NEW HAVEN \u2014 Quinnipiac Gardens tenants say they have benefited from forming a union \u2014 repairs have been made, and conditions have generally improved at the complex in recent months. They now want official government recognition of their group. About a dozen people protested last week at City Hall, with the primary goal of asking government officials for formal recognition of their union as well as the go-ahead for the union to file a complaint with the Fair Rent Commission. The commission, charged with controlling and eliminating excessive rental charges for residential housing, allows individuals to make complaints. But the Quinnipiac Gardens Tenant Union wants to file as a collective entity. \u201cTwelve years ago, I thought it looked really nice,\u201d Cony Tolentino, a resident and union leader, said of when she moved into the complex. \u201c ... At this time, things have changed,\u201d she said, speaking through a translator. The push for the union\u2019s recognition could pave the way for other tenant unions to receive official recognition, Tolentino said. Pike International, which owns the complex, referred questions to the Quinnipiac Gardens property manager, who requested to not be named. The property manager contested claims tenants have made about the conditions of the complex and their apartment units. He added that rent increases, a point of contention with the union members, were the result of inflation, and were still cheaper than most rental units in the area. Tenant unions have a long history in the United States \u2014 some formed as early as the 1890s. Organized renter action has also come under the spotlight as tenants in New York City and elsewhere nationwide went on rent strikes during economic lows caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The New Haven union formed because of problems at the Quinnipiac Gardens complex, which is home to many people with housing choice vouchers, tenants said. Since the start of 2020, the Elm City Communities \u2014 New Haven\u2019s housing authority \u2014 sent letters notifying at least 19 tenants that it was made aware of concerns and an inspection would be conducted of the property, according to documents obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media via a public records request. Inspection reports from the Livable City Initiative show that inspectors have found problems with rodent, insect or vermin infestations more than once. They\u2019ve also noted a bathtub that needed to be caulked, leaky sinks, accumulated trash, holes in walls and other conditions. After the union started to push back against management company Pike International, some of the issues were resolved, residents and union organizers said. For example, Tolentino said she got new flooring in her apartment, which she said had been a problem for years. Despite recent improvements, there are apartments still in need of repairs, tenants said. Tenants have also complained about rising rents. The property manager said the rent increases were for new leases and the result of inflation. He refuted tenant claims that the increases were in response to the formation of the union. The property manager said the across-the-board increases began in July before the union was formed and have continued as tenants sign new leases. Tenants said the union was formed on Aug. 23. Connecticut law prohibits rent raises as a retaliatory measure, including within six months of when a tenant files a complaint with the government regarding the unit or joining a tenant union, among other actions. New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker, who stepped outside City Hall to listen to and speak with tenants during last Monday\u2019s rally, said he would ask the city\u2019s legal team to research the issue \u2014 and whether municipal ordinance allows a union to file a complaint collectively. He told tenants the process would likely take a couple of weeks. He added that he recognized the union \u201cin spirit,\u201d and thought it could be a good avenue for tenants who face sub-par living conditions. \u201cI\u2019m very interested in the idea of the tenants\u2019 union as a way for tenants to advocate for themselves,\u201d Elicker said. Francisco El\u00edas, another resident at the complex, said in the past, he\u2019s been able to get the supplies from the managers and fix problems at his apartment himself. He\u2019s a handyman who lives with his wife and a 23-year-old daughter. El\u00edas has a housing choice voucher and said the housing authority inspected his apartment a couple of months ago after the union formed. \u201cThanks to the union, there have been improvements,\u201d El\u00edas said. Tolentino said she hopes to see more interest in unions for tenants of other properties. \u201cThe No. 1 goal for today is that the union be recognized at a public level,\u201d Tolentino said.