Health and safety risks at Little Rock house persist, tenant says

Landlord was previously sued by the state for deceptive trade practices

By: - January 26, 2023 6:30 am

Terry Lauderdale stands in the backyard of his rented home on West 24th Street in Little Rock. He and two roommates live in the camper instead of the house because of unsafe living conditions, he said. An American flag hangs from an electric scooter that Lauderdale said is his only form of transportation. (Photo by John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate)

Terry Lauderdale and his two roommates live in a camper in the backyard of the house they rent on West 24th Street in Little Rock.

The house itself is no longer livable because of nonworking drains and faucets, a broken water heater, and holes in the walls and ceilings, Lauderdale said. He is fed up with asking the landlord, Imran Bohra, to send people to make repairs, he added.

“I tried to be considerate and nice [and] give him the benefit of the doubt,” Lauderdale said. “The doubts are over.”

Little Rock city code inspectors cited Bohra’s company, Entropy Systems Inc., for “life and safety violations” at the 24th Street house in June 2022. None of the violations had been repaired at a re-inspection in July, according to city documents obtained via an Arkansas Freedom of Information Act request in December.

Edward Adcock, Bohra’s attorney, told Little Rock’s environmental court judge on Dec. 21 that the life and safety violations had been resolved just days earlier.

However, Lauderdale said Wednesday that many of the problems with the house have been there since he and his roommates moved in a year ago. They are trying to leave but cannot currently afford to move, he said.

Lauderdale said he intends to file a complaint with the attorney general’s office as soon as he receives the proper forms in the mail. Then-Attorney General Leslie Rutledge settled a lawsuit against Bohra and Entropy last year that leaves them open to being fined for knowingly renting unsafe housing.

The only current source of heat in the house is a space heater, and the windows have never been able to open as long as Lauderdale has lived there, he said. The complaint filed by city code inspectors noted the damaged walls and ceilings, poorly functioning plumbing and exposed electrical wiring.

Several cover plates on light switches and electrical outlets are still missing, even after the citations from the city and even after exposed wiring electrocuted and killed one of Lauderdale’s dogs last year, he said.

The house is the fifth or sixth property he has rented from Bohra in about six years, he said.

“Every time I’ve talked to another landlord, nobody has anything good to say about him,” Lauderdale said. “When they find out I’ve been renting from Imran Bohra, they say, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t rent to you. You’ll probably bring in roaches.’”

The bathroom sink drain is disconnected in the house on West 24th Street in Little Rock that Terry Lauderdale rents from landlord Imran Bohra. Lauderdale said the drain has not been connected once in the year he has lived in the house. Functional plumbing is a legal requirement of rental housing in Arkansas. (Photo by John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate)

Deceptive business practice allegations

Living conditions at Bohra’s properties have attracted legal and media attention for years.

Then-Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office sued Bohra and Entropy in 2019, claiming they knowingly rented out units that violated city code. The suit resulted from an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette investigation earlier in 2019 that revealed a documented history of poor living conditions and quick evictions at Bohra’s properties.

The defendants admitted no wrongdoing or liability, according to the Pulaski County Circuit Court documents that settled the lawsuit in September 2022.

If he has failed to live up to his commitment, I am prepared to take him back to court.

– Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin

Bohra owned 150 properties in Pulaski County at the time of the lawsuit and rented them out to low-income tenants, the Democrat-Gazette reported.

“Leasing properties with known code violations affecting the life and safety of tenants before abating the code violation violates the public policy of leasing properties that conform to minimum housing standards,” court documents state.

This violates the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Rutledge’s lawsuit alleged.

Life and safety violations in rental housing include a lack of or malfunctioning electricity, hot and cold running water, plumbing system and heating and cooling system, among other things, according to court documents.

These minimum standards did not become required by state law until 2021.

The settlement dictates that Bohra and Entropy Systems will be fined $20,000 if they are found to have knowingly rented out units with outstanding code violations. The fine only applies if Bohra knew life and safety violations existed before renting out a unit.

Adcock told the Arkansas Advocate in December that the problems at the 24th Street house arose after the current residents moved in. Lauderdale said this is not true and Bohra should not be blaming his tenants.

“I’m not capable of getting down [on the floor] with my false teeth and chewing holes in the wall,” Lauderdale said, referring to the rats living in the kitchen.

Breaking the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act results in a Class A misdemeanor, and the attorney general may seek an injunction against the offender, according to state statute. Violators of this law can be fined up to $10,000 per violation.

Attorney General Tim Griffin, who took office earlier this month, is aware of the settlement with Bohra and the potential violations.

“If he has failed to live up to his commitment, I am prepared to take him back to court,” Griffin said in an emailed statement.

Adcock could not be reached for comment Wednesday, and Bohra answered a phone call but declined to comment.

Getting by

Several of the doors in the West 24th Street house are not attached to the frames, and the water heater is not vented because the pipe is the wrong size.

Bohra has sometimes sent maintenance workers to make repairs, but the repairs do not last, Lauderdale said.

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The camper in the backyard receives water from the house via multiple hoses and electricity via extension cords. Lauderdale said the water is only used in short intervals for bathing and doing dishes.

As of Wednesday morning, Lauderdale said the last time he spoke to Bohra was Friday when he asked via text, “Are you going to fix the house today?”

Later that day, Bohra taped an eviction notice to the house’s front door. Lauderdale said he has always paid rent on time and there is no reason for Bohra to evict him. Additionally, the notice had the wrong address written on it.

The city’s case against Bohra at this location is still pending, and he is due to appear in court again Feb. 9.

Lauderdale said he will see Bohra in court and hopes Bohra is eventually required to pay for him and his roommates to move someplace livable.

“For $850 a month, I’d really like to have a house I can live in,” Lauderdale said.

The house on West 24th Street rented by Terry Lauderdale includes an unvented water heater adjacent to the kitchen. Lauderdale said landlord Imran Bohra is aware of this and has not sent anyone to fix the heater. (Photo by John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate)

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Tess Vrbin
Tess Vrbin

Tess Vrbin came to the Advocate from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where she reported on low-income housing and tenants' rights, and won awards for her coverage of 2021 flooding and tornado damage in rural Arkansas. She previously covered local government for The Commercial Dispatch in Mississippi and state government for the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri.