ROANOKE — This is how Holly McDuffie describes her home: “The crappiest house in Roanoke.”
It’s got mold, exposed wiring and plumbing problems. The air conditioning doesn’t work. Bricks are separating from the house.
Camille Maxwell is concerned about her daughter’s safety, fearing that her house may simply collapse around them because the master support beam is broken in three places.
Her master bathroom caved in last fall.
“As you can see, there is no frame underneath this side of house anymore,” she said, pointing to the massive hole where her bathtub and hot water heater once sat in the Collin County home.
McDuffie and Maxwell don’t know each other. But they do have something in common: Khosrow Sadeghian.
He’s the landlord News 8 recently told you about who specializes in renting to people with no credit or bad credit. Sadeghian owns in excess of a 1,000 properties throughout North Texas in Denton, Collin, Dallas and Johnson counties.
He had rented a house in the Sanger area to Jim and Debra Bowers. He promised that fixes would be made to the property. When the repairs weren’t made, the Bowers couldn’t move into the property.
That left the Bowers living with their three children in a motel, paying rent there — in addition to paying for the mobile home they couldn't live in.
The plumbing was in disrepair. The toilets didn’t work. The air conditioning system was malfunctioning. There were holes in the floor throughout, letting rodents and other creatures into the home. There was evidence of mold under the sink and elsewhere.
Last week — five days after News 8 aired a story about their plight — Sadeghian returned the rent and deposit money to the Bowers. He told them in a recorded conversation that a maintenance worker had lied to him about having made repairs.
The Bowers said they didn’t believe that, saying that they had repeatedly notified Sadeghian of the problems with the property.
Since the Bowers' story was broadcast, dozens of current and former tenants of Sadeghian have contacted News 8 with accounts of their own problems with the landlord.
“This house had no water, toilet flushed under the house, dumping raw sewage onto the ground,” wrote one former tenant.
"I, too, was stuck in a uninhabitable home by Khosrow,” wrote another.
Desperate and angry tenants even started a Facebook page: Stop Khosrow Sadeghian.
“I think that he has lost sight of humanity. I think that he should have to live in the housing standards that he has set for his tenants,” McDuffie said.
Maxwell and McDuffie, like so many others, described meeting Sadeghian at a Denton Jack in the Box to sigh the rental papers.
“It was really a strange situation,” Maxwell recalled. “I have never met a professional at a fast food restaurant to do business.”
Tenants frequently sign three-year leases, with the idea that they can one day buy the property. The length of the lease is unusual.
“So you’re taking the American dream and you’re scamming people,” McDuffie said.
But there’s another element that experts say is different than the typical lease.
The leases often include the phrase “AS IS,” and that the tenants are accepting the “premises in their present condition ‘AS IS,’ the premises being currently suitable for their permitted use.”
Current and former tenants say Sadeghian frequently promises repairs in order to get people to sign the leases. They also say that they don’t realize that language is in the lease until later — when they’ve learned that there are significant problems with the properties.
Legal experts question whether that practice is even legal. The Texas property code requires landlords to “make a diligent effort to repair or remedy a condition” if it “materially affects the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant.”
Shortly after moving in November 2012, the Maxwells noticed a leak under the linoleum in the laundry room. They shut off the water and had someone come out and replace the hot water heater.
That’s when things went from bad to worse.
The plumber found mold behind a wall. Camille Maxwell's husband removed the sheet rock and then the bathroom floor caved in.
“We were actually standing there when the bathtub went through the floor,” Maxwell said. “If we’d have been on the other side, we would have went through…. and as you can see there is no frame underneath this side of the house any more."
On one side of the property, the plumber found a foot of water standing under the house. He cut a hole to drain the water. He began making the repairs, but stopped when found a foundation issue: The main support beam was cracked in three places.
Then they found termites. They paid about $1,700 to Terminix.
In September 2013, Maxwell sent Sadeghian a letter outlining the problems with the house, including the problem with the support beam.
“This causes major concern regarding the stability of the house now,” Maxwell wrote in the letter. She also outlined the state laws concerning a landlord’s responsibility to make repairs.
“He just said that it was an 'as is' lease, so he felt like we should be responsible for it,” said Maxwell, who pays about $1,600 a month in rent to Sadeghian.
Maxwell said she won’t let her eight-year-old daughter into the master bathroom area. Her husband has put down plywood to keep her from falling through if the rest of the floor collapses.
She also doesn’t come into the room if either the washer or drier are running for fear that the vibrations could cause a cave-in.
Problems began immediately for Holly McDuffie after she moved in around April 2013.
When she turned on the water, it became spewing from a valve in one of the bathrooms and flooded portions of the house. The air conditioning went out in the summer. A contractor discovered exposed wiring outside from the meter box to the house.
“So one touch, one trip, one accidental 'what’s this?' and you’re looking at volts of electricity running through someone,” McDuffie said.
The master bathroom toilet still does not work. The guest bathroom shower cannot be used because the piping is not attached.
There’s mold under the sinks. Electrical outlets have separated from the wall.
McDuffie said she constantly worried that someone would get electrocuted even doing something as simple as plugging in a vacuum.
The air conditioning was operating on a recent evening, but it was 80 degrees in the house. The porch is caving in. There’s a hole in her children’s bedroom, exposing bathroom plumbing.
“It’s bad,” McDuffie said, laughing in frustration. “I’m thankful that it is not as bad as it has been for others, but it’s still unacceptable for my family. They deserve better.”
McDuffie called Roanoke code enforcement to the home last week. Inspectors found "structural, plumbing, electrical and mechanical violations," according to a letter posted on the house Monday.
Code enforcement also posted this notice stating: "Do not enter. Unsafe to occupy."
McDuffie broke her lease and moved out over the weekend. Maxwell is also trying to move.
“Honestly, I don’t think that [Sadeghian] should be able to rent out properties without having the city or the county inspect them first, and that’s simply because I’m not the only person having this issue,” Maxwell said.