AR Briefly

State settles 2019 lawsuit against Pulaski County landlord over health, safety risks

By: - December 8, 2022 1:15 am
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This brief has been updated at 2:15 p.m. on Dec. 8, 2022, with additional information about the settlement.

The Arkansas Attorney General’s Office settled a lawsuit against a Little Rock and North Little Rock landlord in September, prohibiting the individual and his company from leasing units that risk the health and safety of the tenants.

The 2019 consumer protection lawsuit filed by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge claimed Entropy Systems Inc. and its president, Imran Bohra, violated state law by knowingly renting out units with city code violations. Bohra owned 150 properties in Pulaski County at the time of the lawsuit and rented them out to low-income tenants, the Arkansas 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,” according to the Sept. 27 Pulaski County Circuit Court documents that settled the Entropy lawsuit.

This violates the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, the suit 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.

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.

Bohra and Entropy Systems will be fined $20,000 if they are found to have knowingly rented out units with outstanding code violations, according to the settlement. As part of the settlement, the defendants also were to “voluntarily make a contribution to the Arkansas Attorney General’s Consumer Education and Enforcement Fund … in the amount of $5,000.”

Bohra and Entropy admitted no wrongdoing or liability, according to the settlement.

The suit resulted from a Democrat-Gazette investigation earlier in 2019 that revealed a documented history of poor living conditions and quick evictions at Bohra’s properties.

A spokeswoman for Rutledge said in an email this week that the Attorney General’s office has received no complaints about health and safety risks in properties owned or managed by Entropy or Bohra since the lawsuit settled.

Bohra and his lawyer, Edward Adcock, did not respond to calls requesting comment.

Similar, recent lawsuit

Rutledge sued a Little Rock apartment complex and its parent company in August of this year, claiming they also violated the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

That suit claims Big Country Chateau, a 151-unit complex on Colonel Glenn Road, and its New Jersey-based owner Apex Equity Group also rented out units knowing they were unsafe to live in.

The complex pleaded no contest to several code violations in Little Rock environmental court. As of November, the citations were still unresolved because management had been unable to access several units and was considering filing civil evictions in order to access them.

Big Country Chateau almost lost access to water and electricity Sept. 1 of this year because complex managers did not pay the utility bills despite promising tenants it would do so, according to Rutledge’s lawsuit.

Accepting consumers’ money for a previously agreed-upon purpose 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 lawsuit states.

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 still provide services to the complex.

Tenants have said that management often has not responded to maintenance requests and “scrambled” to do so after the nonpayment of utility bills became public knowledge in July.

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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. A Midwesterner by birth, she graduated from the University of Missouri's journalism school in 2019.