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Code violations follow Arkansas landlord; records reveal history of shoddy properties, quick evictions

by Ginny Monk | January 13, 2019 at 4:30 a.m.
Theodore Thompson sits Friday in the empty North Little Rock apartment he moved into recently. Thompson is caught in a series of legal and emotional battles with his former landlord, Imran Bohra, who Thompson says seized his belongings in an eviction dispute. “It’s hard for me to understand how I’m not the first, and if he’s not stopped, I definitely won’t be the last,” Thompson said.

Theodore Thompson’s personal belongings are gone. His dogs, taken. His sense of security, wavering.

The trouble started when Thompson, 53, moved into a home on Parker Street in North Little Rock at the end of July. The four-bedroom, 1,527-square-foot house had a backyard, where his two dogs, Roscoe and Zeus, could run.

Before he moved in, Thompson looked through the house quickly and alone while his future landlord, Imran Bohra, waited with the car running.

Over the next several weeks, Thompson started noticing the problems with the house — the stove caught fire the first time he used it, there was a hole under the kitchen sink where a possum had taken residence, and the bathtub wasn’t properly sealed.

All those things violate city housing codes and could lead to sanctions for the landlord. Bohra has been cited many times for code violations, but he also has a history of evicting tenants when they complain about the condition of his properties, an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette investigation found.

Thompson never got the keys to the Parker Street house because when he moved in, Bohra told him to get them from the property manager, Tommy Robinson. Despite nearly daily calls, Thompson said he never heard back from Robinson.

Robinson told a reporter he didn’t know who Thompson was and had never heard from him regarding the keys.

When it came time to pay rent, Thompson asked Bohra to pick it up. He said he didn’t know where to take the money because Bohra had never given him instructions.

[RELATED: Advocates say Arkansas laws unfair to low-income renters]

Thompson was reluctant to pay rent anyway on a house that he couldn’t lock, he said.

Soon Bohra taped a handwritten eviction notice to Thompson’s door, two days before the lease’s late-fee deadline.

That Sept. 3 eviction notice started a series of legal and emotional battles for Thompson that continue.

“It’s hard for me to understand how I’m not the first, and if he’s not stopped, I definitely won’t be the last,” Thompson said of his experience with Bohra.

Bohra has been a landlord in Pulaski County since at least the 1990s, newspaper archives show. The articles chronicle some of Bohra’s many code violations.

Bohra has about 150 rental properties in Pulaski County.

Court records, city documents and interviews with former and current residents show Bohra has a pattern of renting homes that aren’t safe or sanitary to people who are desperate for housing — single mothers, people on fixed incomes, people with mental illness, people who are formerly homeless.

His properties have been cited by code enforcement officers in Little Rock and North Little Rock at least 170 times since the start of 2016.

2905 Broadway Street code violation timeline.
2905 Broadway Street code violation timeline.

Bohra has filed unlawful-detainer lawsuits to evict at least 95 tenants since July 2017. Unlawful detainer is one of a couple of methods landlords use to evict tenants in Arkansas. It gives tenants 10 days to move out after failing to pay rent or violating a lease before the sheriff can forcibly remove them.

Being evicted by unlawful detainer also affects a tenant’s credit report and rental history.

A detainer suit also keeps the case in civil court. Arkansas is the only state that also has a criminal eviction law, which is still used in a few parts of the state.

Bohra has even appeared on an episode of Judge Judy, the long-running TV courtroom program in which former family court judge Judith Sheindlin presides over real small-claims cases.

Imran Bohra runs for cover during a sudden thunderstorm in downtown Little Rock in this October 2010 feature photo. An attorney who specializes in housing matters calls Bohra a “slumlord on steroids” for his treatment of people who rent property from him.
Imran Bohra runs for cover during a sudden thunderstorm in downtown Little Rock in this October 2010 feature photo. An attorney who specializes in housing matters calls Bohra a “slumlord on steroids” for his treatment of people who rent property from him.

‘CONSISTENT STORY’

Robinson, who said he’s worked for Bohra for about 29 years, said he and two other maintenance workers try to get to all of Bohra’s properties that need repairs.

He’s aware that tenants complain about them not getting fixed, he said.

“I do my best,” he said.

