AUBURN — Tenants at an Auburn apartment house were outraged Monday after Auburn code enforcement officials told them they had 24 hours to leave the property because the property owner failed to pay utility bills.

Brian Hicks, the senior code enforcement officer for the city, said the apartment house at 7 Grover St. was condemned Monday afternoon because all the utilities were shut off due to unpaid bills. Without electric and gas, Hicks said the city has to consider all 14 apartments unsanitary and uninhabitable.

“They have within 24 hours of the posting to leave,” Hicks said. “Anyone who doesn’t will be escorted out by police.”

Tenants were frustrated with both the city and the property owner Monday. Many of the tenants said the city did nothing to help them find new or temporary accommodations.

The tenants, who pay between $450 and $550 a month in rent, said utilities are included in their rent, and that it’s the property owner’s responsibility to pay for electric and gas.

Tenant Cyndy Schultz said tenants can’t pay the bills themselves because they don’t have access to the account numbers.

“I could see if the roof was falling in, if the pipes were leaking or if the building was collapsing, but none of that is happening here,” said Schultz, as she wiped away tears while trying to figure out where she will go. “I pay my rent, (the owners) are supposed to be paying the bills.”

According to property records, Northeast Realty Investors LLC of New York City owns the apartment complex, but no number is listed for the business. Schultz said she does not have a number for the company’s New York City office and only has an address to which she sends her rent checks each month.

City attorney and acting city Manager John Rossi said the company also had failed to pay its property taxes, but recently made a lump payment to stall foreclosure.

Rossi did not know how behind Northeast Realty Investors is on taxes or how much the business paid to stall foreclosure.

Rossi said the city has also had problems with apartments at 5 Grover St., another complex owned by Northeast Realty Investors.

In the meantime, the tenants have been forced to find temporary housing on their own while they search for a permanent place to live. Several residents, who declined to give their names, said they will stay with family or friends or at the Chapel House.

Tenant Greg Franczak, who found a new apartment Monday, said he believes the situation highlights why out-of-town businesses should not be allowed to run properties in Auburn, especially if they have a history of failing to pay their taxes or bills.

“To me, this is a bunch of garbage,” Franczak said. “I was one of the lucky ones. I got a new apartment set up.”

Schultz said she does not know how many people live in the building, but said all 14 apartments are occupied by at least one person.

Schultz said her apartment is the only one that does not include electricity in the rent, but was told she still has to leave even though her lights are still on because the whole building is condemned.

Lights in the rest of the complex were not working Monday.

“I don’t know where I am going to go,” said Schultz as she sat on her bed with a phone book. “I don’t know what I will do with my pets, I don’t know what I will do with my stuff.”

Staff writer Nate Robson can be reached at 282-2248 or nathan.robson@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at CitizenRobson.

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