With a phony name and an address that does not exist, the owner of the condemned house at 71 Mechanic St. in Pawcatuck is at once elusive and suspect.
“(She) looks shady,” Stonington First Selectman Edward Haberek Jr. said of Margaret Cullen, the woman named as the agent/owner of Shannon LLC, a Connecticut-based limited liability corporation with a Westerly post office box and a Westerly street address of 245 Route 1; there is no such address.
Stonington-Mystic Patch tried unsuccessfully to locate Cullen (and the other person listed on the corporation, Olwen Cullen) for comment.
“And she gave us a false name, Faukenstein-something. But we did get a marshal to find and catch up with her,” Haberek said.
Find her and serve her with notice of not just the condemnation of her three-apartment house but pending litigation.
“By law, she can be fined $500 a day and up to six months in
jail for every day (she’s out of compliance with state and local law). And she has long term outstanding taxes due to the fire district and they want to do a tax sale. So, there’s plenty of pending litigation,” Haberek said.
Not to mention the cost borne by the town to find temporary emergency housing for one of Cullen’s tenants.
“Those costs will go on a lien of the house,” Haberek said.
But the worst of it, he said, are the conditions under which three families were living that led to the condemnation last week.
In early August, Building Official Wayne Greene “noticed some hazardous equipment, wet (electrical) wires, unsanitary issues,” Haberek explained.
“Then I went with the fire marshal and I saw water and sewage leaking from the pipes: a really unsafe, unsanitary condition. They had young children and we didn’t want to see them on the street, so we relocated one family [the other two own their temporary housing].”
Greene declared the house "unsafe" and the tentants were ordered to vacate.
Haberek said this is not the first time the town has dealt with this property owner, albeit usually via mail: “Oh, there’s a very thick
“There’s been a back and forth. A catch and release kind of thing where there’s been an issue, she gets it fixed but there’s always a problem; she had a plumber come in who wasn’t licensed. Like that."
Haberek said that the town “will use every means, all legal recourse on this case.”
“And no one will live in that house,” he said.
In the last Stonington revaluation, the house and land was assessed at $257K; appraised at $367K.
Two of the now-former tenants, who paid nearly $1,000 a month in rent, spoke with Haberek and one showed him her lease with Cullen.
“Just a one-page (lease), really a scrap of paper. Lucky it wasn’t written in crayon,” he said. “And they paid $980 in rent. It’s awful.”
Haberek vowed to “go after” property owners that rent apartments and houses that are not up to code or in compliance with state and
local building and housing laws.
“We’re looking at other landlords,” he warned.
Stonington-Mystic Patch was unable to locate displaced tenants for comment by press time.