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Denver's C.R. LEE boutique says raw sewage, illegal sublease led to store closure

C.R. LEE.jpg
Posted at 4:29 PM, Aug 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-10 19:36:15-04

DENVER – A Denver small business owner has a warning for other small businesses after a maintenance issue revealed her landlord illegally subleased her business space to her, forcing her to move to a new location.

Six months into the lease for her first brick and mortar boutique, small business owner and fashion designer Crystal Lee said raw sewage began seeping into the basement of her store located at Broadway and Evans.

“This caused significant damage to my business, I was down for pretty much a month because I couldn't have anybody – including my staff – in the building,” Lee said.

Lee said in January she found the space on Craigslist and was excited to move in after working out of her home for nearly ten years.

“I started this back in 2013 from my house, just cutting and sewing pieces on my floor. And you know, then that blossomed into just word-of-mouth and making things for friends, then going to New York Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week. You know, just one of those old school just grind it out stories,” Lee said. “In January, I saw a Craigslist ad for a beautiful space on Broadway and Evans, a gentleman by the name of Henry Adams subleased a portion of the space to me.”

Lee said by July, the plumbing in her building began malfunctioning. Lee said Adams encouraged her to work around the issues.

“I sent him (Adams) pictures, I sent him videos showing him the severity of the issue. And he still was saying that it was our responsibility as tenants to fix it. So we decided to track down the owner of the building,” Lee said.

Lee said the owner informed her the building was illegally subleased to her and she had no rights to the space.

Lee immediately hired an attorney.

“The last information that I received from my lawyer was that I do not have a lease, I did not have anything legally protecting me in that space. There was an eviction notice that was served to my landlord. So, technically, I was trespassing at that point. I did not receive any written confirmation from Jon, the owner that I would be safe in the space and that's why we made the decision to move,” Lee said.

Denver boutique says raw sewage, illegal sublease led to store closure

Senior Associate Commercial Real Estate Broker with Summit Commercial Brokers Rodney Foster said to avoid these situations, small business owners should have an attorney and a broker review their lease.

“Crystal’s situation was unusual in that the tenant that leased to her…did so without the landlord's consent,” Foster said. “When a broker’s involved, he would always look to attach the master lease to the sublease, which would avoid what Crystal has gone through.”

Lee said she nearly lost the momentum she had after initially opening her store and after a month long closure, only recently began working again after moving into a new space.

Lee is still considering legal options but said she hopes her story helps other, vulnerable, small business owners.

“While this was very tough, and it took a lot of… took a huge mental toll on me. I have a lot of people that support me, and if you if you yourself, believe in what you're doing, don't let people like this get in your way,” Lee said.

In response to Lee’s claims, Adam’s attorney issued the following statement to Denver7, "Altitude Collective, LLC entered into a bona fide lease with CRLEE Designs, LLC in January 2022. Unexpected and unforeseen issues related to the sewer line at the property developed in July 2022, and those issues were promptly rectified. Ms. Lee signed a release agreement with respect to the matter and was provided with compensation, including free rent. Altitude Collective never undertook any efforts to evict CRLEE Designs from the subject property. Instead, Ms. Lee made the decision to vacate the property earlier this month."

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