Residents go without heat, hot water for six days after apartment explosion

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Acacia apartments in Denver

DENVER — Residents who live in the Acacia Apartments in the Capitol Hill neighborhood said they were without natural gas for six days after an explosion inside a unit on Nov. 3.

“That was six days ago, and we haven’t had gas we haven’t had hot water,” said Brad Allen, who lives in the apartment complex. “And we haven’t had a stove, we haven’t had heat.”

Allen said it was so cold inside his apartment over the weekend, when temperatures dropped, that he had to get a hotel.

“I just pile on blankets and wear a jacket to bed,” said Tinsley White, who lives in another unit.

White said she pays about $1,300 per month for a two-bedroom, with utilities included.

“That’s a ridiculous price to be paying if you’re just going to camp for a whole week,” she said.

One tenant shared an email response from the apartment maintenance staff. It says, in part: “The owner is not planning on giving discounts on rent for this month. Acacia will not pay for hotels either. If you wish to file a claim with your renter’s insurance, that is your prerogative.”

“I just assumed they were going to reduce rent because we’re paying for services that we don’t get,” Allen said. “Utilities are included in our rent.”

Allen added his renter’s insurance deductible is more than what he would likely receive if he were to file a claim.

Under the Warranty of Habitability Act, attorney April Jones said landlords are required to ensure tenants are provided hot water and gas. Jones, who works for Colorado Affordable Legal Services, said the law is weak and landlord-friendly.

“Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon,” she said.

Jones said if the tenants were to take their request for compensation to small claims court, the judge would likely consider two factors.

    1. Were the repairs completed in a reasonable amount of time?
    2. Did the landlord offer tenants anything to assist them in the meantime?

“Did the landlord offer the tenants some space heaters to try to help keep them warm?” Jones asked. “Did he offer them any other things to try to help fix the situation?”

A man, who identified himself as a building owner, blamed Xcel Energy for the delay in restoring gas over the weekend. A maintenance staff worker showed a permit from the city showing a completed inspection date of Nov. 8.

But an Xcel spokeswoman said if it receives a request to turn gas back on, it will be done within 24 hours. It began work to reintroduce gas Monday. By 6 p.m., residents said the gas was finally turned on.

Several residents said they planned to send a formal letter requesting a reduction in rent to the landlord.

The cause of the explosion, which left one woman with minor injuries, is still under investigation, according to the Denver Fire Department.

The building owner declined to speak on camera.