Aurora fire officials say they aren’t forcing lease terminations for 350 residents forced apartments after explosion

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AURORA | A few days after an explosion forced them from their homes, residents of Aurora’s Parkside Collective apartments received more unwelcome news — their building will be uninhabitable for the rest of the year.

Now, some residents say they’re organizing and exploring next steps as they wait for news on when they can return to Parkside to retrieve most of their belongings.

The cause of the blast is unclear, but Aurora fire officials said they had not issued any orders to prevent residents from returning to their apartments. 

“This was a building that had kids, and veterans who were just discharged, and people with no relatives,” said Dexter Brooks, a Parkside resident who this week started a Facebook group with his neighbors who were impacted by the explosion. “We’re trying to connect with people so we can all be on the same page.”

On Saturday morning, a building alarm directed Brooks and other Parkside residents to leave their apartments due to an emergency. Shortly after, as the group was gathered outside, an explosion blew through an exterior wall, showering some with debris and causing panic.

“All of the sudden, there was this huge blast,” Brooks said. “I was standing right there, and it was like a movie. I was probably shaken for about two or three hours after that. It was one of the worst experiences of my life.”

Another resident, Amanda Edwards, said she, too, was standing near the building at the time of the explosion and was forced to flee in the rain.

“It was pretty quick, but all of the sudden there was debris flying around me, and I just started running,” she said.

Brooks and Edwards are among hundreds of people who were displaced by Saturday’s blast, which tore a hole in the side of the apartment building that was visible from the street. Investigators have yet to announce any findings regarding the cause of the incident.

On Wednesday, Parkside residents said they received an email from property manager Holland Residential, releasing them from their obligation to pay rent, promising one-time payments of $1,000 per household and announcing that the building would not be usable for “several months.”

The Sentinel obtained the email independently from multiple residents of the building.

“We appreciate the patience you have shown as city and county officials continue to evaluate the building,” the email to residents said. “We know this is an incredible inconvenience, and we are here to support you through this transition.”

The property manager also wrote that they were “preparing refund deposit checks and prorated September rent based on your lease agreement and rent payment status.” A list of apartment complexes with openings was attached to the email, and the property manager said they were working to secure hotel rooms for some people through Sept. 21.

But no date was set for residents to retrieve the belongings that they weren’t able to carry out during the evacuation Saturday or during brief trips back into the building that were organized Sunday.

“Currently the building department has not authorized access back into the building to move the contents of each unit out of the building,” the email reads. “Once we get clarity from the building department, we will communicate the process and procedure for getting your contents from the building.”

However, City of Aurora spokesman Michael Brannen said in a statement that “no city department has issued orders that bar residents from entering their homes since Saturday’s incident” and that property owners have “the sole discretion in deciding when residents can enter their buildings.”

“Inspectors from the Building Department observed structural damage and requested that an assessment be done by a licensed engineer to determine what repairs were appropriate,” Brannen said.

“Parkside contracted with an engineer who subsequently provided suggestions for repairs. The Building Department indicated to Parkside which permits would be needed for repairs, but did not prohibit residents from returning before the repairs are completed.”

He added that residential property owners aren’t required to undertake repairs and that ensuring the safety of residential buildings is the joint responsibility of property owners and the city.

Luc Hatlestad, a spokesman for Arapahoe County, also shared an email indicating that the county’s building division would not be responsible for giving residents permission to re-enter the property.

Aurora Fire Rescue spokesman Andrew Logan said firefighters are continuing to investigate the explosion but did not have any updates to share regarding the cause of the incident.

Holland Residential did not respond to emails about the explosion, the company’s response and the apparent contradictions between the email sent to residents and the city’s statement.

Following the blast, the Red Cross opened an emergency shelter for residents at Gateway High School. Some Parkside residents, like Matt Lynn, have been able to shelter temporarily with friends in the area.

“I was fortunate to not have to use any of the emergency services by the Red Cross,” he said. “Ultimately, I think it’s for the best for us to leave if the building isn’t safe, but it’s unfortunate that 350 people, give or take, have to find a new place to live.”

Some, like Brooks and Edwards, are staying in short-term rentals or hotels — Edwards said her employer is paying for an Airbnb, while Brooks said his hotel room is out-of-pocket.

All said they were worried about when they will be able to move out of their apartments.

“They’re canceling the leases, but they still have our property,” Brooks said. “We need a lot of leverage. Because if we don’t have leverage, I bet it’s going to get brushed under the rug.”

