Mint Urban Infinity, an eleven-building apartment complex with a total of 561 units in southeast Denver, are fed up. Fed up with the lack of air-conditioning, the lack of security and the lack of response from building management to other concerns.
“A lot of these you can literally just...” says Brandon Smith, a Mint Urban Infinity tenant, as he effortlessly pulls open a random mailbox. “And this is secure...at least compared to some of the other buildings.” His building, for example, number nine, where the front door is broken.
“We’ve had multiple break-ins, many of which have been reported to the police," he says. "Mail theft is a common problem here, but it seems like they literally could not care less.”
It’s about 80 degrees outside, but Smith’s apartment is scorching. "Please be mindful when turning your thermostat on in your home so we do not overload the system again by everyone turning them on at the same time at the coldest setting," Mint Urban Infinity had said in an email to tenants on July 30. "We will continue to have our venders out here next week every day in an attempt to get these running at 100 percent."
On August 2, they still weren't. “Sometimes, it can get to about 85 to 90 degrees in here,” Smith says. “When I knock on doors to collect signatures, it's heartbreaking to see families, especially those with children, just absolutely miserable and sweaty.”
Smith has been collecting signatures from tenants who want to take action against Mint Urban Infinity and its property manager, Cardinal Group Management.
For Smith, the red flag came on April 9, when he and his roommate returned from dinner, smelled smoke, and eventually traced it to a dryer in a laundry room in building nine. “It wasn’t just the filter, the entire thing was just stuffed. It was so unsafe, it just blew and started smoking," he recalls. Urban Infinity told him the laundry situation was a vendor issue.
"The final straw was the hot water going out for nine days," Smith adds. That was from July 6 through July 15, when Smith and a neighbor, Kristin Jones, finally decided to organize a tenant campaign to take action against the apartment complex and Cardinal Group Management. So far, they've collected over 100 signatures, hosted a residential meeting and created a network of resources, documents and photographic evidence of neglectful conditions. The group has even compiled a list of public officials to contact with complaints, including U.S. Representative Diana DeGette and Denver City Council rep Paul Kashmann.
With no lawyer and no money to pay for one, on July 16 Smith filed a "Notice of Violation of the Warranty of Habitability" with Cardinal Group Management. It reads:
We tenants of Mint Urban Infinity in Denver, CO, are petitioning to combat the living conditions, poor functionality, and overall lack of thorough communication on the part of both Mint’s management team and the landlord Cardinal Group Management. We believe that Mint and Cardinal have been failing to address tenants’ needs in the following ways:Smith didn't receive a response from Cardinal Group Management, but he did get one on July 21 from Tschetter Sulzer P.C., a Denver-based law firm that represents the real estate developer.
- Failing to properly and proactively maintain and make permanent fixes to the property, amenities and features, which put tenants’ health and/or safety at risk.
- Providing poor or no maintenance when requests are made.
- Remaining inaccessible for tenants to communicate concerns by shortening office hours and not answering phones or emails.
- Providing inaccurate, untimely, incomplete and/or overtly false communication with residents
The attorneys said that Mint Urban Infinity and Cardinal Group Management, collectively, denied and disputed Smith's claims that there has been "any breach of the Lease or the warranty of habitability."
But Smith is far from the only tenant to have concerns about the complex's conditions.
“Over the past few months while living in my apartment, I have submitted numerous work orders to have my thermostat replaced and this has not been completed. My apartment has been so hot that batteries in my tv remote have melted which has caused me to replace my remotes," wrote one tenant in a July 21 email to Mint Urban Infinity.
“The problems have existed since we moved in, and they’ve only been getting worse since,” says another tenant who has been living at the complex for nearly four years and requested anonymity. “The whole place feels like it's falling apart but, of course, it’s advertised as being newly renovated.”
On the front page of Mint Urban Infinity's website, it's actually billed as “current, hip, sophisticated.”
This tenant has emailed complaints to management more than ten times over the past year, regarding everything from the chiller in her apartment being down for “most of the summer” to the elevator in the building being broken “on and off” for four years, laundry machines in disrepair just as long, and the lock to her building broken. She's also complained of roaches in common areas and black mold.
“It’s like there’s no accountability," she says. "Everything just feels like it’s falling apart. We’ve never seen anyone do regular, consistent maintenance checks in the four years that we’ve been living here." She'd move, she adds, but it's not easy finding affordable housing in Denver. Rent at Mint Urban Infinity ranges from $680 for a studio to around $1,750 for a two-bedroom unit.
Stephanie Grant signed on to Smith's campaign; a former employee of Cardinal Group, she's the designated "captain" for building one. She and her partner, a veteran with PTSD, moved into their unit in November, and she says there were red flags from the start. When their dishwasher was broken, she submitted a work order to get it fixed and returned to find it in the same condition — despite maintenance saying they'd fixed it.
“It's interesting to see that their outside image does not match their business practices," she says of Cardinal. "We are not the only tenants having these problems."
On August 2, in response to complaints from tenants, the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment inspected Mint Urban Affinity and compiled a list of safety hazards. THE DDPHE issued three notices of violations in response to three specific complaints: One noted that the southwest exterior door of building one needed to be sealed; another said that the "interior door between 1235 S Birch St and 1255 S Birch St was not in sound condition and good repair."
The DDPHE also identified mold-like substances, roaches and a handful of lighting, electric and structural problems.
"These NOVs were sent to the property manager and/or owner of the dwelling units and indicate a timeframe for compliance. If compliance is not achieved by the timeframe listed in the NOV, then they will be issued a Final Notice. Failure to comply with any order can lead to administrative citations and or a general violation summons to court," says Tammy Vigil, DDPHE communications specialist.
The CEO of Cardinal Group Companies, Alex O'Brien, sent the following statement to Westword in response to queries about the complaints.
"We are aware of issues concerning certain HVAC and utilities systems at Mint Urban Infinity Apartments over the last few weeks. We have promptly and actively worked to resolve every issue that has come to our attention. As we are sure you are aware, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant challenges for supply chains globally, which has contributed to the timing of our ability to service some issues. We sympathize with our residents and share their frustration with repair delays that are out of our control, and we continue to work diligently with the property owners and vendors to expedite service as much as possible."
But Cardinal Group is not moving fast enough for its fed-up tenants. "Your owner has billions of dollars," one told a leasing agent during a recent call. "Just do the goddamn work so you don’t have to deal with us anymore.”