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