Unlicensed landlord company got its S.C. start last April with wealthy filer

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Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 7:55 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - State and city records spanning the east coast show how a heavily scrutinized landlord company arrived in Richland County. Columbia officials and its renters say it’s brought problems.

Richland County records show the Brooklyn-based company Indigo 52 owns 19 properties in the County.

They’ve come under the microscope of city and county leaders after conditions at a property on Hyatt Avenue merited an evacuation for some residents.

City of Columbia lawyers took the company to court and outlined how the following properties located in the city did not have rental permits and as a result were being operated illegally.

  • 1225 Ashley Avenue
  • 3907-3909 Lamar Avenue
  • 4411 Windermere Avenue
  • 4514 Colonial Drive
  • 4917 Norman Street
  • 4918 North Main Street
  • 5200 Randall Avenue
  • 5403 Cabot Avenue
  • 5707 North Main Street
  • 5705 North Main Street
  • 1114 Oakland A venue
  • 920 Rosedale Avenue
  • 933 Jackson Avenue
  • 1218 Hyatt Avenue

After WIS reached out on Tuesday, a spokesperson for Richland County confirmed the county had identified five properties in the county without business licenses. She stated: “we will reach out to them immediately to get the process started.”

The spokesperson identified the following properties:

  • 100 Lakeside Ave.
  • 4932 Linden St.
  • 4934 Linden St.
  • 4936 Linden St.
  • 1722 Houston St.

S.C. Secretary of State records show David Shweky filed paperwork in April 2022 for the company to operate in South Carolina. It includes documentation from Delaware stating the company is in “good standing.”

Shweky provided a Brooklyn address as the company’s principal office.

New York City finance records show Shweky owns that Brooklyn property. New York City gave it a market value of $5 million.

Shweky also provided a Texas-based company as the registered agent and submitted a Lexington County address.

WIS visited that address earlier in February, meeting with a man who said he largely just takes mail for the company.

It’s unclear if Shweky owns Indigo 52 or its properties. Attempts to contact him for this story were unsuccessful.

Joyce Hunter is an Indigo 52 renter who lives on Jackson Avenue. She showed WIS a hole in the ceiling, a hole in the floor, and a hole in the wall.

Mold appeared to be spread across a bedroom and the window frames in her home were deteriorating.

“I thank god yes that I have a roof over my head. But the conditions under the roof are totally ridiculous,” she said.

She said the company had made some fixes related to water, but her attempts to get other issues fixed had been left unaddressed.

Hunter said after she watched WIS’ other stories on Indigo 52, she decided to withhold rent for February.

That decision makes her vulnerable to eviction but does not alleviate the company’s responsibility for habitability.

She expressed frustration with the company.

“You’re not living like this. I am. I’m paying you or whoever you are to stay like this here. Get on your job and fix this stuff. This is unacceptable to me. I don’t know what anybody else thinks but I can’t go through this with these people anymore,” she said.

At-Large City Councilman Howard Duvall expressed support for strengthening the city’s ability to discover unlicensed rental properties.

“That would be a serious problem if we can’t identify those people that are responsible for the property,” he said.

Columbia ordinances describe properties rented without permits as a public nuisance, which carries fines up to $500 or imprisonment of up to 30 days.

The ordinances also require the property to either be inspected or “the owner has submitted a certification that the subject property complies with the minimum code” before the license is provided.

Additionally, it requires a “responsible local representative.”

“We need to tighten up the requirements that they have a local representative. It would be somebody close by that could receive legal documents and make decisions on behalf of the company, but what we found out is this does not work, especially in big situations like [the Colony Apartments] and individual small situations like the rentals Indigo company has in the city of Columbia,” he said.

Duvall referenced the larger evacuation of residents at the Colony Apartments after code and fire violations were found.

He suggested the city should crack down on Indigo 52.

“They have indicated that they are not willing to work in good faith. They know they need to have permits. They’re not getting the permits. They know they have to have a local representative and they don’t have actual local representatives. I would be hesitant to allow this company to operate in the city of Columbia.”

Columbia court filings against Indigo 52 show a Mary Twitty had presented herself as a representative for the company when the issues with the Hyatt Avenue property were identified.

She told WIS she now no longer works for the company.

Both Twitty and Indigo 52 face court dates related to the conditions at the properties in the next two weeks.

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