By Tori Mason

DENVER (CBS4)– More than 200 renters in a Denver apartment complex are desperate to leave, but many can’t afford to. Residents have found legal help to assist them in getting out of what they call an unlivable situation.

(credit: CBS)

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Brandon Smith moved from Pennsylvania to Denver in April 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. He couldn’t tour apartments in person, so he looked at the website for Mint Urban Infinity, a complex located near Colorado Boulevard and Mississippi Avenue.

He locked in on what he thought was a good deal.

“The pictures online made this place look absolutely fantastic. At the price, I thought this is a steal. I had to jump on that immediately,” said Smith, who pays about $1,500 for a two-bedroom without fees and utilities.

The elevator was down when he arrived, then problems piled up – like the trash outside.

“I’ve had sewage back up into my shower. I didn’t have air conditioning all summer,” said Smith, who has been working primarily from home during the pandemic. “Living here has impacted my work. It’s worse knowing that other people are suffering just as bad or worse.”

(credit: CBS)

After talking to neighbors, Smith realized his issues were widespread.

“A family two floors down had sewage backing up into their dishwasher and in their sink and spilling out onto the floor. They have a 10-month old baby who crawls around on the floor,” said Smith. “I went down to see if there’s anything I could do and emergency maintenance was not responsive.”

More than 200 residents signed a petition against management saying units were unlivable. Smith talked to nearly every resident, in every unit, to see if they had unresolved maintenance issues.

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“I went knocking on doors in July at 8 o’clock at night and saw a family covered in sweat because it’s so unbearably hot here. Seeing those people like that is what pushed me to do this,” said Smith.

He found many units have gone without air conditioning for weeks during the summer months. Tenant photos provided to Smith show roaches, black mold and holes in the ceilings. Residents in his building are unable to receive mail at home due to vandalism caused by break-ins. Smith and his neighbors have to retrieve their mail at a nearby post office.

(credit: CBS)

The elevator has had dozens of issues in recent years, making it difficult for disabled tenants to access their units.

Smith and his neighbors have filed work orders with the leasing office, but many have not received a response.

CBS4 attempted to speak with the leasing office regarding these allegations Thursday. An employee opened the door, then proceeded to shut it when CBS4 asked for comment.

Cadiz Law LLC offered to help residents sue the management company, Cardinal Group Management.

Cardinal Group Management manages roughly 20,000 units in Colorado. According to Cadiz Law LLC., the company has failed to properly tend to maintenance requests in a timely manner.

“The landlord hasn’t kept their part of the bargain, it’s as simple as that. These tenants have paid their rent but Cardinal Group Management has not provided them with a safe, healthy place to live, as required by their lease contract and the law,” said Jason Legg, their lawyer at Cadiz Law LLC. “We’re asking the Court to make it clear that tenants can break their leases penalty-free and to find that Cardinal Group Management isn’t entitled to keep and collect rent from these tenants when it’s not holding up its end of the contract.”

The landlord charges two months rent to terminate a lease, a fee most residents can’t afford.

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“That’s prohibiting many low-income tenants from getting out of this. They feel trapped here. We want to leave because we don’t feel like our health and safety are cared for here. It’s ironic because we have our landlord violating our lease, and we want to leave because we don’t feel like our health and safety are cared for here,” said Smith. “These people need help and somebody needs to seek justice for everybody.”
CBS4 reached out to Cardinal Group Management for comment, but have not received a response back.

Tori Mason