Residents speak of woes at Downtown Phoenix high-rise apartment

PHOENIX (KSAZ) -- It's one of the most noticeable hi-rise buildings in Phoenix. 44 Monroe is a mixture of apartments and condos in the heart of downtown. Many tenants there, however, are upset about paying for downtown living, in a place they can't make full use of.

44 Monroe is Phoenix's "Luxury in the Sky", at 34 stories, the condos and apartment rentals mixture is Arizona's tallest residential structure. 198 units make up the building that was completed a decade ago. For people living there now, however, there is one little problem

"They have a way from keeping the door from opening any further than 5 or 6 inches so you can't physically get on the balcony," said Amber Felix. "You can get it open but can't get out there."

FOX 10 has talked to multiple residents about problems at the high-rise. Felix signed her lease in January 2018.

"We were told about the pool, because it was already closed off. There was no plaster in the pool because they were updating from plaster to Pebble Tech, it should be done very soon," said Felix. "As far as the balcony goes, they said they're just switching out the hardware on the balcony railings because it's not safe, and that should be done also anytime."

The pool is just a hole in the ground on the 8th floor. Residents were told a leak needed to be fixed, but they haven't had access all year. Felix and her significant other sold their house to move Downtown.

"We were excited about the apartment, it's gonna be so nice when the pool's done when the balcony's done, it should be anytime. This is gonna be great, gonna be fun. In September, no pool, no balcony," said Felix.

9 months later, still no balcony access or pool access. They want to break their lease, but was going to cost them.

"We paid over $3,000 to break our lease," said Felix. She also said 44 Monroe took money off the $2,000 rent monthly, about $100, but that wasn't enough to make up for the year-long problems. Felix worked more than a month straight in order to afford breaking her lease.

"33 days straight. just for that overtime pay," said Felix.

Meanwhile, Rich Hill has already moved out. He signed his lease in November 2017, but was so fed up that he moved to a complex in Tempe in July. Same problems, same stories from 44 Monroe. 

"The problems were the balconies, the pool," said Hill. "I couldn't get outside. We were led to believe when we saw the apartment it was going to be a couple weeks. July, still closed."

FOX 10 has contacted 44 Monroe multiple times, and received a written statement from the 44 Monroe Homeowners Association. In summary, the association says the balcony railings don't meet building code, but the association claims that the builder, the Weitz Company, has refused to resolve the issue and there's ongoing litigation. As far as a timetable, the statement says a resolution is anticipated "in the near future". 

Meanwhile, the Weitz Company didn't comment, saying the issue was an active legal matter.

FOX 10 also pulled the building permits and inspection notes from the City of Phoenix. City Inspectors first tried to look in to complaints in late 2017, but weren't granted access at the time. When FOX 10 started asking questions, they looked again, and after getting stonewalled once more, the city was finally granted access. FOX 10 was told that inspectors "did not find any imminent hazards with the guard rails" on the balconies.  

A new permit has been issued to start work on the pool again, but no work had been done since at least the beginning of August.

Many renters now say they want to break their lease with 44 Monroe, but feel they shouldn't have to pay. Other residents have said they haven't gotten their security deposits back.

Another issue for some is paying to break a lease. They say the apartment complex isn't holding up their end of the deal, so they should be able to split without a fee.

Davis Miles attorney Bob Sewell has handled these types of disputes before, and says the residents might have a point.

"So, whenever you have something that effects health and safety, what the tenant needs to do is send a written notice, a five-day notice, so that written notice serves as a warning to the landlord that he must do the fixing," said Sewell. If, at the end of the five days, the landlord hasn't taken action, that tenant can walk away."

Sewell says the important part is a written notice, a paper trail to verify you did everything you could as a renter, just in case it goes to trial. Now, tenants are putting up cash to leave, after their high rise hopes were dashed.

"They haven't kept up with their end of the bargain, especially when we were told it should be done very soon, very soon," said Felix. "Had we known then what we know now, we would have never moved in."

The tenants FOX 10 talked to said they weren't sure if they were going to take the 44 Monroe management company to court or not.

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