To accomplish that, he and Edwards started a group on social media to organize their neighbors and coordinate a response to the incident. Edwards said she’s explored the idea of a class-action lawsuit, although with no clear idea of the explosion’s cause, it’s hard to say who would be named in the action.

“Everyone who was affected by this displacement can join our group,” Edwards said. “We’re really uncomfortable and unhappy about how this is playing out.”

Brooks was hopeful that the hundreds of Aurorans who are now without permanent housing will be able to support one another as they figure out what’s next.

“A lot of the people living there were families. A lot of them had kids,” he said.

“We can help each other through this.”

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Gerti Ingalls
Gerti Ingalls
2 months ago

These poor people! This is so wrong. $1000 for breaking the contract??? That is WRONG. If tenants break a lease and don’t live up to the contract, they owe way way way more than that – some leases require that renters pay for half a year upfront to break the lease – but if the management company breaks the lease and don’t live up to the contract with the tenant because they built a death trap building, they don’t even have to pay 1 full month of rent? That’s WRONG. $1000 for losing your whole home out of the blue to an EXPLOSION that could have killed you?? That’s a joke. Those people SHOULD sue and I hope they get so much that they put these builders and property managers out of business for good.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
2 months ago
Reply to  Gerti Ingalls

In this case, the landlord is being more-then generous. None of what it is doing is required by contract or by law. The landlord is not “breaking the lease.” It is simply providing a way for the unfortunate residents to move on. And their renters’ insurance will also help.

A suit is an option ONLY if negligence is able to be proven and that may be difficult and take some time. It would also be expensive. You shouldn’t sue just “because.” It may be a while before the cause of this event is known. Certainly, no action can be taken until then. Shrieking is most-certainly not going to help.

Doug
Doug
2 months ago

Does appear attorneys should get involved

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
2 months ago

Please don’t make this a “we vs. them” situation. “They” may not even be responsible for what happened. It sounds like a very-unfortunate happenstance. The landlord should make arrangements with each resident to retrieve belongings in a safe and controlled manner and with the city’s approval. The delay in getting back into the building is most likely due to the landlord’s insurance carrier and the City is requiring engineers’ assessments. This is understandable, as there will be lawsuits. Also, moving things out is going to involve people who are not residents, which could present more of a problem. And some units will simply be uninhabitable until reconstructed.

Yes, belongings are now being held hostage. File an insurance claim and start replacing your stuff, just like you would if there were a tornado, hurricane or fire. If you act like a “victim,” you will become one. Don’t do that. Take back whatever power you have.

Gerti Ingalls
Gerti Ingalls
2 months ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

Even if the building owners didn’t cause the explosion, they still have a responsibility to do way more for all of these people who have paid them hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent – they signed a lease with those people that in exchange for their money, those people would be provided a habitable living space. And if the tenants had broken the lease for any reason, including tragedies or personal losses, they would have owed the property management company WAY MORE than $1000. It’s only fair that if the property managers are the ones refusing to provide the habitable living space, regardless of tragedy or personal loss, they should be responsible for paying those people that much. $1000 isn’t even enough to cover a new deposit on another place these days, much less first and last months rent and replacing all the property lost.

Omen Cross
Omen Cross
2 months ago

Well, I am saddened to hear this is how this turned out. This was my major concern, after hearing there were no fatalities and such. Hundreds of people, many with no other place to go or funding for deposits on a new apartment. Thrust into a struggling housing market that, while stabilizing somewhat, is presently chaotic. In addition, these people can’t even retrieve their personal belongings. Some things can be claimed on insurance, others have higher sentimental value that is irreplaceable.

Are we to assume the security is so good, and the building so safe, that looters can’t break into these places looking for goodies? As the legal owners are forced to stay outside and watch it happen? This is pathetic. Sure, they gotta do an analysis of the structural integrity across the building. But they could expedite this too, simply so the residents that can will be allowed to safely retrieve their belongings.

Another fine example of the City of Aurora treating it’s populace like criminals, and the businesses like kings. The amount of restitution one resident pays for nonpayment of rent seems to be more than the amount the same residents are being paid to see their things held hostage. It should be criminal for an organization to cause harm to this many people through its actions. But the city, the state, and most of the federal government continue to protect the right of the business over the right of the individual. No surprise really, most politicians are bought and paid for by the same groups. Sad how they all just move on, with no real plan nor an expectation for one. How can we trust the Council to act in the public’s best interest when this story, of hundreds of taxpaying citizens left stranded, is also left unresolved? Oh im sorry. They had to get ready and go to Texas while the citizens are endangered. Don’t worry then. At this rate, the Council Chambers will be full of people ready to say some very nasty things to you all. Hope the Council is ready for what could be a VERY long night.

