Even though the cost of rent in metro Denver continues to rise, the demand for apartments remains high thanks to the continuing influx of millennials and other transplants. When asked if she thinks the scenario has made landlords in the area less vigilant, Thornton's Kerry Gieger doesn't hesitate.
"Absolutely — 100 percent," Gieger says. And she offers her epic, months-long, ongoing renter's horror story as a particularly disgusting example.
A business analyst for the City of Thornton who works with the permitting and inspections department, Gieger has lived at an apartment complex called the Flats at Creekside in Arvada for about a decade, and during most of that period, she's had a good experience.
But about a year ago, a company called AMC Properties took over management of the Flats, prompting what Gieger characterizes as a large turnover in staff because of pay cuts.
Then, in July, Gieger decided to move from her two-bedroom apartment into a three-bedroom in the same complex because one of the two daughters who lives with her is pregnant. The new place cost nearly $2,000 per month, but she was willing to spend more to make her kids and soon-to-arrive grandchild comfortable.
Her plan didn't work they way she expected.
Almost immediately, Gieger says, "we found out there were cockroaches, and it took a month for them to come and deal with it. They didn't believe it when I told them, so two days after I had surgery — a full hysterectomy — I was crawling around on the floor trying to capture one in a bottle so I could prove it. And there was no caulking on anything. We could literally lift the sinks out of the holes they were in."
Things got a lot worse shortly thereafter, when residents of the apartment above hers overflowed their tub, allowing water to drip through the ceiling and into her bathroom for hours.
As a result of the damage, Gieger and her two daughters were relocated to an apartment across the hall that she describes as being in almost equally horrendous condition.
"The toilet wasn't even bolted down," she points out, and the front piece of a kitchen drawer had been ripped off and was left open, exposing wood fragments and jagged hardware.
Meanwhile, a crew addressing the water damage in Gieger's three-bedroom took what Gieger sees as ludicrous repair shortcuts, such as replacing just a small portion of the ceiling even though the surrounding walls were sodden.
That's not all. In her words, "We had black mold. We had asbestos."
Here's a video Gieger recorded showing the condition:
Because Gieger was so familiar with Colorado's tenant-protection laws, she was able to force more repairs, including the replacement of the bathroom walls. Afterward, though, "they left the apartment trashed. They put in new baseboards, and none of them have stuck since the first day. They basically destroyed my property."
Throughout the process, she maintains, "I feel I've done my best to be as nice and amicable as possible, and I know the person in the leasing office has been doing her best. But I've still been completely railed for two months. Two months."
After Gieger reached out to Westword, we contacted AMC Properties to ask about the situation. The next day, Gieger was told she'd be receiving a "$900 concession toward October's rent" as a result of the problems.
In addition, AMC Properties spokeswoman Stephanie Brooks sent us an email that reads in part: "I wanted to reassure you that once the problem was called to our attention, we made a timely repair and have compensated the resident for her inconvenience and are awaiting to get a final schedule from her, to finish up any outstanding issues she may have."
Gieger's response to Brooks's note: "This isn't about compensation. This is about doing what's right. They don't have a choice but to 'compensate me,' because it's written into the Colorado tenant law. They treated me like they were somehow doing me a favor by comping my rent."
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She adds: "We lived out of two black-mold, asbestos, cockroach-infested homes that they had somehow missed during their two annual inspections. I don't want money — I want them to hold up their end of the contract we both signed. If I paid rent in pennies this month and I was a week late the next month, would the late fees be 'compensation'? And if my apartment is livable — yes, but still an absolute mess — is that 'timely repair'? The sink in the master bath has been completely independent from the counter-top since the day we moved in and reported it. How is that timely?"
Why doesn't Gieger simply find a new place to live? She could: "I'm a single mom, but I make good money for my family. I've got choices."
Then again, the timing for relocating could hardly be worse, given her one daughter's impending delivery and her continuing recovery from surgery, not to mention the shortage of attractive rentals and regular price hikes. So for now, Gieger remains at the apartment complex where she's been for a decade, hoping that before long, everything will finally get back to normal.
In the meantime, she says, "I feel like we're living in a nightmare."