Thursday, 8 November 2012

Abuzuaiter rental issues not all city's doing

Ongoing housing violation issues with the rental company of Isa Abuzuaiter, husband of Greensboro City Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter, don't seem to all be explained by computer problems or negligence on the part of city staff.

It seems the Abuzuaiters have some inexplicable difficulty receiving mail. City inspectors send letters to landlords to notify them of violations. In several open cases certified letters were sent to the Abuzuaiters and returned because they were not signed for.

When a letter is sent by certified mail, the recipient is required to sign a green card to receive the mail. The sender is given a receipt by the post office confirming that their mail has been received by the intended party. If no one is present to sign for the letter the postal carrier leaves a note informing the recipient that they need to sign for the letter at the post office.

The cases involve Isa Abuzuaiter's rental company IMAS LLC. Violations include plumbing not properly connected to the public sewer system, pest infestations, improperly installed electrical equipment, faulty appliances and missing or broken smoke detectors.

All the notices in the open cases for IMAS have been sent to 3601 Brassfield Oaks Dr., the Abuzuaiters' home. While some notices have been signed for others have not. Marikay Abuzuaiter confirmed that is their address.

According to current city records, the Abuzuaiters have at least 44 outstanding violations throughout their properties, and have failed to sign for at least two certified letters, each of which covers multiple violations.

When asked why certified letters sent to her home address were returned to the city undelivered, Marikay Abuzuaiter said, "I have no idea."

Marikay Abuzuaiter also said, "If we knew about anything we immediately fixed it." And she asked how they were supposed to fix something they didn't know about. But the city sent certified letters to the Abuzuaiters' home to notify them and the letters were returned. It's a method of notification that is used to make certain someone actually received the letter. She said that being accused of not fixing violations was, "A slap to my reputation for something I didn't even know about."

Several of the Abuzuaiter cases from 2010 are listed as active according to city records, but don't show whether letters have been signed for. City staff has raised the possibility that the cases were closed but inadvertently listed as open in the process of transferring data to a new computer rentals system.

The Planning and Community Development Department changed databases in 2011 and, according to city staff, some data had to be transferred between the systems manually, and in some cases were not entered or were entered incorrectly.

However, since 2011 when the city had no known computer issues, cases show a problem on the IMAS end, with some certified mail sent to the Abuzuaiters' home address being returned unclaimed.

A notice of violation regarding 3704-B Flint St. was sent by certified mail to the Abuzuaiters' home address on April 1, 2011, but was returned. The letter was later hand delivered by a city employee.

There are 18 violations included in the 3704-B Flint St. case, all of which are listed as the owner's responsibility in the city file.

According to an older report, the violations were discovered during an inspection on Nov. 24, 2010, and corrected on Jan. 1, 1900, which indicates a problem with the city computer system.

The violations include missing smoke detectors, a broken smoke detector, rotting wood on the building exterior, plumbing problems and a leaking air-conditioning unit that is causing the floor to buckle. According to current city records, the case is still active.

Marikay Abuzuaiter said the fact that a certified letter about the case was sent to her home and returned to the city unclaimed "Just boggles the mind."

Another notice of violation for a case at 3706-H Flint St. sent by certified mail to the Abuzuaiters' home was signed for in April 2011. The violations include exposed wiring in a utility closet, rotting wood on the outside of the building, missing smoke detectors, an improperly installed water heater valve and a loose toilet. The case is still open according to city records.

A notice of violation about 3507-A North Church St. was signed for in April 2012, and the case is still listed as open and uncorrected.

Many of the 30 violations at 3507-A North Church St. are related to electrical problems including outlets missing cover plates, exposed wiring and a busted thermostat. There is also extensive fire damage to the interior and appliances.

Marikay Abuzuaiter explained that the apartment, which is currently vacant, had been damaged by a fire and that all of the damage had not been repaired.

A notice of violation for a case involving 3503-E North Church St. sent in April 2011, was signed for, and all 13 violations in the case are marked as corrected.

The first notice of violation for 3820-A Mosby Dr. was sent by certified mail July 12, 2012 but was returned. The letter was resent Friday, Oct. 26, and there is no indication in the city records that that letter has been signed for either. The violations are still outstanding according to city records. According to Marikay Abuzuaiter all the violations have been fixed but the apartment has not yet been re-inspected by the city, so it is still listed as open.

That case involves nine violations including failed heating, leaking plumbing fixtures, missing smoke detectors, a kitchen sink that isn't properly connected to the sewer system, and an order for a licensed exterminator for roaches and bedbugs.

Similarly, a certified letter sent to the Abuzuaiters for 1825 Merritt Dr. in February 2012 was returned. The case contains 20 violations including a rotten ceiling, leak damage, holes in the wall and leaking and clogged plumbing. All of the violations are still active according to city records.

Marikay Abuzuaiter noted that when the Rental Unit Certificate of Occupancy (RUCO) was still in effect that they never lost a RUCO permit and that they had never been before the Minimum Housing Board for any of their properties. She said they had also passed stringent Section 8 housing inspections for properties.

Marikay Abuzuaiter insisted that they fixed violations as soon as they found out about them, and never offered any explanation for why somebody didn't sign for or go pick up certified mail from the City of Greensboro. She did say that the city inspectors had their phone numbers and implied that the problems were with one city inspector, although the violations are signed by at least three different inspectors.

According to Marikay Abuzuaiter some of these problems were caused by the fact that electricity to the apartments had been disconnected.

She said that when the electricity, which is the tenant's responsibility, is disconnected that the apartment is supposed to be condemned and the property owner given 48 hours to get the tenants out or fix the problem. She said the city was not supposed to inspect apartments that had no electricity because there was no way to tell if the appliances, heat and/or air conditioning worked.

Marikay Abuzuaiter has been critical of which parties are held responsible for the violations, claiming that some of the violations listed as the owner's responsibility are the tenant's. These responsibilities include maintaining electrical service to the unit and keeping the premises in the order in which they found it.

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