City court case against Little Rock residences with code violations near completion

By: - March 23, 2023 7:00 pm
Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin greets Big Country Chateau tenants (L-R) Clara Edmonston, Delores McDaniel and Jay Richard at a Jan. 26, 2023, tenants' rally in front of Little Rock City Hall. (Photo by Sonny Albarado)

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin greets Big Country Chateau tenants (Left to right) Clara Edmonston, Delores McDaniel and Jay Richard at a Jan. 26, 2023, tenants’ rally in front of Little Rock City Hall. (Sonny Albarado/Arkansas Advocate)

The Little Rock environmental court cases against two residences with a history of code violations are still pending after a Thursday hearing.

Big Country Chateau on Colonel Glenn Road has new citations against it after a February inspection, while a house on West 24th Street owned by a landlord with a history of legal issues is nearly repaired, according to the landlord’s attorney.

City code enforcement has been pursuing a case against Big Country Chateau since 2019 in Little Rock District Court. City code violations at the 151-unit apartment complex have included ​​mold, broken windows, exposed electrical wiring and scattered garbage. A Feb. 7 inspection of the property by code enforcement officers revealed more violations, Deputy City Attorney Alan Jones said Thursday.

In February, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Cara Connors froze the assets of Big Country Chateau, its holding company and its New Jersey-based parent company, all defendants in an ongoing consumer protection lawsuit. Connors later lifted the asset freeze at the request of Sylvester Smith, the attorney representing Big Country Chateau’s owners at the time.

Connors also granted a request from Attorney General Tim Griffin to appoint a third-party receiver to collect rent, pay utility bills and make repairs at the complex.

Sal Thomas, a senior official at a Houston real estate firm, was appointed as the receiver and was present via video conference at Thursday’s court hearing.

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In March, Little Rock District Judge Mark Leverett issued $31,950 in fines and court costs to Big Country Chateau’s owners. The 30 violations received the maximum fine of $1,000 each.

Leverett, Jones and Thomas agreed Thursday that the court should handle all pending cases and fines against the property at once. They said they would put the agreement in writing and set April 13 as the next court date, when Leverett said he expects another status update from both sides’ attorneys and possible sentencing for Big Country Chateau’s owners.

Jones said the Big Country Chateau owners are almost done repairing the few remaining problems at the complex, particularly in one unit.

“The light switch plate is not an issue [and] the smoke detector batteries were being replaced, so the life safety issues in that apartment have been rectified,” Jones said.

The complex’s ongoing issues

Big Country Chateau management pleaded no contest to the city code violations at an October hearing, when Smith said 10 units were inaccessible.

Seven units were left in November, and Smith said management was considering filing civil eviction actions against the residents of those units as a last resort to gain access but hoped it would not be necessary.

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.

Additionally, Big Country Chateau residents nearly lost both water and electricity twice in six months after apartment management did not pay the utility bills with the money collected in rent payments as promised.

Last year, Entergy Arkansas and Central Arkansas Water gave notice in July that they would cease services to the complex on Sept. 1. Big Country Chateau management paid off its $70,000 debt to Entergy Arkansas and made “arrangements” with Central Arkansas Water before Sept. 1, so both utilities continued to provide services to the complex until they sent notice in January that they intended to cancel again.


Griffin spoke to tenants and their supporters at a rally at Little Rock City Hall on Jan. 26, saying he had asked Entergy and Central Arkansas Water to postpone the shutoffs while his office worked on legal remedies.

Big Country Chateau residents at the rally said their struggles include unsafe living conditions. Other tenants previously told the Arkansas Advocate that management often has not responded to maintenance requests and “scrambled” to do so after the first nonpayment of utility bills became public knowledge in July 2022.

Griffin’s office is continuing the consumer protection lawsuit his predecessor Leslie Rutledge filed in August.

Accepting consumers’ money for a previously agreed-upon purpose, such as paying utility bills, and not using the money for that purpose is “a deceptive, false, and unconscionable business practice” that violates the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, the Pulaski County Circuit Court lawsuit states.

24th Street case

Rutledge also sued Imran Bohra and his company, Entropy Systems Inc., in 2019 for alleged deceptive business practices. The suit settled in September 2022 and requires Bohra and Entropy Systems to pay a fine of $20,000 if they are found to have knowingly rented out units with outstanding code violations.

Bohra owned 150 properties in Pulaski County at the time of the lawsuit. Many of his low-income tenants experienced poor living conditions and quick evictions, according to an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette investigation that precipitated the lawsuit.

Bohra and his attorney, Edward Adcock, appeared in city court Thursday to address pending city code violations from June and July 2022 against a house he owns on West 24th Street. The violations included nonworking drains and faucets, a broken water heater and holes in the walls and ceilings.

The $20,000 fine from the lawsuit settlement only applies if Bohra knew life and safety violations existed before renting out a unit, which Adcock has repeatedly said was not the case with the 24th Street house.

Detail of tenant Terry Lauderdale’s rented home on West 24th Street in Little Rock recently. Exposed wiring hangs from a hole in the residence’s ceiling. (John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate)

In February, Adcock said he would subpoena the house’s three most recent tenants, requiring them to appear at Thursday’s hearing. He claimed the problems with the house, which also included exposed electrical wiring, were entirely the tenants’ fault.

Terry Lauderdale and his two roommates were not present at the hearing and could not be reached for comment. Their absence was not a problem because Bohra helped them move to a new residence and the house is almost completely repaired, Adcock told Leverett.

“Since they exited, we’ve been able to get a great deal of work done,” Adcock said. “I think we can have it done in a couple of days, but we’re asking for seven days just to be sure.”

Leverett agreed to March 30 as the probable final court date for the case.

Lauderdale said in January that he and his roommates had moved into a camper in the backyard and planned to move as soon as they could afford it. He also said he planned to file a complaint against Bohra with Griffin’s office, but the complaint has not been filed as of Monday, said Jeff LeMaster, a spokesman for Griffin.

Lauderdale rented five or six properties from Bohra over several years and “tried to be considerate and nice [and] give him the benefit of the doubt” when problems with the house went unaddressed or repair work did not last, he said.

Exposed wiring electrocuted and killed one of Lauderdale’s dogs last year, and he said he initially held electricians responsible for the dog’s death. Several cover plates on light switches and electrical outlets were still missing months later.

Tiffany Edwards told the Advocate she had her own frustrating experience with unfulfilled repairs while renting a house from Bohra in North Little Rock.

Edwards said she moved to another residence earlier this year but is still on the hook for a $2,500 water bill. Bohra either did not send anyone to fix the water leak when she asked or sent people who did not get the job done, she said.

“I called him and told him about my water bill, that it was over $2,000, and he still tells me there’s nothing he can do,” Edwards said. “I tried telling him to just put it on his name, just to try to get my bill cleared up, but he won’t… Sometimes he won’t even answer the phone.”

She said she has not sought legal action.

Bohra and Adcock have refused to speak to the Advocate.

A house on West 24th Street in Little Rock, owned by landlord Imran Bohra, has faced several city code violations and is being repaired now that the previous tenants have moved out, Bohra’s attorney Edward Adcock said on March 23, 2023. (Tess Vrbin/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.