An apartment building in Hartford, where the majority of residents are renters. Monica Jorge

When Yarazed Meinhofer moved to Concord Hills Apartments in Hartford about six months ago, she was hopeful.

“My previous apartment burned down. So I was staying with my aunt for a couple of months until I could save up and move and start over. And this was supposed to be a fresh start,” Meinhofer said.

But what she’s faced over the last couple of months is far from what she imagined. The mother of two said she and her children are faced with squatters, pests, trash and more.

“I don’t feel safe in that building,” she added.

Meinhofer is one of several tenants across complexes in Hartford who are protesting. They’re calling on the city to take action, and they took their plea to the City Council Tuesday night at the first in-person public comment session since 2020.

“We just want them to hear us. No one seems to care, and no one seems to help,” Meinhofer said. “And I’m not living there for free.”

Some of their demands: Allow group complaints before the Fair Rent Commission; provide translation and interpretations for all public-facing materials; use city funds for repairs or to help tenants move; and hire more housing code inspectors.

Hartford has eight housing code inspectors even though 11 inspectors were included in the city’s budget, according to Hearst Connecticut. Inspectors aim to protect the public health and safety in housing occupied by renters. They can help address problems with ventilation, pest control, poor sanitation and more. But even with 11 inspectors, Hartford wouldn’t have enough inspectors to meet the demand, officials say.

Meinhofer said she’s called United Way’s 211 and several other organizations for help, but she has had no luck. With about six months left on her lease, all she wants is someone to hold inactive landlords accountable.

“When a lady first showed me the apartment, she told me they were having trouble keeping the cleaning staff because of COVID. And I believed her,” she added. “But they never clean.”

The complex was previously managed by Avalon, but Maple Group Management has taken over most of Avalon’s properties. Maple Group has directed inquiries about Concord Hills Apartment to MSK Properties. Concord Hills and MSK Properties did not return messages at the time of this reporting.

Meinhofer joins tenants across the state who have been speaking up against poor living conditions, and many of them have joined tenant unions. These groups are gaining momentum as a way for tenants to advocate for change. New Haven became the first city in the state this year to recognize tenant unions under local law. Meinhofer said Concord Hills has not yet announced an official union.

This story was originally published Oct. 12, 2022, by Connecticut Public Radio.