Little Rock Slumlord Highlights Tenant Abuse in Arkansas

source: https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/jan/13/code-violations-follow-landlord/

Little Rock       Imran Bohra is not exactly a household name everywhere in Pulaski County, where Little Rock and North Little Rock are located, but among lower income tenants, he’s famous in the worst of ways as a notorious slumlord.  He has about 150 properties that he rents in both cities with perhaps the bulk of them in North Little Rock.  Recently, his latest company, Entropy, and his practices got some much-needed attention after he evicted and seized the possession of Theodore Thompson, a tenant who is also a member of Arkansas Community Organizations (ACO), the former Arkansas ACORN, and their tenant organizing and advocacy project.

Of course, saying he was tenant is kind of a stretch in some ways because he was never given a key to his apartment after Bohra drove him to look at the place and kept his car idling outside while Thompson checked it out.  Supposedly, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, his property manager was supposed to drop the key by.  Thompson didn’t pay rent without the key and didn’t know where he was even supposed to pay his rent.  Then Thompson found an eviction note affixed to the door and Bohra seized all his belongings in the process, which amazingly is a landlord’s right in Arkansas.

Thompson, ACO, and the rest of us might ask how any of this is possible and how can it be stopped.  As Thompson says, “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.”

Sadly, this seems to be just business-as-usual for Bohra and from talking to Neil Sealy, head organizer of ACO, many other slumlords in central Arkansas who operate with similar impunity.  Since the beginning of 2016, the newspaper found that Bohra’s properties had been cited for code violations 170 times in Little Rock and North Little Rock.  Many of Bohra’s tenants claim they believe he has no interest in making repairs because a big part of his business model is based on collecting security deposits, first and last month rent, and pyramiding his money based on quick evictions.

All of that is helped by the fact that Arkansas has arguably the worst laws protecting tenants in the country.  Without a doubt, Arkansas is the only state that has a statute that makes eviction a criminal offense!  What that really means is that a tenant either protesting and withholding their rent to pressure a landlord to make repairs, or a tenant falling behind on their rent is seen under Arkansas law to be effectively stealing from their landlord.

A landlord can also evict a tenant with three (3) days’ notice for any reason or no reason at all and file a notice of “unlawful detainer” in civil court.  As the Attorney General’s website details that’s not a pretty process:

Unlawful detainer actions require a landlord to provide you with a three days’ written notice to vacate. If you do not leave, the landlord can sue by filing a complaint against you in court. After you receive a summons to appear in court, you have five days to object in writing to the eviction. Any objection must be filed with the clerk of the court in which the eviction action was filed, and you should send a copy of your objection to the landlord’s lawyer. If you do not file an objection, you can be removed from the dwelling by the county sheriff. If you do object, a hearing will be scheduled to determine the outcome to your case.

If that’s not bad, it can actually get worse for tenants.  As one report noted:

Tenants who plead not guilty have to pay the amount the landlord says they owe to the court before they can get a trial. In the Little Rock suburb of Jacksonville, they’re held on $250 bail.

If criminalizing non-rent payment isn’t enough to make Arkansas the most landlord friendly state in the country, the fact that there is no “warrant of habitability” guaranteeing that the tenant is living in a safe dwelling also makes Arkansas the only state without such a promise to its citizens as well.

It’s fair to say that Arkansas has the worst landlord-tenant laws in the country.  How long can this be allowed to continue?

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Please enjoy Keith Richards’ Talk is Cheap 30th Anniversary Reissue. Thanks to KABF.

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Federal Penalties Coming to Middle South Nursing Homes for Care Failures

New Orleans       There are few lobbies as powerful as the nursing home owners’ groups in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi.  All of which makes the intervention of federal rules extending some of the same accountability standards that hospitals now face, welcome news.  The fact that the penalties go right to their pocketbooks is even better news.

Here’s the deal on the new rules hitting nursing homes across the country now.  Penalties – or incentives for those doing better – will be meted out to nursing homes based on the frequency of readmission of elderly Medicare patients that are returned to hospitals within thirty days of leaving a skilled nursing home.  The financial penalty can reach up to 2% of the individual Medicare reimbursement rate per patient.  Hospitals already have to measure up to this standard and in recent months nursing homes came under the same regime.

Will this affect many homes?  Yes, indeed!

Kaiser Health News reported an analysis of homes in Louisiana and found that 85% of the 277 skilled nursing facilities in the state would be subject to a penalty based on data from 2015 through 2017.  Not that Louisiana was by itself since the figures for nursing homes in Arkansas and Mississippi was almost exactly the same.  Bottom line:  the vast majority of nursing homes in the three-state area are facing penalties.  The Advocate reports that in New Orleans for example, a dozen facilities will face a penalty and only two will receive small bonuses for doing right.  These are not just problems with for-profit providers.  The three homes overseen by the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans will each receive almost the maximum penalty for each new admission at 1.98% of the possible 2%.

The question of how nursing homes can provide better care to patients, often elderly, sick, and frail, is a constant concern for families and appropriately for public policy.  Reading the comments from administrators of homes that got the good grades under the new rule, they cite getting more thorough information from the hospitals about incoming and prospective patients is key as well as offering preventive care on site.

All of that sounds right, but given the long experience that Local 100, United Labor Unions, has had in representing nursing home workers and observing care conditions firsthand, it will be difficult to fundamentally improve care until staffing levels are adequate to the significant health demands of patients as a first priority.  Being able to retain professional caregivers also means compensating workers commensurate to the value of the service they provide to families and patients.  In the thirty or more years that we have been involved with nursing homes we still see a conflict faced by many home owners and operators between seeing the facilities as real estate developments with a sideline in healthcare as opposed to healthcare facilities that happen to be built on real estate.

We’ve got a long way to go still, but hopefully the application of this new rule will bring some change now that owners will feel the pain of nonperformance in dollars and cents.

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