Tenants say they think Bohra intentionally ignores problems with his properties to get people to move out more quickly and justify keeping their deposits, but Robinson said Bohra has never told him to ignore a tenant’s request.

Reached by phone, Bohra declined to comment without speaking to his lawyer, but subsequent phone calls to Bohra and an email to his lawyer were not returned.

“Are these all negative about me?,” he asked when a reporter told him the article was based on experiences from former tenants. “OK, ma’am, let me talk to my lawyer.”

Bohra almost always represents himself in court for eviction cases, but in his case against Thompson, he hired Little Rock attorney Greg Alagood. A company called Entropy Inc. owns Bohra’s properties, according to public records.

When Bohra has represented himself in unlawful-detainer litigation, Robinson signs an affidavit certifying the violation prompting the eviction, and a lease is attached.

Many of the dates on the submitted leases are vague, wrong or don’t match the affidavits. In one case, filed July 18, the lease is dated Nov. 2, 2017. But the affidavit says the lease started in 2018, and the notary’s signature is dated 2015.

Another case in March states that the tenant received the notice to vacate in 2020. One lease says it was signed in “approximately 2005,” while another says “sometime in 2012.”

Bohra’s efforts to evict tenants often come before or after — within two years — of officials condemning a property or declaring it uninhabitable, court records show.

Sometimes the evictions occur more quickly.

At one property on Broadway in Little Rock, Bohra evicted a tenant July 23. Code enforcement officers found 10 life-safety issues three days later and twice — on Aug. 28 and Sept. 6 — declared the house unfit for human habitation.

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.

Still, people with lower incomes find the properties, which often are listed for less than $600 per month, and move in with promises of problems getting fixed, said attorney Amy Pritchard.

Pritchard, who specializes in housing matters, calls Bohra a “slumlord on steroids” because his practices are extreme. She says similar things may be happening on a smaller scale throughout Little Rock.

“He finds very vulnerable people and convinces them to move into houses, a lot of them that [the code enforcement agency] has condemned or that are not livable,” said Pritchard, who represented Thompson in his eviction lawsuit.

Bohra “takes a security deposit or makes promises to repair and then people move in, and the places are completely uninhabitable.

“It seems like a pretty consistent story people are telling.”

RENTING AS-IS

After Thompson’s initial walk-through on Parker Street, he said Bohra drove him to a KFC restaurant where he signed the lease.

He said he asked for the place to be fixed up and whether he could rent to own. Bohra agreed that he would provide a new contract for rent-to-own, but said he was renting it “as-is” at $500 a month, Thompson said.

Bohra then asked about Thompson’s income — he gets $750 a month as a disability check. Bohra dug into the reasons for the disability check and learned that Thompson has depression and bipolar disorder. Thompson signed the lease July 27.

On Sept. 8, five days after the notice to vacate was posted, two men knocked on Thompson’s door. One brandished a long knife and threatened to “cut your head off,” according to a North Little Police Department report.

Thompson said the men told him they were friends with his landlord and wanted him to leave the house.

Floyd Jump, a 53-year-old from North Little Rock, was later arrested and pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and terroristic threatening for the incident.

The details of the incident and other interactions between Thompson and Bohra are outlined in a civil lawsuit Thompson filed against Bohra on Tuesday.

“He’s got a habit of scaring people off, and I’ve seen that,” Thompson said. “I’m not going to let you intimidate me like that.”

According to other former and current residents of Bohra’s properties and a recorded phone conversation obtained by the newspaper that Bohra left a tenant, he has made other threats. He’s told tenants that he “knows a lot of people,” to stop asking for inspections or risk eviction, and stating he was an electrician with the ability to burn a house down.

On Sept. 13, Thompson called the code enforcement agency about conditions at the Parker Street address. The ensuing report included 23 code violations with an order to fix the problems by Oct. 15. The violations involved nearly every part of the house, including the leaking roof, nonworking windows and rotted bathroom walls.

Four days after code enforcement officers visited, someone dropped off paperwork on Thompson’s doorstep, informing him he was being served with an unlawful-detainer lawsuit. Thompson got help from Pritchard in the case.

Code enforcement officials returned in October after a North Little Rock Animal Control officer stopped at the house and emailed the code enforcement office to let inspectors know that Thompson was living without water or electricity, according to documents obtained through Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

The animal control unit later took Thompson’s dogs, he said, because they had gotten out of the house.

