A Cutchogue business owner being accused of illegally renting apartments at his industrial property in Cutchogue in violation of town code is now taking a tenant to court for refusing to pay rent.
Last month, Robert Hamilton, owner of Prime Purveyors, pleaded not guilty in town Justice Court to six counts of violating town code related to leasing six apartments at 8305 Cox Lane — the site of a former labor camp.
The town is currently seeking to take Mr. Hamilton to trial if the tenants do not vacate the property.
Despite those charges, Mr. Hamilton is bringing tenant Maribeth Mundell to court to enforce an eviction after she stopped paying rent, according to records.
Ms. Mundell, who has been living at the Cutchogue complex for two years with her 10-year-old son, told The Suffolk Times she stopped paying rent because of the town’s case against Mr. Hamilton.
“I’m not paying my rent because I need to get out of here,” Ms. Mundell said. “The town has asked Mr. Hamilton to evict us. Right now I need to be saving my money for another place. I have been talking to every real estate agent I know. I have very intention of moving as soon as I can.”
Both parties are due in Southold Town Justice Court on Friday, Sept. 26.
While the case against Ms. Mundell not directly tied to the town’s case against Mr. Hamilton, assistant town attorney Lori Hulse said the non-payment proceedings only support the town’s position.
“As far as I’m concerned, it will assist me in building my case because one of the elements I need to prove is that he is actually renting out the apartments,” Ms. Hulse said. “If he is going after residents for non-payment it further proves he is doing just that.”
Mr. Hamilton’s attorney, Harold Steuerwald of Bellport, did not return requests for comment.
Southold Town initially cited Mr. Hamilton in January after a former tenant filed a complaint with the town that units on the business property were being rented, which is not a permitted use in the town’s light industrial zone where the property is located, according to Ms. Hulse. Mr. Hamilton did not comply with a resulting notice to vacate the property and the town is proceeding with legal action to stop the operation, she said.
It’s unclear how long the units have been rented out, Ms. Hulse said.
Mr. Hamilton had also been cited by the county Department of Health Services last year for violating water and heat regulations.
According to county Department of Health Services documents obtained by The Suffolk Times, samples taken by the health department in August 2013 showed abnormally high amounts of manganese in the drinking water at the property.
Afterward, the county issued a notice advising tenants not to drink the water, because consuming high levels of manganese can cause adverse health effects, according to department records.
In December, records show that Mr. Hamilton connected the property’s four buildings to Suffolk County water. He was also cited by the health department for keeping the heat too low during the winter, documents show.
Mr. Hamilton and the town are due back in Southold Town Justice Court Monday, Oct. 27.