Gerti Ingalls
Gerti Ingalls
2 months ago
Reply to  Omen Cross

What can City Council do about this? They don’t make rulings on lawsuits or contracts, so why would their meeting be effected by this? I’m not being facetious, I actually want to know if City Council can do something. If City Council can force the property managers to actually keep their contracts and either actually return enough money to these poor residents to relocate OR force them to make the repairs necessary quickly to let these poor people back into their homes, City Council should do that – but does City Council have that kind of power?

Omen Cross
Omen Cross
2 months ago
Reply to  Gerti Ingalls

The City, whether they admit it or not, could at least enact some sort of emergency protocols for these people. The City controls the land within it’s borders. They dont hafta demand huge restitution, but allowing any business operating in their borders to act what would be considered borderline inhumane is not something I would consider tolerable. Whether its that the City itself contacts the property owner, and pressures them to get the proper safety checks done so these people can at least evacuate their belongings. They already got too much overuse of the police to guard the building substantially until that is done. And to be honest, if they had pushed for more compassion towards the homeless months ago, the system would be better equipped to deal with this explosion of people without homes. Are there avenues they could take to try to help these people? Sure. Are they easy? Probably not. But effort should be made, not simply ignoring yet another problem the City has and running off to another meeting about homelessness the Council will never actually take into account. I’m not sure what the answer is here, as I personally have nothing to offer these displaced people. But I’m also not the Mayor, I dont have his available reach. I dont have the Governor on speed dial for state-level assistance. If he can post every other stupid thing he does on Facebook, if others got time and effort to run their mouths on talk shows. Where’s the effort for the people, the voters, the taxpayers? Where’s the Love for people who didn’t ask for an explosion to take their homes right out from under them? So as to your question about what the City has the Power to do. More than nothing I’m pretty sure. And why would people be at the Chamber mad? Cause now there’s more people being ignored, and many won’t be happy about it.

Last edited 2 months ago by Omen Cross
Toni
Toni
2 months ago

This is a horrific situation. My sister is one of those who has been displaced. Today the residents received an email advising that they will be able to retrieve their property from the units. They can start packing tomorrow, 9/17/22, from 9-3. Monday 9/19/22- Friday 9/23/22 are designated as move out days. They must reserve a 3 hour time slot (9-12 & 1-4) in advance to move and there will be no access to the elevators and there’s not enough clearance for trucks on the ramp for moveout directly on your floor level. I’ve never heard of anyone packing up an entire apartment in 6 hours and move out in 3 hours with no elevator access and less than 24 hours notice. Folks carrying furniture down the stairs. This doesn’t sound like a well thought out plan. Is this a ploy to clear the building, complete the repairs and rent the units at an even higher rate? Can someone make it make sense?

Omen Cross
Omen Cross
2 months ago
Reply to  Toni

It is not well thought out. As someone with a one-bedroom myself, I have very few personal items. Perhaps I might be capable of moving everything in 3 hours. But for someone that was not prepared to move, 3 hours is barely enough time to pack the essentials and get them out. I am glad you are at least being allowed to access what is yours and remove the.most valuable/sentimental objects. But I guarantee many will not be able to move out in that span of time. Also, I hope you have storage planned closeby. After all, gotta have a place to put things after you get them out.

All the property managers are doing is ensuring they dont end up legally liable for the loss of something personally valuable. The time frame is not enough. You are being forcibly herded like animals, like criminals. You are the victims here. You should be helped, not harmed or hurried.

Tell ya what. Because I do care, this is not me simply speaking against politicians. [email protected]. If you or someone you know is one of these affected, and needs help. I may be kinda old, and not in my best ever physical shape. If asked I will come and help you move to the best of my ability myself. Just email me and we’ll talk about it. I got 0 issues giving up a bit of my time to help people that actually really need help right now.

Citizens of Aurora. If our politicians will not lead us to help one another, let us do it ourselves. Join me if you choose to, and help these people in their time of need. Do more as ordinary citizens than the ones who claim they lead you accomplish. Be more than they choose to be, and show them who the people of Aurora truly are. Bring your trucks to move stuff. Bring some water to help hydrate people. Whatever you feel you want to do. To the people suffering during this time, do not be scared to ask for help. You need not rely solely on yourself, there is still some community left in the city.

Last edited 2 months ago by Omen Cross