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Batavia Motel residents given ample notice by landlord and inspector, they say

By Howard B. Owens

There's never a good time to kick somebody out of their home, said Bruce Gerould, Town of Batavia deputy building inspector.

But when raw sewage is seeping under the dwelling units, how much longer do you wait? Until after Christmas, after New Year's, or after somebody gets typhoid?

"If we waited and somebody got sick, then people would be asking why we waited," Gerould said. "It's a no-win situation."

Gerould has been the building inspector responsible for inspecting the Batavia Motel, 3768 W. Main St. Road, since he went to work for the town in 2004. He said there's never been a time when there haven't been code violations at the apartment complex, and since a fire two years ago, the owner has been increasingly less responsive in making repairs.

The owner, Panchal "Sonny" Bhupendrabhai, said he hasn't been eager to make repairs of late, because all he's really wanted to do is sell the property.

He thought he had a buyer until a couple of months ago, but with open code violations, he couldn't complete the deal.

Then the town expressed interest in the property.

"When I heard of the town's interest, I thought there's no reason to spend thousands of dollars for repairs," Bhupendrabhai said.

Bhupendrabhai initiated the call with The Batavian. He said he wanted readers to know that his tenants, with one exception, had plenty of notice that they needed to find new dwellings.

He said he told them weeks ago he intended to shut down the property.

In the case of Eric Duda, he said, Duda fell behind eight weeks in rent and Bhupendrabhai told him just find another place to live, and rather than evict him, gave him time to make other arrangements. He said that days before the condemnation notice, Duda was approved by DSS for $175-per-week rent at Mark Trail. 

Another tenant, he said, stopped paying his rent five weeks ago after learning of the town's interest in buying the property. That tenant, he said, told other residents to stop paying their rent as well.

When Bhupendrabhai confronted the tenant about it, he agreed to stop telling others not to pay their rent. Bhupendrabhai told him he would forgive the five-weeks back rent if he would pay one more week rent and then find another place to live.

A total of seven people lived at the motel at the time of the condemnation.

As for Maken Ithnnascheri, the tenant who moved in just a week ago, he may not have known about Bhupendrabhai's plan to shut down the motel, but he only paid one week's rent and shouldn't have expected to live there longer than that.

He said he covered Ithnnascheri's rent for three days at another motel on Friday, and gave him an extra $50 "to help him out."

As for selling the property to the town, Bhupendrabhai said he essentially has an agreement in place to sell the 2.9-acre parcel adjacent to Kiwanis Park, but nothing is in writing yet.

Gerould said there is no connection between the town's enforcement action and the plan to buy the hotel.

While he feels bad for the residents, he also felt troubled by the conditions they were living it.

Besides the broken septic system, the roof leaked, there were no fire extinguishers and no smoke detectors.

"The place is deplorable," Gerould said. "It's filthy and much of it is not up to standards of the health department or the New York State building code."

He said he told Duda in September that a condemnation order was coming if the problems were not corrected by Bhupendrabhai.

Jason Crater

Seems kind of low-brow to name tenants and discuss the social services they are receiving.

This is not news, it's gossip.

Just my $.02

Dec 20, 2010, 6:58pm Permalink
Dave Olsen

Not picking, Howard, but I think you meant the opposite, or did you mean the condemnation was coming anyway?
"He said he told Duda in September that a condemnation order was coming if the problems were corrected by Bhupendrabhai."

Dec 20, 2010, 7:52pm Permalink
Julie Morales

“He (the owner, Panchal "Sonny" Bhupendrabhai) said he told them weeks ago he intended to shut down the property.”

“As for Maken Ithnnascheri, the tenant who moved in just a week ago, he may not have known about Bhupendrabhai's plan to shut down the motel, but he only paid one week's rent and shouldn't have expected to live there longer than that.”

Nice. Guess the owner didn’t feel the need to tell Mr. Ithnnascheri of his intention that supposedly everyone knew about.

“Besides the broken septic system, the roof leaked, there were no fire extinguishers and no smoke detectors.

‘The place is deplorable,’ Gerould said. ‘It's filthy and much of it is not up to standards of the health department or the New York State building code.’"

Was the rent at this place comparable to Mark Trail’s $175 per week? That’s 700 bucks a month! A bit pricey for deplorable substandard conditions.

Dec 20, 2010, 8:35pm Permalink
Chelsea Harmon

Julie it was 125 a week thats why people could afford it. They couldnt come up with all the money for a security deposit and first month rent so thats why they lived there.

Dec 20, 2010, 8:37pm Permalink
Julie Morales

Chelsea, believe me, I'm on your side. :)

I think it takes a lot of nerve for a landlord to ask that kind of rent for the conditions described in this article.

I wish the best for everyone going through this nightmare.

Dec 20, 2010, 8:50pm Permalink
dennis wight

Did the septic system just break and is now seeping, or was it broken for a while and NOW Gerould is worried about the health of the tenants. When, exactly, was the inspector aware of septic issue?
I think it's strange that there is a potential deal between the owner and the Town for the purchase of this property, structure is condemned, everyone is evicted, and the Town keeps saying there's no connection between the two.
What will it cost town taxpayers to raze these structures? Any asbestos? If it's condemned, does the town get possession? Is the previous owner responsible/liable for the razing of the structures?

Dec 20, 2010, 9:02pm Permalink
Chelsea Harmon

Thanks Julie and honestly Dennis it was broken for a long time he never condemned the building for it. He was aware for awhile he told Eric Duda to put a top on the top of the septic tank.

