July 23, 2008

Spartanburg County, S.C., Warns Landlord Who Cut Off Water

By Trevor Anderson, Herald-Journal, Spartanburg, S.C.

Jul. 22--The Spartanburg County Environmental Enforcement Department has given a Georgia landlord a warning for refusing water services over the past month to 20 residents who were living in the Camp Croft area.

The former residents, most of whom are elderly, disabled or children, lived on a crescent-shaped piece of property between Cedar Springs Avenue and Crest Circle across from the Exopack plant. The property includes two apartment buildings, as well as a handful of single-family and mobile homes, which received water service from a single meter.

Environmental Enforcement Director Don Arnold said inspectors condemned the buildings on Thursday due to lack of water service.

Georgia-based Savitri Enterprises, the company that owns the property, has until Aug. 1 to close the buildings to the public or it faces misdemeanor violations charges and monetary fines.

"If (Savitri Enterprises) doesn't take care of it, we will seek a contractor to come in and board up the buildings," Arnold said. "If they choose not to, they will be charged with a misdemeanor and fined for the cost of boarding up the buildings, which can reach into the thousands of dollars."

As of Monday, all of the residents had vacated the property and found other living arrangements.

"We've all found somewhere else to live, but it's just not right because our leases state that both services are supposed to be furnished by our landlord," said David Belles, who lived in one of the single-family units at 112 Crest Circle.

Belles said for the past two weeks a local church and firefighters at Croft Fire Station No. 18 were supplying residents with jugs of water for drinking, bathing and other lavatory purposes. Water service was ended at the property on June 21.

In a phone interview Monday, Rakesh Garg, chief financial officer for Savitri Enterprises, said his company never purchased the property.

County property records show that on May 23, Savitri Enterprises bought the development for $108,000 from Chuck Schell, a Spartanburg real estate broker, and his company the Fair Havens Group LLC.

When asked to further explain his statement, Garg abruptly ended the conversation.

Residents said Schell informed them of the sale about four weeks ago in a note, which stated he no longer was associated with the property, and he instructed tenants to forward rent payments or questions to Savitri Enterprises. The note included contact numbers for Garg and the company's principal owner, Tek Singhal.

Sue Schneider, general manager for the Spartanburg Water System, the property's water provider, said her company tried to contact Savitri Enterprises to have the service transferred, but was unable to do so.

Singhal said in a phone interview on June 27 that residents were supposed to be out by June 1.

When asked other questions about the situation, Singhal ended the conversation.

Residents said they had not been served eviction notices and were never contacted by Savitri Enterprises.

"We've tried to contact Savitri Enterprises on several occasions without success," Belles said. "If something was changed, they should've told us."

Savitri Enterprises is registered with the Georgia Secretary of State in Gwinnett County. Its office address is 6400 Peachtree Industrial Blvd. in Doraville, Ga., which is the same address for the Holiday Center liquor store in DeKalb County.

The company's address, according to Spartanburg County property records, is 1140 Carroll Court in Norcross, Ga. That is a residence registered to Garg, according to Gwinnett County tax records.

According to the Georgia Secretary of State, Garg and Singhal also are listed as owners of S&G Worldwide Inc., which shares the same address with Savitri Enterprises and the Holiday Center liquor store.

"We've dealt with this over the years with out-of-state landlords," Arnold said. "When you start trying to find someone who is responsible, it turns into a big mess."


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