Tenants evicted at Arbor Cottages due to electrical fire hazard - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Tenants evicted at Arbor Cottages; judge cites fire hazard

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Right now, 14 tenants at Arbor Cottages on Ogeechee Road are making plans for a new place to live - at least temporarily.

Judge Claire Cornwell-Williams gave them until Friday to move out. They can't come back until property owner Steve Varnadoe proves his rentals are safe. The problem lies in faulty electrical wiring. City inspectors are afraid the cottages will catch on fire.

"The feet have got to be held to the fire," Cornwell-Williams said. "The work has got to be done. The facility must be made safe for these tenants."

Steve Varnadoe, the landlord at Arbor Cottages, has been given more than two months of second chances.

He has gone before the judge every Monday morning for a special hearing to update her on progress bringing the cottages up to code. Every week he ended up falling short. On Wednesday, Williams said enough is enough.

Only one of the 20 cottages has passed inspection as of Wednesday. That tenant can stay. But all the other renters must relocate temporarily. It'll be up to Varnadoe to pay for his tenants' temporary housing arrangements.

Joe Wyborski, the live-in maintenance man at the cottages, doesn't know if that applies to him. He pays his rent in labor.

"I don't know where I'm going to go," Wyborski said. "I work here. I live here. Without this place, I'm homeless. I don't have a job."

Tenants can come back once the cottages pass inspection. The city is making another exception – they're doing inspections one or two cottages at a time instead of all at once, so tenants can come back to each cottage as soon as it's proven safe.

"Mr. Varnadoe, I want you to do me a favor, I am asking you to tell the tenants to please do not give police or property maintenance or Mrs. Brown a hard time. This is in your best interest your property will be in better shape and their homes will be safer," Williams said. 

Electricians are hoping to get five of those cottages up to city code by the end of the week.

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