A Pulaski County landlord with a history of renting unsafe properties to low-income residents should be ordered to pay restitution to his tenants and stopped from leasing houses, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge argues in a lawsuit filed Monday.
Rutledge's office filed the consumer-protection lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court against Imran Bohra and his company, Entropy Systems Inc. Bohra has about 150 properties in the county, which he rents out under his and his company's names.
The suit alleges that Bohra violated the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. It seeks an injunction; the suspension or forfeiture of franchises, corporate charters, licenses, permits and authorizations to do business in Arkansas; and civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation of the act.
"This lawsuit was necessary to combat Bohra's brazen disregard for the health and safety of his tenants," Rutledge said in a news release.
The filing says Bohra violated city housing codes in Little Rock and North Little Rock by "knowingly renting properties that have code violations affecting the health and safety of a resident prior to clearing the code violation with the proper authority."
The lawsuit refers to code enforcement reports and says that in February 2018, Little Rock code enforcement officers inspected one of Bohra's properties on Wolfe Street. They found violations in eight rooms, including deteriorating floors, windows that weren't "weather tight," and electrical outlets that needed cover plates.
Without making repairs, Bohra let a tenant move in April 1 with a $550 per month rent, the suit says.
On North Poplar Street in North Little Rock, city inspectors deemed a home a nuisance, told Bohra to fix it in seven days and declared it "unlawful to occupy this structure" on June 5, 2018, the suit says.
But a tenant moved into the property on Jan. 1, 2019.
Rutledge's filing says there are five other instances "when the City of Little Rock levied life and safety code violations" on Bohra's properties, but he continued to lease them out without fixing the problems.
"It is unacceptable that Bohra refuses to address numerous housing code violations, yet he is still determined to lease homes with serious structural and safety issues to Arkansans, who simply want affordable and safe housing," Rutledge said in her news release.
Reached by phone Monday afternoon, Bohra declined to comment, saying he needed to speak with his lawyer.
The lawsuit lists an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette investigation as "Exhibit A." The article, published in January, used court filings, city documents, newspaper archives and interviews with current and former residents to detail Bohra's business practices.
The newspaper found that Little Rock and North Little Rock code officers cited Bohra's properties at least 170 times from the start of 2016 to the date of publication. Bohra has been a Little Rock landlord since at least the 1990s, according to newspaper archives.
At least 28 of Bohra's properties in Little Rock and North Little Rock have been condemned or declared unfit for "human habitation," a "public nuisance" or an unreasonable interference to the "use and enjoyment of public lands," court records and city documents show.
Current and former residents as well as advocates familiar with Bohra's work who spoke with the newspaper all told similar stories: Tenants would move into homes with problems that Bohra promised to fix, repairs would never be made and eventually they'd move out or stop paying rent and be evicted.
According to interviews and a recorded phone conversation obtained by the newspaper, Bohra has threatened tenants to try to keep them from reporting code violations or complaining about the conditions of their homes. Tenants say he has threatened eviction, warned that he "knows a lot of people," and stated he was an electrician who knows how to burn a house down.
One tenant who lived in a Motel 6 with her daughter and seven grandchildren for five months while waiting for Bohra to make repairs said he eventually plugged a hole near the air-conditioning unit with a Capri Sun pouch. Another tenant recounted using a leaf blower to get dead cockroaches out of her house and begging Bohra to fix the stove, which was leaking gas.
Bohra also appeared on an episode of the TV courtroom show Judge Judy last year with Shirley Christopher, who accompanied her mother on a tour of one of his properties. Christopher injured her leg when she stepped through rotting wood on the front porch.
Bohra argued that Christopher should have walked on the other side of the porch. Judge Judith Sheindlin, who presides over real small-claims cases, ruled in Christopher's favor for $5,000.
Theodore Thompson, who lived in one of Bohra's North Little Rock properties, had a bathtub that wasn't properly sealed, a stove that caught fire and a possum living in a hole under the sink.
Thompson, when he learned about the lawsuit Monday, said action from the government against Bohra was "long overdue."
"It's plain and clear that Imran Bohra has been clearly breaking the laws in this state," Thompson said. " ... I'm just happy to hear that he has to answer to the government. There are so many individuals he's violated."
A Section on 08/06/2019