Tenants at Frontier Apartments go without heat while reporting a host of ongoing maintenance issues
Residents at the Frontier Apartments in Craig say they have been without heat for weeks during some of the coldest days of the year, in addition to facing a laundry list of other unaddressed maintenance issues at the property.
Three tenants from Frontier Apartments at 555 W. First Ave. in Craig have reported losing heat in November and December, and the tenants added that management has so far been unable to repair the issue or communicate when the problem will be fixed.
In an email to the Craig Press on Thursday, Feb. 9, the on-site manager said there was one night the building lost heat due to a burst pipe and a plumber was called in the next morning. According to the email, there are two boilers that provide heat to the apartments, and one has not been functional, causing heating issues in six ground-level units.
The manager also said that everything possible is being done to resolve the issues, and that Masterworks Mechanical was scheduled to be on-site Thursday. The property owner could not be reached for comment.
Joseph Robbins-Romero, who has lived at Frontier Apartments for a year, was at a friend’s house in a neighboring unit in early January and noticed it was cold. Robbins-Romero then confirmed the heat was out in his own unit, and he started talking to other tenants who also had no heat.
After realizing the issue, Robbins-Romero reached out to the on-site manager. When he didn’t hear back from the manager, Robbins-Romero reached out to the owner Paul Macquire, who resides in Las Vegas. The owner responded to Robbins-Romero by saying management was looking into the issue. However, Robbins-Romero said that after two weeks, he still doesn’t have working heat.
“We also haven’t gotten an apology from the landlord or owner,” Robbins-Romero said. “It’s like they don’t care.”
The city gets involved
Marlin Eckhoff, building official for the city, said he wasn’t sure how long the units had been without heat, but he was made aware of the issue on Jan. 25, when a tenant contacted the building department. Eckhoff said he inspected the complex on Jan. 26., and visited five apartments, none of which appeared to have any heat.
The on-site manager said in the email that she wasn’t aware of the heat issue until the building official showed up for the inspection.
According to Eckhoff, the heat system for the building is hot water baseboard, and the inspected units were not receiving any hot water. The tenants also told Eckhoff that management had made several unsuccessful attempts to fix the problem.
On Friday, Feb. 3, Eckhoff issued the apartment manager a correction notice giving the Frontier Apartments 72 hours to have a qualified professional evaluate and troubleshoot the system to identify the necessary repairs. The manager told Ekchoff that a control panel on one of the two boilers was not working, and there were a couple of water leaks that were causing issues.
A licensed plumber visited the property on Feb. 1 to fix leaks and try to restore the heat but was unsuccessful. As of Friday, Feb. 3, the manager was in the process of contacting another licensed plumber and heating contractor to help identify the problem, Eckhoff said.
“The building department is trying to stay on them to ensure they get this repaired as soon as possible,” Eckhoff wrote in an email on Saturday, Feb. 4. “However, I’m sure that’s not much comfort to the tenants, especially when it’s minus 40 degrees like it was (last week).”
As far as recourse, the city has actions it can take if a property owner fails to do their due diligence to correct a problem. Eckhoff said that the time it takes to make repairs can vary based on availability of parts, availability of qualified contractors and the extent of the repairs, but the city can impose a penalty if the issue is not fixed soon.
Ovens and space heaters
According to Eckhoff, the apartment management is also required to provide safe temporary heaters to each tenant, and the manager said she offered heaters to two tenants who refused the offer. Another tenant was given a space heater, and two other tenants said they purchased their own or used their oven to heat their units.
“Since I brought up the issue, the landlord brought over a space heater, but it doesn’t warm up the whole apartment, just the living room,” Robbins-Romero said. “My brother brought over another space heater for the bedroom.”
Tenants are responsible for their own electric bills, and Robbins-Romero said that the management has not said anything to him about providing financial assistance for needing to run space heaters.
“We’ve always been more than fair with rent and compensating tenants who have been inconvenienced due to repairs being done,” the manager said in the email. “I told tenants who asked about the cost of running space heaters to give me a copy of their last or December bill and a copy of the current bill, and I can ask if we can deduct the difference from their rent the following month. They agreed that was fair.”
Fernando, another long-term tenant who asked to be identified by only his first name, said he’s been without heat since late November or early December. He said that when he tried to report it to management, he was told to put in a maintenance order. Fernando ended up going out and purchasing his own space heaters.
“They don’t tell us anything,” Fernando said. “They don’t tell us when the water is going to be shut off. They don’t notify us about anything, and that’s why a lot of people are scared to say anything, because they’re afraid of retaliation and getting kicked out for it.”
Tasha Burke-Dilldine is another tenant who has lived in two different units at the Frontier Apartments in three years. She said that her unit hasn’t had heat since late November and she has not been provided with a space heater. She also got a small space heater for her room and has been using her oven to heat the rest of the apartment.
More maintenance issues
Some units have had other issues related to the lack of heat, including Robbins-Romero, who discovered a large bulge in his kitchen ceiling that was leaking water on Jan. 28, and the night before water started leaking from the bathroom ceiling.
Management cut out a chunk of the ceiling to stop the leak, and the ceiling has not yet been repaired.
Fernando said he has had leaks bubble up in his ceiling before the heat went out. Instead of waiting for management to repair the issue, he called a former construction supervisor, who came over to his apartment to help repair the broken pipe that caused the leak and patch the ceiling.
“They’re just not being attentive to these issues that are coming up,” Fernando said. “They are quick about putting up notices for late rent or raising rent, but they don’t answer for weeks if there is an issue.”
Since 2015, the rent has gone up approximately $200 on a one-bedroom unit. Robbins-Romero said he got a notice that rent would be increasing in March. Burke-Dilldine said she got a notice that her rent was increasing as well, but management has not provided her with an updated lease to reflect the change.
Burke-Dilldine said that maintenance has done some repairs, but many tenants have taken on repairs themselves or enlisted the help of friends, which was what she did when her stove stopped working two years ago.
Burke-Dilldine said that during her time at the Frontier Apartments, she has had numerous maintenance issues including an exposed pipe in her daughter’s room that has burst several times and still hasn’t been fully repaired. The floor under the bathroom sink is caved in from a leak, and there is mold throughout the apartment.
Burke-Dilldine said that because of the living conditions at the apartments, she doesn’t have her daughter’s living with her. Burke-Dilldine added that when she tried to withhold rent because the living conditions weren’t suitable, management tried unsuccessfully to take her to court. In fact, Burke-Dilldine said the case was dismissed due to the evidence she had documented against the company.
Tenants also report that the ground-level units are prone to flooding from external runoff, and there are drains in the cement walkways that frequently back up with water, making it difficult for tenants to access their apartments.
The stairs and walkways on the second and third floor also have visible structural damage, and there are cracks in the foundation throughout the exterior of the building and inside the units.
One tenant reported that Frontier Apartments does not have a permanent maintenance worker, so repairs are often made by temporary contractors, and some tenants don’t feel comfortable having different workers in their units while they’re not home.
This is on top of safety concerns tenants have expressed following recent drug seizures in one of the apartments, which has led residents to question the screening process for new tenants.
“I think a lot of people are scared to bring this stuff up because they’re afraid that they are going to get evicted,” Robbins-Romero said.
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