A dispute between owners of a DeKalb County condominium building has forced residents out of their homes after Georgia Power shut off electricity to the building due to an unpaid electrical bill.
The Presidential Boutique Condotel, the iconic 15-story former hotel overlooking Spaghetti Junction, was ordered evacuated after the DeKalb fire marshal determined that the building was unsafe without electricity.
The residents were allowed back in Wednesday to pack up their belongings but were told they couldn't stay.
Roland Williams, treasurer of the homeowners association, said the HOA board planned to meet Thursday to discuss its options.
"We're in dire need to get that electricity on," Williams told the AJC, saying the former tenants "are suffering right now."
Habib Osta, one of the owners of the building, told the AJC that he has been in court fighting with co-owner Vincent Lu over ownership of the property for about a year.
Osta said he was in Fulton County Superior Court on Tuesday, attempting to settle the dispute with Lu over the electric bill. Osta said he paid $11,582 to keep the power on recently and paid another $5,000 last week.
Osta charged that Lu, who he says owns the building's nightclub, ballroom and 196 of its condo units, has not paid his part of the electric bill since last September.
Lu told the AJC on Thursday that the electric bill is supposed to be paid by the homeowner's association, and he said only Osta has access to those funds.
Lu said that since last June, when the power was first turned off, he has paid nearly $90,000 of his own money in electric bills. He also said that when the power was turned off in June, he paid for tenants to be housed at a hotel for three days.
He said that at Tuesday's court session the two sides were unable to reach agreement on payment of the bill.
Wednesday morning, Dave Zupan, who works security at the building, was letting residents in six at a time to get their belongings moved out.
Zupan said that emergency generators were powering lights in the hallways but not in the individual units and that the elevators were not working.
“Hopefully, the elevator will be working shortly because it’s a little hard to move your things out down the stairs,” Zupan told the AJC.
He said that even though he works security at the building, he was surprised when the power was cut.
“I was going to print out a form I need and the power went off just as I went to do the form,” Zupan said. “I had no idea [the power] was going off yesterday, none.”
He said that the fire marshal was “pretty adamant” on Tuesday that anyone caught in the building after 5 p.m. would be arrested.
“Yesterday, while I was packing, the police came up to my room and told me I had to leave,” said Brittany Thompson, who moved into the building 10 months ago.
“So, in the midst of packing everything, I had to bring what I had down and then I had to find some place to stay and come back this morning to get the rest of my stuff,” Thompson said. “I moved here from Orlando, so I don’t have any family or anything.”
She said she spent Tuesday night with a friend who had already moved out of the building.
“One of the owners made it seem like everything was taken care of, still collecting rent,” Thompson said.
Resident Curtis Fay said the building has changed management “a bunch of times” in the three years that he has lived there.
“As far as I know, they’re not paying the [power] bill,” he said.
Fay said he spent also spent Tuesday night with a friend, “but I’m going to have to find some place to stay that’s more permanent.”
Carlos Jara was at the condos Wednesday morning with his stepfather, two uncles and a friend to help move his mother’s belongings out of her unit.
“We all get to move a whole bunch of furniture, books, desk, all down 12 flights of stairs,” Jara said.
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