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?

***

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

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

ACORN Reunion and Revival Tour

New Orleans    The Little Rock premiere screening of THE ORGANIZER documentary that looked at ACORN past, present, and future was a fascinating and unique event, where everyone there might truthfully say, “I wish you couldn’t have been there!”  Everything was going against it in some ways. It was a hot day, Saturday afternoon, and Mothers’ Day weekend, and that’s just the short list at rocks in the road.

Key people on the turnout were out of town for the last push.  Talking to organizers, all of whom were seasoned crowd counters, days before the event and on the eve of the showing, the numbers were falling like a rock.  On the last call on the Monday beforehand as we counted down the days, when I tried to put a positive spin on the weakening commitment count by saying, “I think we have a shot at one-hundred,” an old, senior hand cautioned that I was being way too optimistic.  On the eve of the premiere another veteran thought we might get sixty.  The show must go on though, so whether many or few, we were all in.

We got there more than a half-hour early, and there were already two people at the locked door of the Ron Robinson Auditorium of the Central Arkansas Library System trying to get in.  People coming early is always a good sign and come they did.  At the front table we were swamped trying to get people to sign “Tell Me More” attendance and information sheets and buy copies of Nuts & Bolts:  The ACORN Fundamentals of Organizing.  When it was over, the CALS crew told me they thought the count was 130.  Admittedly, we aren’t movie people, so what happened here?

Ok, it surely helped that we had gotten some early reviews including in the Friday edition of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette that had scored the documentary at 87 out of 100, so people weren’t coming with expectations of seeing a dog.  But, the key to what drove people seemed simpler:  this was an ACORN love fest.  The standing ovation at the end of the movie was a giant “thank you” cheer for the organization’s contribution to change both in Arkansas and nationally.  It was an expression of deep pride that from this hard bitten, last on many lists, deep red state, ACORN had risen and become a voice for low and moderate-income people, had fought the good fight, often won, and sometimes lost.  The other secret to the event’s surge could be seen throughout the packed crowd when during a momentary lull in the Q&A period after the show ended, I asked everyone in the audience that had led or worked for ACORN or its family of organizations to stand and be recognized, and more than twenty people jumped up to long applause. This was a reunion of ACORN and those proud to be counted as supporters.

But, it was also more than that.  Question after question were not about the past, but about the future. What was the ACORN Home Savers Campaign doing in US cities, Wade? What are the chances that ACORN International would be big enough in the future to rebuild ACORN everywhere in the country?  Why was there such a “war on the poor” now and what could stand up to it?  These sparks of interest and anger were not nostalgic, they were demands for a revival, hard to answer, but impossible to ignore.

***

Please enjoy Samurai Cop (Oh, Joy Begin) by the Dave Matthews Band.

Thanks to KABF.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail