Reed Apartments residents in Lakewood asked for better living conditions. After commitments from the owner, they’re hopeful but cautious

Tenants got a meeting just a week after presenting a letter with their concerns to VareCo Investment Firm.
8 min. read
Sandy Greenberg, advisor and board member for the VareCo investment group, promises Veronica Crum that the company will address longstanding issues with the Reed apartments after a meeting with Crum and other members of her tenants union. July 19, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Some tenants at the Reed Apartments in Lakewood are feeling cautiously optimistic after meeting with property owners to discuss what they say are inhabitable and unsafe conditions in their homes.

At the Wednesday meeting, with leaders from VareCo Investment Firm, the owners of the property, and Liv Lavender Property Management, residents received numerous commitments that the issues they've listed out, such as the need for a safer complex, plumbing troubles, mold and broken windows, would be resolved

The meeting came a week after residents officially presented themselves as the Reed Tenants Union to management and delivered a letter  outlining their concerns and needs. The residents listed four major issues: living conditions, safety, transparency on additional charges and improved and respectful communication.

About 15 residents gathered in the Reed courtyard with what some residents assumed would be a representative, hoping to hear how the property owners planned on addressing their concerns.

Instead it was an entourage of VareCo's highest-ranking leaders who arrived: VareCo CEO Terrance Doyle, his brother and LivLavender Managing Director Daniel Doyle, VareCo's Head of Construction Luke Van Valin, Sandy Greenberg who was described as VareCo's chief advisor and board member, VareCo Chief of Staff Dianna Talty and Kati Brown, the Des Moines Operations Manager for VareCo.

"I want everyone to know we take this very seriously," Terrance Doyle said kicking off the meeting. "We want to create a great place for people to live. That's what we want even though we may have not communicated that or shown that by our actions, that is what we want...We want to use tonight as a way to regain some trust and work with you guys toward a solution."

Jodi Camarillo, a member of the Reed Tenants Union, airs complaints about her living conditions to Terrance Doyle, founder and CEO of the VareCo investment firm, Sandy Greenberg, advisor and board member for VareCo, and Luke Van Valin Head, of Construction at VareCo. July 19, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Members of the nascent Reed Apartments tenants union meet with their landlords and property managers from VareCo and Liv Lavender Property Management. July 19, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

From there all the residents spoke up about their concerns.

Deb Powers spoke about holes in her ceiling and mold in her unit that she says have given her breathing issues. Jakki Conner spoke about her toilets not working and being forced to use buckets. Jodi Camarillo told VareCo leaders maintenance workers would enter her home unannounced when her daughter was home alone.

Residents also expressed frustration and anger with Liv Lavender's response towards their maintenance requests. They said they were met with either aggression, dismissal, eviction threats and sometimes all three.

At one point, residents asked what VareCo would do about the "rude" representatives from Liv Lavender. Daniel Doyle said that was an internal matter they would handle, which some residents didn't see as a proper response.

Residents began verbally expressing their anger and Lauren Awdziejczyk, an organizer with Denver-Aurora Tenants Union, the tenants rights organization that helped the residents form the union, explained why residents were getting upset.

"I think you guys need to understand that the trust has been broken," Awdziejczyk said.

Jakki Conner, a member of the nascent Reed Apartments tenants union, yells at landlords and property managers from VareCo and Liv Lavender Property Management about her plumbing, which she said has been unusable for months. July 19, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Terrance Doyle replied, "We want to move forward but being disrespectful isn't going to help us get it done. You can yell and swear and everything and call us names, it's not going to help get it done. We want to work with you...We're committing. You have us on camera committing."

Doyle also repeatedly mentioned that residents should let go of the past so they could move forward amicably.

"I think talking about the past, obviously we want to hear it, but I think if we work from this day forward, we can get what you want, which is everything fixed," Doyle said. "If that's what you guys want, we can fix that. I can't fix the past. I can't fix the lack of communication. I can't fix all the things that didn't get done. We can fix moving forward. So, if that's what you guys are interested in, we can do that and we want to do that."

Awdziejczyk again reiterated that the anger being expressed by tenants are warranted considering their living conditions and VareCo's lack of response.

"There's a lot of frustration because like I said, these are people's living conditions," Awdziejczyk said. "Person to person, if all of your toilets were broken and you were s******* in a bucket and I was the person responsible, I don't think you would be coming at me with any more respect than the people are right now."

Deb Powers, a member of the Reed Tenants Union, airs complaints about her living conditions during a meeting with her landlords and property managers from VareCo and Liv Lavender Property Management. July 19, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Lauren Awdziejczyk, an organizer with Denver Aurora Tenants United, speaks to the landlords and property managers of Lakewood's Reed apartments during a meeting with tenants about substandard living conditions. July 19, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

After forming the Reed Tenants Union last month, residents drafted a demand letter requesting a meeting and listing the inhabitable conditions such as mold, broken plumbing fixtures, and insufficient seals on doors and windows.

Other issues include safety concerns, transparency issues with the collective utility charges and a need for respectful, unthreatening communication.

They delivered that letter last week in a tense and what residents called "hostile" interaction.

However disappointing the interaction was, residents and DATU members said that it was expected from VareCo because tenants at other properties owned by the firm have reported similar treatment.

In November 2021, VareCo was sued for wrongful eviction by tenants of the Summit View Inn in Aurora, who said armed security guards forced them to leave their units.

VareCo settled with three tenants, The Colorado Sun reported, but were then sued by an additional 18 residents in a similar claim.

Before the meeting ended, VareCo leaders made a slew of commitments.

VareCo leaders requested a line-item sheet detailing what problems were in each unit, so they could fix each apartment individually. They also committed to having professional licensed workers come to fix the problems.

They told residents they would look into improving safety measures around the complex and asked that they communicate directly with VareCo via email for any future concerns.

All communication would receive responses within 24 hours, Daniel Doyle said.

Denverite approached the VareCo representatives for comment after the meeting, but they declined. Denverite then gave representatives several forms of contact information but comment has not yet been offered. We'll update if we hear from them.

Deb Powers, a member of the Reed Tenants Union, airs complaints about her living conditions during a meeting with her landlords and property managers from VareCo and Liv Lavender Property Management. July 19, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Bruno Tapia, an organizer with DATU, told residents they should take the meeting as a win but also remain cautious.

"It definitely indicated that they know they're in the wrong. That they know they've been trying to pull a fast one on tenants, trying to push it to see how far they can get away with things," Tapia said. "It's clear they've been taken advantage of these tenants. If they truly follow through with all the promises they made today, it will be a victory for the tenants. If they don't, we'll have to continue raising these issues."

Nicole Wierman, who has lived at the Reed since 2019, before VareCo purchased the property, said they hope things do get better.

Wierman said things went downhill after the purchase and agreed some of the issues may be due to the transfer of properties but the issues have reached a peak of inhabitability.

Wierman said they've found people sleeping in their stairwell, people doing drugs in the stairwell that don't live in the complex and their AC has been broken for quite some time.

Wierman added that they hope VareCo stands by their commitments without any retaliation, a sentiment shared amongst residents since they started the union. But for now, all residents can do is wait as they have been doing.

"It felt very performative," Wierman said. "It feels weird for them to say 'Yes, we'll do everything' without even taking a moderated approach while still being so aggressive...I don't want to move out of here. I hope that they were just agitated because of the group of people around them being agitated and that they are actually committed."

Jasmine Brior wrote "FIX MY HOUSE" and "HEAT: NO, CLEAN H20: NO" on her windows before she was evicted from the Reed apartment building in Lakewood.. July 12, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

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