The dogs are emotional-support animals, Thompson said. Thompson’s sister, with whom he’d been living, was tired of them staying at her place before he found Bohra’s house.

“I was in a position where I really had to get my dogs safe,” Thompson said. He calls the animals his reason to live and said he used to cook them dinner every night rather than serving them dog food.

On Dec. 21, Thompson went to the courthouse to file a response to the unlawful-detainer lawsuit. When he returned to the Parker Street house, he saw a U-Haul truck pulling away with all of his belongings in it.

Robinson was driving it, he said, and Bohra was following in his car.

“He [Bohra] does that sometimes when there’s a notice that they have been evicted, and it’s been a certain number of days,” Robinson told the newspaper.

Although the notice had been posted on Thompson’s door, he says the eviction case was not final when his belongings were removed.

“Christmas got real hard,” Thompson said, his voice quivering. It was his first Christmas in seven years without the dogs, and as he sat in his new, empty apartment, he said he started drinking, although he’s been sober for years.

Thompson said this month that he’s stable again, after a stint at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, where he stayed after the drinking binge.

‘DOESN’T MATTER TO THEM’

Tawania Nooner, her daughter and Nooner’s seven grandchildren were supposed to stay three days in a Motel 6 while Bohra prepared a house for her family.

Nooner had found Bohra’s place, three bedrooms on Eagle Drive, while driving around looking for a cheaper place to rent. Nooner is a home nurse, but hadn’t been working for a few weeks while she cared for her mother, who died in October from stomach cancer.

Bohra’s place was about $300 less per month than her previous residence.

The short motel stay that began Aug. 2 stretched into a month, two months, then five months.

Finally, Nooner, 44, signed the lease for a three-bedroom house on Aug. 2.

She found it hard to see what Bohra had repaired. The cabinets were water-damaged and caving in, the carpets were infested with mold, and there were holes in the ceiling.

Her 11-year-old grandson, Kameron, who has severe asthma, suffered an attack so severe when he stepped into the house that he landed in the intensive-care unit.

Another granddaughter, 2, walked through the house in her bare feet and got scabies, Nooner said.

Nevertheless, Nooner offered to clean up and fix what she could while staying in the motel, but Bohra said he would fix the holes in the ceiling and the broken air-conditioning unit.

When Nooner returned, she said that, instead of fixing the air conditioning, Bohra had put in three oscillating fans. One of the larger holes just above the air conditioner was plugged with a Capri Sun pouch.

Even though she never moved in, Nooner never got her deposit or first month’s rent back and lost about $1,100.

“People that’s on the lower end of the financial spectrum, we tend to get treated badly because our credit is usually shot. We have to deal with these landlords that really don’t care anything about their properties; they’re just more for securing the check,” Nooner said.

“Once they get your money, it doesn’t matter to them. If you live in it, fine. If you don’t, fine. If you go in there and you die, fine. I’m still going to make my money.”

‘ERRATIC’

Bohra used to have a reputation around Little Rock as a slumlord, housing advocates and renters say. Then, for a few years, he dropped off their radar when his son took over the business. A slumlord is “an unscrupulous landlord who milks a property without concern for tenants, neighborhoods or their own long-term interests,” according to USLegal, a website that provides legal definitions.

In 2013, Bohra’s son petitioned the courts, got guardianship over his father and took over the rental units. The guardianship was terminated in March 2017.

The Democrat-Gazette was unable to reach Bohra’s son by phone, email or at his home.

During that time, things got better with the properties, said Pritchard, the housing lawyer.

In a letter included in the guardianship court file, Bohra’s doctor says he thought Bohra’s behavior was “erratic and poorly conceived.”

Bohra told him that he had purchased eight cars for women living in his properties, forgiven rent or paid rent for certain women and was paying for women to fly to Little Rock to visit him, the doctor wrote.

A female tenant who rents a house from Bohra in Little Rock, said that when she first moved in about a year ago, she and Bohra had a sexual encounter, which she went along with because she feared she would lose her subsidized housing.

The tenant, who asked to remain anonymous because she still lives in the house, didn’t report the incident at the time, although she has texted Bohra about it since.

