Stamford Tenants Claim Numerous Health and Safety Violations at ‘Luxury’ Apartments

Share

TwitterFacebookCopy LinkPrintEmail

STAMFORD — On a late afternoon in June, Victor Perez finished a day of work in the home office of his apartment near the top of the 22-story Infinity building and went into the living room.

Perez sat on the couch and wondered whether the property management office for the high-end Harbor Point high-rise would return his call. He had notified the office at 10 a.m. about a burning electrical smell and water on his living room floor.

The smell and the water were still there, so Perez called the office again and left a second message. It was 5 p.m.

Subscribe to CT Examiner

For just $15/year or $5/month you receive full access to CT Examiner’s award-winning nonpartisan state and local news

  • We will never sell your personal information
  • Easy online cancellation
  • Ad-free reading

About 20 minutes later, he got up from the couch and took a step.

“I felt water pool under my foot,” Perez said. “And then I got zapped.”

Perez said he was electrocuted and thrown into the couch. 

Near the sill of the floor-to-ceiling windows in his luxury apartment, beside the couch, there’s an electrical outlet in the floor.

Perez saw that it was sparking – and under water. 

“I felt pins and needles in my right foot,” Perez said. “All I could think was that I didn’t want my dog to get hurt. So I walked around the danger area, the way I came, and went to the circuit breaker to kill the power.”

His wife was not home.

“I was alone. I thought I should be near someone because I was starting to not feel good,” Perez said. “I decided to go to the lobby to see if I could find the concierge.”

Perez, 42, who runs his own cybersecurity company, wears a watch that records heart rate.

“As I was going downstairs the watch showed 152 beats per minute, as if I was running. But I was walking,” he said. “Then the watch started beeping.”

In the lobby, the concierge told Perez he didn’t look good and called an ambulance.

At Stamford Hospital, emergency room doctors ran an electrocardiogram to check his heart. They called in a neurologist. They prescribed him steroids and sent him home.

A few hours later, he was back.

“I was having panic attacks,” Perez said.

The day after he returned from the hospital, he visited the Infinity property management office, Perez said.

“I told them this apartment model has a problem, and I asked them to reach out to other tenants to let them know, because I didn’t want someone else to get hurt,” Perez said. “I told them I wanted the contact information for their legal counsel. They just nodded. I walked out because nothing was said.”

He would learn that his air conditioning unit had been leaking water into his downstairs neighbor’s apartment for more than a year, Perez said. 

“They worked on my AC several times, but I didn’t know it was because water was leaking down,” he said. “I think when they finally stopped the leak to my neighbor’s apartment, whatever they did made the water back up in my apartment. It ran under the wood laminate flooring and stayed there.”

His attorney is preparing a lawsuit, Perez said. He’s speaking out because AJH Management’s approach to maintenance puts him and his neighbors at risk, he said.

“They don’t fix things. They patch,” he said. “They jury-rig just to satisfy a complaint.” 

Other Infinity tenants outlined to CT Examiner some of the problems: garage and exterior doors stick open or don’t lock, allowing anyone to enter from the street and break into cars or access living areas; apartment windows and sliding doors leak, allowing mold to grow; elevators regularly break down and sometimes get stuck between floors, faulty smoke alarms sound for no reason.

Tenants said they didn’t want their names published for fear of retaliation.

“Management targets you,” Perez said. “Your lease won’t be renewed.”

Infinity was constructed in 2011 by Harbor Point developer Building and Land Technology, which is creating thousands of luxury apartments plus parks, restaurants, bars and other venues in the old industrial South End.

BLT sold the 240-unit Infinity to New York real estate investor Clarion Partners in 2013, and Clarion sold it to AJH, a New Jersey real estate investment and management firm, in 2019.

Infinity’s website advertises “outstanding service for next-level apartment living.” 

“You can feel assured with our dedicated concierge service that provides on-call maintenance and the feeling that everything’s been taken care of,” it reads.

Infinity “used to be a building where you felt like you were in a resort,” Perez said. “In the last couple of years it’s become a shell of a once-glorious hotel.”

Rents are high. Perez said he pays $4,400 a month. Prices for apartments on the topmost floors are about $1,500 more, he said.

Voice mails and emails left Thursday for Infinity property manager Nikki Dodaj, AJH leasing specialist Dan Pascual, and AJH regional manager Joseph Klein were not returned.

Perez said he, like other tenants, isn’t sure which government agency to call when a management company or landlord improperly maintains a rental property.

Here’s what government officials said:

Aaron Turner, director of government affairs and communications for the Connecticut Department of Housing: “The local building official, and if mold is an issue, the local public health director as well.”

Sharona Cowan, Stamford director of social services:

“Tenants should be calling those complaints into the code officials like health, building, fire marshal, or zoning. Depending on the circumstance, code violations overlap multiple departments. I would suggest calling the Citizen Services line at 203-977-4140 or filing a Fixit Stamford complaint here. The Social Services/Fair Rent Commission does not have any inspection capacity. If someone has not gotten any response after making a complaint, I always suggest getting a hold of a supervisor or director.”

Lauren Meyer, special assistant to Mayor Caroline Simmons:

“The Building Department should definitely be involved in a situation like this in order to address any structural issues. However, other city departments, such as the Health Department, could also be involved and do inspections based on the nature of the complaint.”

City Rep. Rob Roqueta, co-chair of the Board of Representatives’ Housing, Community Development & Social Services Committee, who also sits on the Stamford Affordable Housing Trust Fund:

“If the problem is electric, call the fire marshal. If it’s water, that could result in mold, so call the health department. Call them all and get it on the record. Then keep written correspondence, such as an email trail, and take it to Housing Court. Tell the court you want to pay your rent, in escrow, to them. That way if the property manager wants to collect the rent, they have to address the court as to why they are not making repairs in a timely fashion.”

Stamford attorney Mark Sank, who has handled countless landlord-tenant cases, said tenants who aren’t getting results have to contact city building and health officials. 

“Those are pretty much the only avenues they have,” Sank said. “If the issue involves mold, get someone to test the air so you have proof. If you are suffering in any way, have your doctor tell you what’s happening, so you can prove it. If you as a tenant feel there are numerous violations, state statute allows you to go to the clerk in Housing Court and file papers that permit you to pay rent to the housing clerk until things are addressed.”

Housing Court recently moved from Norwalk to the courthouse at 123 Hoyt St. in downtown Stamford. 

People should not have to fear being electrocuted in their apartment, said Perez, who still has pain on his right side, and “phantom feelings, like when your arm or leg falls asleep.” 

Perez said he had Infinity management remove the electrical outlet and all wiring from his floor.

“I got a pair of rubber Crocs to wear inside the apartment. I got a pair for my dog, too,” Perez said. “When you almost get taken out by something in your home, your place of peace, it’s hard to get back that feeling of well-being.”


Angela Carella

For 36 years prior to joining the Connecticut Examiner, Angela Carella was a beat reporter, investigative reporter, editor and columnist for the Stamford Advocate. Carella reports on Stamford and Fairfield County. T: 203 722 6811.

a.carella@ctexaminer.com