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Renter in Superior displaced by Marshall Fire learns she's being kicked out

Renter in Superior learns she's being kicked out of her home after Marshall Fire cleanup
Renter in Superior learns she's being kicked out of her home after Marshall Fire cleanup
Posted at 10:35 PM, May 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-25 00:52:14-04

SUPERIOR, Colo.  — It’s been almost five months since Trish Zornio had to evacuate her townhome on a moment’s notice as the Marshall Fire barreled toward it.

“You could see the flames coming up and over really quick,” Zornio recalled. “It was very stressful. That was a long day.”

The flames didn’t level her home, and for that, Zornio is thankful. But she says the fire did leave a layer of soot and smoke throughout, making her home uninhabitable.

In the months since the Marshall Fire, Zornio has been renting a temporary home in Boulder while also continuing to pay rent and utilities on the townhome. She continued to hope that she could soon return to the place she has called home for more than five years.

“Even last week, I was helping still with the restoration,” Zornio said. “Helping let people in, answering questions from the cleaners, going through all this process.”

The process, as she describes it, has been long and frustrating. She says her initial requests for rent reimbursement from her management company, Summit at Rock Creek HOA, were denied, despite the condition of her home and the lag in progress in restoration.

“I was paying rent during the entire time of restoration,” Zornio said. “They kept saying, you know, "We’ll get on it. We’ll get on it. We’ll get on it. No, we won’t reimburse."”

In April, with the help of an attorney, Zornio drafted a letter to her management company citing Colorado’s Warrant of Habitability law, which does not allow landlords to charge rent for homes that are deemed unsafe to live in. To that letter, Zornio got a response saying reimbursement of rent could not be approved without proper documentation, and that the response would serve as notice that her lease was being terminated.

“It was so out of the blue,” Zornio said. “There had been zero conversation of possibly terminating a lease. I’ve been here for years. Never had any issues, always pay on time, continued to pay when it was uninhabitable.”

In a statement, Summit of Rock Creek HOA responded by saying there has been a “level of misunderstanding,” and that the decision to terminate the lease was made “based on the inability to satisfy her environmental concerns."

"We appreciate Ms. Zornio's frustration, however, based on the communication she has shared with us, on social media, and with the news media, it's clear there's a level of misunderstanding. The decision not to continue her month-to-month tenancy was made based on the inability to satisfy her environmental concerns, and in difficulties, our management company experienced trying to address them. Unlike many of the homes in Superior that suffered physical damage, Ms. Zornio's unit had no visual display of soot or odor, which presented difficulties for the initial insurance claim. Our first filing resulted in a small payout that didn't cover the level of cleaning Ms. Zornio felt necessary. Appreciating her concerns, our board decided to hire an environmental testing firm and paid a considerable expense to have the home tested for invisible soot infiltration. The firm's report recommended a deeper level of cleaning, and we used that document to refile with our insurance company. In April, insurance funds finally became available to hire a mitigation team. Our management company worked tirelessly from the time Ms. Zornio raised her concern to remedy the situation, and rent/utility expenses were covered by the association during this time. We appreciate the delay was frustrating, we too wished things had moved faster but the process was laborious. We fought on Ms. Zornio’s behalf, however, our efforts weren't meeting her expectations and therefore felt it in the best interest of our collective ownership to end the lease. Colorado law and the terms of the lease were carefully followed in the decision not to renew the lease.”

Zornio says the claim in the statement that “rent/utility expenses were covered by the association during this time” is “patently false,” and provided screenshots showing rent payments she made each of the months in question. When Denver7 presented this back to Summit of Rock Creek HOA, we were told they intended to reimburse Zornio after receiving receipts for utility bills, which they requested in an email sent May 12.

Zornio says this has added to the already incredible stresses of the Marshall Fire.

“I am losing my house because of it, even though it didn’t burn,” she said. “And even though it’s fully restored and is lovely again. So, I think that’s been kind of a hard thing for me, because I wasn’t expecting to do that. So it takes a process that was already extremely difficult, and just kind of twists the knife at the end.”