A complex feud | CraigDailyPress.com

A complex feud

Brothers argue about apartment-property management, discrimination

Christina M. Currie

Mel Day is out to change the image of Columbine Apartments, a complex police know too well. His efforts have led to less crime at the complex and even some property improvements.

But it’s also led to a dispute with his brother, Ernest Day. Ernest Day, a former tenant, asserts his brother is unfairly evicting tenants who have been arrested or have committed crimes. Ernest Day isn’t happy with the complex, which earlier declined to renew his lease.

Although he wasn’t evicted for criminal activity, Ernest Day said he’s speaking out for other tenants who were.

“He just kind of makes up his own laws,” Ernest Day said about his brother. But Mel Day, who began managing the 120-unit complex three years ago, said he’s going by federal law.

Mel Day doesn’t deny he’s asked tenants to leave the apartment complex, 655 Wickes Ave., because of criminal activities. All renters, he said, are required to sign an addendum to their lease agreements that warns that illegal activity in apartments and on the property is forbidden. The brothers, who say they’re estranged, say their row is nothing more than a dispute between tenant and landlord.

Discrimination issues

In March, Ernest Day filed discrimination complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Colorado Civil Rights Division of the Department of Regulatory Enforcement. Ernest Day said he complained after the complex denied his request to move to a wheel-chair accessible apartment. He said he was forced to use a wheelchair for two weeks after a neck surgery in April. After filing the complaints, he was evicted, he said. “When I filed suit, that’s when I got my walking papers,” he said.

Mel Day said the apartment complex did not renew his brother’s lease because Ernest Day was disruptive, not because he filed a complaint with regulators. State officials in July said there was no merit to Ernest Day’s complaints.

On Monday, he learned he had lost his appeal.

Most are happy

Mel Day said he’s working to enforce federal laws and improve the image of Columbine.

“If it’s on the lease or it’s a HUD rule, it’s going to be enforced,” Mel Day said. “I haven’t made one new rule since I’ve been here.” In the past, rules had not always been strictly enforced, he said.

Most residents are happy with the changes, he said.

“When I arrived, there were a lot of different situations, most because of drugs,” Mel Day said. “Residents were getting tired of it.” Three to five apartments in the complex were responsible for 99.5 percent of police calls, Mel Day said.

“You don’t want to evict people, but you’ve got to enforce the terms of their lease,” he said.

State and federal housing departments have investigated the property’s business practices since Mel Day started trying to make Columbine Apartments a crime-free community, he said. Each times, the accusations were deemed “unsubstantiated” by regulators, he said.

‘Hot spot’

Since tougher enforcement, the number of police calls to the complex has dropped, said Capt. Jerry Delong of the Craig Police Department. Police have responded to 180 calls on Wickes Avenue this year, Delong said. By this time last year, officers had been to the complex 261 times and 308 times for the same period in 2003.

“At one time, they were our hot spot,” DeLong said. “It’s quieted down.” In the past three years, a neighborhood watch, tenants association, beautification committee and child-based “clean team” have been established. The property’s owners have invested in upgrades to playground equipment, new roofs and new paint and are upgrading apartments with new carpet and linoleum when units are available. The complex also has a policy of removing graffiti within 24 hours.

“If you’re living in a dump, you can’t clean it up, so you just make it worse,” he said. “Now people work together to make it better.”

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