SALT LAKE CITY — Septic sludge used to drip from the ceiling into Jeremy Arrieta’s apartment when he lived at Solara Apartments in Salt Lake City’s west side. A video he took from the summer of 2020 shows dark beads of feces-tinged water leaking through the bathroom ceiling above, sprinkling his own toilet in brown water.
“Worst apartment I’ve ever lived in,” an exasperated Arrieta can be heard saying on the video.
Interviewed recently about his experience, Arrieta said the apartment’s problems went far beyond just the plumbing. A fatal shooting the previous winter on the grounds outside meant he mainly stayed inside, where he only had to contend with the cockroaches.
Things got so bad he broke his lease and left a year ago. Now he’s facing a debt collection lawsuit from Solara’s attorneys, the Law Offices of Kirk Cullimore. The firm handles approximately half of all evictions in the state and counts powerful state Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Sandy, as a firm principal.
Arrietta left his apartment as the federal government was starting to work to keep renters off the streets when the economy ground to a halt as COVID-19 hit. During the pandemic, Solara underwent a name change to Downtown West and put up a sleek website touting its convenient location and modern amenities, telling would-be renters they’d be “excited to come home each night.”
The apartment complex also received more federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program aid from the state than any other — $694,696 to cover residents’ rent payments as of November, according to records from the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
This article is published through the Utah News Collaborative, a partnership of news organizations in Utah that aim to inform readers across the state.