DENVER — Tenants across the Denver metro area are voicing their concerns about delayed repairs to their apartment complex garage gates, saying it's led to an increase in vandalized or stolen cars.
The issue first came to light in February when several residents at the City Gate Apartments told Denver7 that their parking structure has been wide open for several months, contributing to multiple cars being stolen and broken into.
After that story aired, more tenants from other apartment complexes reached out about the same issue.
"The gates being broken is definitely a problem for sure," said Jacob Limpus, whose car broken into at the Lugano at Cherry Creek apartments.
According to the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, at least 10 cars have been reported stolen from that property since March 2021.
"Every single time I walk into the garage, I kind of pray that my car is still there," Limpus said. "I hit the lock button just to hear it to make sure."
The 2020 Lawrence apartment complex in downtown Denver has had a giant gash in their garage gate for months. Zip ties are being used to keep it attached.
Two of the gates at The Marq at Ridgegate apartments in Lonetree have been broken and wide open for more than a month.
According to each apartment complex, supply chain issues have delayed the process to fix the gates or install a new gate system.
In the meantime, some impacted tenants are exploring their legal options, wondering if they can hold the apartment liable for their stolen or damaged cars. According to Deborah Wilson, an attorney who represents multiple landlords, it's not likely.
"There's something in a lease that says, 'We are not responsible for your contents,'" Wilson said. "When apartments could be liable would be if they promised it was a secure building ... or they promised all the cameras are working or apartments promised the gates are always working, which landlords don't do."
Attorney Jacob Eppler says tenants may still have a valid argument in court, despite what the lease says.
"Under the Implied Warranty of Habitability [law], it can be invoked by a tenant if the leasehold, their apartment, substantially lacks a particular characteristic in terms of this. If it goes to really a safety issue or a danger issue, a tenant could definitely make an argument that due to this broken gate, there's a significant amount of crime ... they can make an argument in this area of law," Eppler said. "At the same time, if it was a landlord talking about this, it would be important for them to consider how they could limit their liability in these areas."
Under the Implied Warrant of Habitability law, a landlord has a reasonable amount of time to try to fix an underlying issue, which in this case is a broken gate.
"However, if they don't ... substantially fix it within five business days, that would give the tenant the ability to end their lease without penalty," Eppler said.
Both Eppler and Wilson point out that supply chain issues complicate things. If an apartment sees that their gate is broken and orders the parts to fix it in a reasonable timeframe but is confronted with a vendor that doesn't have the part to send, what else can they do to mitigate possible safety issues that arise?
Property managers at City Gate Apartments told tenants that they have increased security patrols while they wait for the gate parts to arrive, though residents claim they haven't noticed the security.
"The landlord certainly has an argument of saying, 'We're doing the best I can.' The question that arises is is the best you can do good enough and is it really the best you can do?" Eppler said.
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