Relentless Church sued over disputed sale of John Gray’s $ 1.8 million home
After a year of legal drama over property rights, Relentless Church is again caught up in a real estate litigation, this time involving the sale of the $ 1.8 million home in Simpsonville previously occupied by famed Pastor John Gray and his family.
A buyer claimed that the contract of sale included furniture inside the house, although he later discovered that the furniture was missing before closing the sale of the property.
Attorney John Reckenbeil, representing Kevin Johnston, said the furniture had an estimated fair market value of around $ 50,000 to $ 70,000.
The amended lawsuit, which accuses Relentless Church of breach of contract, was filed on June 8.
Relentless has yet to officially respond to the latest complaint.
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Devon Puriefoy, an attorney representing Relentless Church and Solus Deus, LLC, a subsidiary of Relentless that maintains church property, said the furniture complaint boils down to disagreement and ambiguity over what the two parties constitute as “furniture”.
“The problem with the furniture, again, was premature. It was something that could have been resolved with a few phone calls,” Puriefoy said. “It was pretty insignificant furniture and whether or not it was furniture.”
Reckenbeil told the Greenville News that Johnston wanted Relentless to return any furniture that was in the property when the deal was made or pay a lump sum based on fair market value.
“In the contract, the requirement was that all furniture in the house as of Jan. 8, minus a list of exceptions, be sold to my client in the purchase price,” Reckenbeil said. “Then it’s the day before they close and it’s all gone.”
The 7,000 square foot home located at 1 Calaverdi Court went on sale on September 27 for $ 1,879,796.
The property was owned by Relentless Church and was purchased in 2018 to serve as Gray’s rectory. Former Relentless CFO Travis Hayes told Greenville News the church board agreed to buy the house to “attract” a pastor of Gray’s caliber to Greenville.
Gray has since moved to another house in Greenville County to better suit him and his family, Puriefoy previously told The News.
Gray came to Greenville in 2018 from Houston, Texas, where he served as associate pastor under mega-church leader Joel Osteen. Gray took over the congregation and Redemption Church buildings and renamed the church as Relentless Church when Redemption pastor Ron Carpenter announced he was moving his ministry to California.
Relentless Church had previously been a defendant in another legal battle, an eviction case, over allegations the church had failed to honor its financial commitment of a rental contract with Redemption Church, which owned the property from Haywood Road Church.
While still in San Jose, California, Redemption has since reopened a Greenville campus, meeting at the Greenville Convention Center.
During the Redemption-Relentless real estate dispute, Relentless maintained that it had fulfilled all the legal requirements outlined in the lease and transfer agreements. This issue was ultimately resolved in mediation and an undisclosed settlement was reached. As a result, Relentless retained ownership of Haywood Road.
Regarding the Simpsonville property, Relentless was first sued in April after the home closing deadline was pushed back. The two sides argued whether the deadline was firm or could be adjusted.
Part of the delay was due to Relentless producing the proper documentation to provide its status as a nonprofit religious organization exempt from paying regular property taxes, the lawsuit said.
Relentless Church argued in an official response that Johnston unfairly demanded strict adherence to the April 30 deadline. Relentless argued that an extension of time was necessary in order to produce all the necessary closing documents.
“The lawsuit that was filed was clearly premature.… We informed them on several occasions that the shutdown was going to take place and then it happened,” Puriefoy said. “There was a real estate contract between the two parties and this gave both parties the option to extend the contract if necessary.”
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Once that dispute was settled, Johnston amended his complaint to argue that the furniture in the house should be included in the sale, which it ultimately was not, according to the lawsuit.
Relentless Church has filed a counter-suit claiming the Reckenbeil lawsuit is frivolous.
The counterclaim states that “no reasonable lawyer in the same circumstances would believe that the flash trial served any purpose other than harassing.”
Reckenbeil said he did not view his trial as harassment.
He said he did not know where the contents of the house were currently.
“For pastors or preachers or priests, they don’t have the capacity to take property and convert it to themselves without screwing up the tax benefit,” he said. “The IRS says you can’t take something and own it and gain personal benefit from it, or you’d lose your tax exemption.”
Daniel J. Gross is an investigative surveillance reporter who focuses on public safety and law enforcement for The Greenville News. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @danieljgross. Subscribe to The Greenville News at greenvillenews.com/subscribe.