Last summer, the air-conditioning at most of the eleven buildings that make up the Mint Urban Infinity apartments at 1251 South Bellaire Street gave out at the end of July. That was just one of the complaints cited by tenants in a class-action lawsuit filed last fall against Cardinal Group Management, which oversees the property, claiming that Cardinal Group hasn’t upheld its end of the lease agreement.
But not much has changed at Mint Urban since then: Tenants say conditions have never been worse and, after a scorching start to summer, the air-conditioning still isn't on. On June 9, management sent out a notice explaining that it's trying to fix the problem after a May maintenance visit revealed that chillers in the buildings would take extra work to get running.
“Knowing that we had issues with the chiller system last year...someone should have been called out back in March, no later than April, to check into the system, and I don't see that that was done,” says Vivian Szejer, who has lived at Mint Urban since 2018.
Szejer lives on the fourth floor, and the elevator in her building isn’t working (it isn’t working in seven of the eleven buildings, she says); after hiking up four floors, she finds no cool relief in her apartment. She can’t have her son over for dinner because it’s too hot, and she says she's embarrassed by the poor conditions at the complex, which include overgrown weeds, dog-waste bins that aren’t emptied and a general lack of maintenance.
Paul Shepard, who’s lived at the complex for two years, says the air-conditioning problem is impacting his ability to make a living. He drives for Uber and Lyft but hasn’t been able to take as many trips as he'd like because he can’t leave his dog in his apartment for fear the animal will get heat exhaustion. He'll take his dog in the car to cool off, but he can’t pick up passengers while his dog rides along.
Colorado generally doesn’t require that rental units have air-conditioning. Mint Urban Infinity did include language in its leases noting that it is responsible for "maintaining fixtures, furniture, hot water, heating and A/C equipment," which makes the lack of repairs enforceable under state law, according to Brandon Smith, the lead attorney in the class-action lawsuit. It's unclear if that line was in the leases that Shepard and Szejer signed.
After tenants complained about the heat, the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment sent an inspector to the complex in June. Though DDPHE can’t cite a building for lack of air-conditioning, Nicol Caldwell, an environmental public health manager with the department, says the complex does have other safety issues that fall under its purview.
DDPHE’s inspection discovered unsecure wiring in an elevator there, for example. According to Caldwell, the property manager told DDPHE’s investigators that elevator technicians were working to repair at least one elevator in each building. The DDPHE also found water damage, uncovered heater baseboards and exterior doors that don’t lock properly, all of which violate Denver’s Rules and Regulations Governing Residential Health.
“These are not new violations; these are ongoing, active cases,” Caldwell says. “DDPHE has issued a number of orders to property management to address these issues, along with multiple administrative citations due to their lack of compliance. We’ll continue to follow up until they fix the issues.”
While tenants don’t have much hope that the issues will be resolved, they say that the tight rental market makes it unlikely they can find another place to go. The only thing that seems to consistently work at the property is the system that facilitates rent payments, Shepard says.
That rent is high enough that the apartments should have working air-conditioning, Szejer suggests: “We try to go out during the day sometimes, to maybe run errands so we can get in some air-conditioning. This is just the beginning, and I have no idea what's going to happen as the days go on and get hotter.”
Update: This story was updated on June 29 to note that the Mint Urban Infinity lease does refer to maintaining A/C equipment. And by the way, tenants report that they lost access to hot water this week.