Families displaced by apartment fire must pay full rent or face eviction

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — First, an apartment fire forces them from their homes.

Now, more than a dozen residents say they could be forced out again—this time through eviction.

All for something they say isn’t their fault.

Flames forced residents of the Ridgemoor Apartments at 693 Urban Court in Lakewood to flee their homes the morning of June 30. A smoker by an oxygen tank on the 6th floor is to blame.

But those who lived on the same floor couldn’t go back to their home for at least 10 days.

Then, they got notified they’d have to pay the full amount of July rent—even though they hadn’t lived there the entire time.

Vanessa Pacheco tries not to let her little kids see the frustration she feels in the aftermath of a fire that forced them out of their home for 18 days.

“We don’t have anywhere else to go. This is our home. And it’s not much. But it is ours and it’s all we have.”

This demand for rent notice says she must pay her full rent of $855 by Friday, July 25—or she’ll be evicted.

She’s not alone.

Nine families face the same risk of paying in full or getting the boot.

“I was out for 20 days. And having to put my wife and kids out for 20 days and find a home for them, we should not have to pay for rent when we were not here,” says resident William Spence. His family lives on the 5th floor, directly under the person who started the fire.

Housing attorney Claudia Abernethy says, in general, tenants do not have to pay rent for time they cannot live in their apartments—unless management provides another place to live—which, in this case, they did not.

“It’s intimidation. And tenants are easily intimidated because they do not understand their contractual rights. They have as much power as landlords have,” says Abernethy.

She says she’s made a living for 30 years by keeping people in their housing.

“They (landlords) use intimidation, threats, eviction—‘You’ll be out of your house in 48 hours,’ is a famous cry of landlords,” she says.

The manager denies demanding full rent—instead of saying tenants would get a 10-day discount—and she’d work out a payment plan if necessary.

But most residents say they were out of their places for much longer than 10 days. Ten days is when they were allowed into the units which they say were unlivable.

It took them days to clean up mess.

They’re also worried about their safety with asbestos on the sixth floor. The plastic covering the door of an apartment contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos is gaping open.

“It’s an awful feeling, to have kids your responsible for and feel like you can’t do anything about it. You do what they say or you get out,” says Pacheco.