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Apartment Residents Still Locked Out After Last Month’s Arson

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An image from the fire at the Woodhaven Apartments in October 2013 (credit: CBS)

An image from the fire at the Woodhaven Apartments in October 2013 (credit: CBS)

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – People forced from their homes by arson a month ago in Arapahoe County are still locked out. They can’t even go home to collect their personal items and renters there blame the management company.

Investigators say the fire damaged a stairwell, but not much else. Residents were told they would be out of their homes for about a month, but now they say they’re being told they may never come back without explanation.

The operators of the Woodhaven Apartments were given control of their building the same day of the fire. They were supposed to file for an inspection to determine if it was safe, but according to the Arapahoe County Building Department, they never did.

“We don’t have anything as far as personal belongings, basically just what’s on our back, you know that’s all we got out with,” Woodhaven resident Phil Salee said.

Salee rescued people trapped on balconies that night. More than a month later he and his neighbors can still see their undamaged apartments from the street, but they can’t get in. He says the company running the complex is telling residents they should move on and leave behind what they had.

“They told one of my friends six months to a year and basically just call all of our property a loss and just start all over,” he said.

The managers refused to answer CBS4’s questions on multiple occasions. An asbestos unit and other restoration equipment is attached to the building. It’s not clear how much work has been done. Residents accuse the building operators of withholding information and they aren’t sure why.

“I asked them who the contractor was doing the job. They said they didn’t know. I asked them if they had a timeframe for when we’d get back in. They said they didn’t know,” Salee said.

Some residents are now considering suing the management company.

The arson fire last month was the third reported arson at the complex.

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