In late December, a reporter witnessed her telling two housing authority employees about the encounter. One laughed, and the other referred her to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

In describing the incident to a reporter, the 47-year-old woman said she went to the house to sign the lease. When she saw that the lease listed the property as having two bedrooms, she told Bohra that the house she wanted to rent had three bedrooms.

Bohra told her he would adjust the Section 8 voucher, that it would be fine for her to rent the three-bedroom, and then grabbed her breast, she said.

“I don’t know if this guy is the blessing or the devil,” she said she thought at the time.

Bohra then asked her to visit with him later to talk more about the house. When she went over, she said, he asked about her teenage son, about her parents’ deaths, whether she had a boyfriend.

But toward the end of the conversation, he got up to use the bathroom and returned naked, she said. He asked her to lean back and rubbed his body on her leg for a few minutes.

After the encounter, he gave her back the $500 deposit, but when she started asking for things around the house to be fixed, his demeanor changed.

“It was like a whole light switch went on and off, and that was it,” she said.

She persuaded him to treat the house for bugs because it was full of cockroaches. After they were dead, she had to use a leaf blower to get them all out, she said.

But text messages between the two show that the landlord wouldn’t respond to requests to fix her stove, which was leaking gas.

After a gas company sent someone to the house, she texted Bohra: “He fixed leak from hot water tank and disconnected the stove. Our lives were in danger. I’m not ready to be found dead.”

Bohra told her he would send a carpet cleaner over after one of her bedrooms flooded, but instead set up a fan in the room, which reeks of mildew, she said.

She requested a special inspection from the Metropolitan Housing Alliance to get the stove fixed, and Bohra tried to evict her for it, she said.

In a recorded phone conversation, he told her that he was evicting her because “you’re a pain in the butt. You don’t call me, and you call for special inspection, and that has never happened to me.”

He later changed his mind and renewed her lease in December at the housing authority office.

Landlords who participate in the Section 8 program must pass annual inspections. The program provides rental assistance to people who have low incomes, usually by paying the landlord directly.

The tenant said that when the inspector last came, Robinson the maintenance man was there and just closed the door on the worst of the problems so the inspector wouldn’t go in. He had with him caulk and paint and said he was about to start fixing things up around the house.

“This was just to pass inspection to get me in here,” she said. “If they show the inspectors that they’re doing something, the inspectors will pass them.”

The house passed inspection, but the caulk and paint are still sitting on her front porch, and the jobs Robinson started aren’t finished.

Metropolitan Housing Alliance officials did not return requests for comment.

Since she started living there, the tenant says she’s been in emotional distress, and even though she has a master’s degree in business, she doesn’t feel that she can get stable enough to find a job other than substitute teaching.

She tolerates the living conditions, her “sick” feeling about the sexual encounter and the landlord’s verbal abuse for her 15-year-old son’s sake, she said. The neighborhood is good, and his grades are going up now that he’s in a school he likes.

“If I didn’t have my baby, I promise you I would live in a box,” she said. “I don’t need none of this.”

JUDGE JUDY

In July, Bohra appeared on an episode of Judge Judy, facing Shirley Christopher, whose leg plunged through deteriorating wood on the front porch of a house her mother was looking at renting.

Judge Judy ruled in Christopher’s favor for $5,000.

Bohra, who smiled and laughed throughout the episode, said Christopher should have walked on the other side of the porch.

“Mr. Bohra, if you want to be a slumlord, that’s your prerogative,” Judge Judy told him. “But I’m going to tell you you are responsible for the condition of the home. You are. And the way you left the porch on this home is outrageous.”

At the end of November, two new tenants, who did not want to be identified, were moving into another one of Bohra’s properties — a trailer home in Alexander — country music blaring while they carried boxes. They were careful not to walk into one of the bedrooms for fear the floor would fall through.

The railings of the porch were falling apart, and plastic siding was pulling away from the house. Plywood subflooring was exposed in some rooms. Carpet was loose and turning up at the corners in several rooms.

Bohra had promised it would all be fixed within days; the tenants said they just wanted to get an early start on the move.

Robinson, the maintenance man, had just left to get more supplies, they said, but they were sure he was coming back.

Photo by Special to the Democrat-Gazette
Amy Pritchard

Print Headline: Code violations follow Arkansas landlord; records reveal history of shoddy properties, quick evictions

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