Boulder building officials say they have the post office to thank for the discovery of dozens of illegally built apartments in town.
The violations were discovered when tenants who’d moved in to several brand-new apartment units owned by Rahe Property Management in Boulder last year realized they weren’t receiving mail. They complained to the U.S. Postal Service.
City officials say the answer was simple: Those apartment units didn’t have mailboxes, because they weren’t real addresses.
“One of our enforcement officers went out and found all of these violations,” said Neil Poulsen, the city’s chief building official. “These units were added onto units … . They’d take a three-bedroom apartment, turn it into three or four units.”
And the practice wasn’t been limited to one or two apartments, officials said, but extended across several complexes owned by Rahe Property Management throughout the city.
An investigation “revealed that building permits had not been issued for the extensive renovations to at least 36 apartment units and that no land use review had been undertaken by the city to permit the increase in density in the apartment buildings,” according to a memo from City Attorney Jerry Gordon to the Boulder City Council.
The owner of the property management company said he’s cooperating with the city to fix the apartments and has agreed to pay tens of thousands in fines.
Poulsen said the work was done without consulting with city departments to find out whether the new apartments would fit zoning rules. Just as important, the city requires new units to follow building codes intended to keep tenants safe — such as fire-safety rules.
After the city got involved, Rahe Property Management agreed to plead “no contest” to 30 charges of building without a permit and 30 charges of violating the city’s intensity standards — that is, having too many apartments in too little space.
Rahe also agreed to $90,000 in penalties. The company will be required to pay $50,000 in installments to the city’s municipal court. The remaining $40,000 will be suspended if city officials are satisfied that Rahe’s employees have undone the new construction or brought the apartments up to code.
Poulsen, the chief building official, said those inspections will happen this week.
Charles Rahe, who heads the property management company, said his company’s apartments are among “the higher quality rentals” in Boulder.
“The city’s case was based on a disputed interpretation about what was allowed under the complex and sometimes conflicting zoning code,” he said. “Rather than engage in a lengthy, expensive and unpredictable legal fight over this dispute, the company decided to resolve issues, pay a fine and is cooperating with the city going forward.”
Contact Camera Staff Writer Ryan Morgan at 303-473-1333 or email@example.com.