GREENSBORO — A local landlord is pushing back on city allegations that it illegally took a deposit for a Waugh Street house that was condemned.

Arco Realty said that it did not market the house or lease it to the prospective tenant and that the person knew improvements had to be made on the house first.

Mayor Nancy Vaughan and Brett Byerly, a local affordable housing advocate, accused Arco Realty last week of taking a $725 deposit for a condemned house, which they said is illegal under city ordinance.

But Irene Agapion-Martinez of Arco said in a written statement Tuesday that the prospective tenant paid a deposit while understanding the property wasn’t ready for occupancy.

“No lease was signed and possession was never given,” she wrote in an email.

Agapion-Martinez wrote in her statement: “Arco Realty did not lease or offer to lease the Waugh Street home. The facts are as follows. A prospective tenant approached Arco Realty to lease the home, but it was unavailable while improvements were underway.”

Further, she wrote, “the prospective tenant wanted to lease the home when the improvements were complete. The prospective tenant submitted an application and provided the application fee and a deposit to hold the property until it was ready. Improvements were still underway when the prospective tenant wanted to occupy the home. The Prospective Tenant did not want to wait until the improvements were finished. Arco Realty refunded the deposit and application fee in full.”

Vaughan said Tuesday that Agapion-Martinez’s statement doesn’t change anything in the city’s position about the case.

“It proves our point,” Vaughan said. “You are not supposed to market or take money for a condemned unit. It is a misdemeanor.”

The house, at 605 Waugh St., was listed Tuesday on Arco Realty’s website as available for rent.

“All homes require a down payment that ranges from $310 to one full month’s rent,” Arco says on the listings page

Vaughan and Byerly, the executive director of the Greensboro Housing Coalition, held a news conference in front of the gray brick house last week and said Arco would be one of 10 landlords that the city plans to sue later this summer for housing code violations.

Vaughan said Tuesday that Arco refunded the prospective tenant’s money only after she and Byerly got involved last week when another real estate company notified them that the woman was having trouble getting the money.

“They took money and they’re still actively marketing it on their website,” Vaughan said. “They need not to send mixed messages and they need to comply with the law.”

She is using the case as a warning to companies that try to rent apartments and houses with major repair problems. She said the city plans to sue the worst offenders in July to get the money they already owe in city fines for past violations. Arco and its affiliates owe the city nearly $600,000 for rental inspection violations, Vaughan said last week.

Arco drew unfavorable publicity last year after a fire at its Summit Avenue apartments killed five children. Although the cause of the fire was determined to be unattended food left on a stove, the tragedy brought attention to living conditions in the 42-unit complex. In September, dozens of families were evicted after the city condemned most of the units.

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Contact Richard M. Barron at 336-373-7371 and follow @BarronBizNR on Twitter.

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