Dec 20, 2010, 9:07pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Jason, the tenants named are people who talked to me about their situation (see previous story, if you missed it). The unnamed person in this is somebody whom I didn't talk to, which is why I didn't use his name. The named people were quite open about their situation, at least as far as they discussed it.

Without names, there is no story.

Dennis, the septic, as implied in the first story, is an ongoing problem. All of the problems are ongoing problems.

As for cost, I don't know. Another landlord in town, in a totally different context, happened to mention to me today the typical cost for building demolition is $21,000.

Condemning the building does not transfer title to the town.

If the town buys it, the town owns it.

I think all there can ever be is speculation about what the relationship is between condemnation and the purchase offer. On one hand, if the two are related, why condemn the property months ahead of being able to do anything with it? On the other, the town can't take ownership with the code problems in place. The only way to solve the code problems is to evict the tenants. No tenants, code violations don't matter, and town can own it without keeping people in substandard housing.

One thing I believe, with the possible exception of Mr. Ithnnascheri, the tenants had much more than just 24 hours to figure out their living situation. And however you slice it, I think that's the bottom line of what I learned in talking with Mr. Gerould and Mr. Bhupendrabhai.

Dec 20, 2010, 9:27pm Permalink
Doug Yeomans

Typhoid? The only way for anyone to contract typhoid is to ingest fecal matter excreted from a person who has an Typhoid infection. Is Bruce Gerould stating that someone there has Typhoid or is he just ignorant of the facts?

A person may become an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid fever, suffering no symptoms, but capable of infecting others. According to the CDC approximately 5% of people who contract typhoid continue to carry the disease after they recover.

Dec 21, 2010, 8:51am Permalink
Bob Price

OK-so town knew about problems w/ septic months ago???Why wasn't it condemned then? What's another couple weeks until after first of year???It's hard enough to go through DSS for assistance,let alone mid-December when people are trying to burn up vacation time or have had time planned off,leaving offices short on staff??? Here's my theory-anybody know what happened to Duroshed??I haven't seen any articles anywhere on what happened to them.Did they move or go out of business????They are almost across the street....building is now available through Mancuso Development for "only" $1 million dollars......I'm thinking there might have been some calls made to the Town in order to get this building removed ASAP so it wouldn't deter potential buyers of above property.......

Dec 21, 2010, 9:18am Permalink
Jeremiah Pedro

I think the previous article mentioned the tenants were paying 125 per week which is 500 per month that seems kind of outrageous for what I am guessing is a studio apartment. Birchwood village offers a four bedroom two story townhouse for 516 per month.…

The whole scenario stinks no matter which way you look at it. I think the owner should be ashamed of his actions. So what if he gave the people plenty of notice. Why did he allow the property to fall into such a state in the first place. I wonder if there is any legal precedent for the tenants being able to recoup the rent they paid. The property owner should not have been able to allow people to rent rooms especially if the town knew about the deplorable conditions for months.

Dec 21, 2010, 9:51am Permalink
Gabor Deutsch

I believe that there are different rules for hotel/motel rental units. Batavia Motel is or was just that, a Motel for temporary lodging. They are or were one large room with a bathroom. I saw one of the rooms in 1995 before the flood and it was a musty and miserable dump back then so I can only imagine how bad it is now.

Dec 21, 2010, 11:50am Permalink
Dave Olsen

At a motel the rent includes all utilities, apartment rent typically do not.
Howard, I'm truly curious about the last line of the article. Are you saying that the condemnation was coming even if the problems are corrected?

Dec 21, 2010, 1:04pm Permalink
Dave Olsen

Thanks, Howard. A bit of trivia, there was another motel just down the street from this one that was used during the filming of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" with Steve Martin and John Candy. Then was demolished. Relates to nothing, just a memory.

Dec 21, 2010, 1:22pm Permalink
Gabor Deutsch

I meant that a hotel/motel usually rents by a day or week. They do not have to follow the same rules as a rental apartment especially when it comes to eviction. Try going to a hotel/motel and stay there longer than you pay for and see what happens. Most places now require a credit card or large cash deposit. Most small places take down your license number so if something happens the police can find you.

Dec 21, 2010, 3:23pm Permalink
Kyle Couchman

Gabor I think you may be confused a little. I dont think it was operating as a motel any longer. It is quite common to convert motels to low income housing as it takes very little work to make them pass a certificate of occupancy and they can aquire much more money that way.

Either way you look at it the facts are, the violations were not new, they were ongoing, The timeline and comments from the building inspector concern me. He says he began as a building inspector in 2004, and then states there has NEVER been a time that there werent violations. Thats one fact that is indicative that this landlord was negligent and working the system. Then later is the same paragraph the building inspector says that the landlord had been less responsive to complying to code since the fire 2 years ago.

It seems that theres a good ol' boy network going on here. There should not have been anyone in there if the place wasnt in compliance.

I also like the spin in favor of the landlord. It seems that his tenants stopped paying him rent a while ago, I'm sure he's not as benevolent as he was portrayed in this article (No offense intended Howard)but I think the truth was he couldnt evict them as if he took them to court then his negligence in the maintenence would have had him laughed out of court, or cost him more if the tenants were to seek legal remedy.

As for the guy who rented for a me just shows the landlord's intent for this property and the ease with which he is willing to screw someone out of their time and money. Theres absolutely no excuse for this part at all.

So this condemnation seems very convenient at the expense of the tenants. Bad karma for all using people like this landlord and the town have.

Nice whitewash job by the Town and Landlord, I just want to know is it as transparent to everyone else as it is to me?

Dec 21, 2010, 6:19pm Permalink

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