Norwich - A couple desperately seeking an affordable apartment in Norwich was surprised to learn from a social worker Thursday that they were about to hand over a $2,175 deposit for an apartment that is condemned and on the radar of several city agencies.
They had been planning to move in today.
The apartment building at 75 Fourth St. in Greeneville is owned by Meyers & Bailey Investment Co., whose president, Zane Megos, faces several larceny and related charges for allegedly taking deposits for apartments that are not available for rent. Megos is due in court Wednesday on those criminal charges.
Sierra Gusky and her husband, Bruce Skidgel, said they saw the two-bedroom apartment advertised on Craigslist Tuesday with a rent of $725 per month and a discount to $595 if rent is paid on time each month.
They said they called the number and reached Bobby Brown, who has been working on renovations at the five-family house for the past several months. Brown showed them the apartment on Wednesday, pointing out a new bathroom and new refrigerator and other renovations, Gusky said Friday.
Gusky said Brown told them the apartment would be ready by today and asked for the couple's financial information to give to the landlord, whom he did not identify.
"I didn't know who the landlord was at the time," Gusky said.
Because the couple had a low credit score, they were asked to pay the higher deposit of $2,175.
Megos is under court order not to take deposits for apartments as a condition of his release on bond. He faces three counts of fourth-degree larceny, two counts of third-degree larceny, one count of second-degree larceny and a third-degree assault and breach of peace charge stemming from an altercation with one alleged victim attempting to get a reimbursement on an apartment deposit.
Megos' attorney, Kenneth Leary, could not be reached ro comment Friday. A call to the number listed on craigslist went to a voicemail for Brown, who also could not be reached to comment.
Gusky said she is six months pregnant and the couple has a 1½-year-old daughter. The family is living with a friend in Norwich since being evicted for falling behind on rent at another Norwich apartment. Gusky went to Norwich Human Services to apply for rental assistance to move into the new apartment and tried to gather enough money for the deposit.
Gusky said social worker Mary Bartlett entered the address into the agency's computer to check whether the property was eligible for rental assistance.
"She checked the computer and said, 'Oh my goodness, there's a really bad situation happening here,'" Gusky recalled of the conversation.
Bartlett told Gusky that the apartment is condemned and called Norwich Assistant Building Official Greg Arpin to confirm the situation. Arpin has been monitoring the ongoing renovations, inspecting work as it is completed and informing Brown of what still must be done before the apartments can be rented.
Late Friday afternoon, Arpin said the building is not ready to reopen. He has asked Brown to better secure an upper-story addition and told him a city housing inspector must inspect and approve each apartment before the building is allowed to reopen. That was not done as of the close of business Friday.
Human Services Director Beverly Goulet said her staff works closely with city inspectors and other agencies represented on a local Housing Management Team to flag problem properties in an effort to avoid future upheaval for families who can't afford repeat moves.
"The enormous stress and strain on families and individuals trying to find a place they can afford is very, very difficult," Goulet said.
"With this one, I just had to throw my hands up in disgust," Gusky said Friday. "We were planning on moving in tomorrow."