they would have been like, ‘Nope, it's great,’” Rutty says. “But that didn't happen, and it turns out, it's way worse than I even thought, so it is really kind of depressing.”

One of the toughest situations emerged on December 4, when a fire broke out in Building A of the property. In the aftermath, the Denver Fire Department discovered asbestos contamination. As a result, tenants couldn’t return to their apartments. Those tenants are working with an attorney, Rutty says.

Until this month, not all residents had even been able to return to retrieve belongings, Rutty adds, and some ended up homeless.

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Some residents at Cedar Run struggle with mold in their units.
Courtesy of Cedar Run tenants

Foss says AMC is working on repairs and complying with all state regulations. As of February 15, Foss says, all residents have been told they can retrieve their belongings.

“All residents were informed of options to transfer within the community if available, or given information on sister properties once we were certain that they would not be able to re-occupy their original apartments,” Foss notes.

According to JD Chism, DFD captain and public information officer, the investigation for the fire is ongoing, but the building has been turned back over to management at this point. Before the fire, DFD last inspected the property in March 2022, and that is still its last official inspection date for Cedar Run.

Rutty says that the group is unofficial for now, but it does have plans to try to become more formal. Despite being unofficial, the tenants have already begun to make inroads with management, getting work started on eliminating mold in several units.

A group of more than thirty tenants went to the leasing office together on February 2 and were able to secure a commitment from management to daily updates on the status of maintenance and repairs on site.

Foss says AMC is working with the organized tenants.

“As we have explained to the residents, Cedar Run is a 1970s-vintage building with large mechanical HVAC systems and original piping,” Foss says. “From time to time there are repairs or replacements that need to be made. At times, failures of these systems may result in intermittent heat and/or hot water at the property. We are addressing these issues daily as they arise and have been communicating with the residents.”

Rutty says management has missed a few daily communications, particularly on weekends, but seems to be trying to keep its commitment. Still, the residents will hold a protest on February 17 at 4:30 p.m. at the entrance to the property to continue working together to make their voices heard.

“The world doesn't work the way it should, and the more we can look out for each other, the better it might work,” Rutty concludes.
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