Khosrow Sadeghian rents homes to tenants all over North Texas.
He specializes in renting to people with bad credit. But dozens and dozens of current and former tenants have come forward to complain about unsafe, substandard and dangerous conditions in some of his rental properties.
City of Denton code officials also describe him one of their most problematic landlords.
So what can a city do?
“To deal with the Khosrow Sadeghians of the world, I think cities probably need rental inspection programs,” said Lancine Bentley, manager of Denton's community improvement services. “It’s really the only way to deal with someone like Khosrow Sadeghian.”
In 2006, efforts to create a single-family rental inspection program in Denton failed, largely because of push-back from landlords. City officials currently have no legal authority to enter single family rental homes unless the landlord or the tenant grant permission.
Several North Texas cities have adopted single family rental inspection programs that give them that right: Carrollton, Lewisville, North Richland Hills, Coppell and Garland.
Last October, one of Sadeghian’s tenants on Johnson Street asked Denton code enforcement officials to inspect their rented home after growing concerns that it wasn’t safe to live there.
Officials concluded that she was right. Inspectors found a litany of issues, including exposed wiring, a broken sanitary pipe spilling raw sewage into a storm drain, an unsafe and dangerous electrical panel, a leaking roof in danger of collapse, and an electrified medicine cabinet panel.
“The wiring was all wired in backwards so that things that weren’t supposed to be electric was,” said Robin Williams, the former tenant. “Things that weren’t supposed to be electric wasn’t. The windows... you’d walk by and you’d touch them and they’d fall out.”
Robin and her husband, Floyd, only lived in the house for a few months before they had to move. They say Sadeghian refused to return their deposit money and they’re still living in a motel room nine months later, unable to afford anything better.
“In order for us to be able to catch these types of human safety violations you need to be able to go inside those properties,” Bentley said.
Sadeghian has more than 600 tenants and owns about 1,700 properties in the region. He said he felt he had been unfairly portrayed as a bad landlord. He described himself a “better than average” landlord.
Steven Killen, director of Garland code compliance, has had his own dealings with Sadeghian.
“Khosrow, I know can be a challenging landlord,” Killen said. “He is quick to question the standards that we ask him to meet. He can be very oppositional.”
Killen said Garland established a rental inspection program in 2005, largely because of the city’s aging housing stock. About 15 percent of the city’s single family homes are rental properties, Killen said.
“We had documented evidence of people that were living in homes and they simply were not habitable,” Killen said. “We would find that they would live in these conditions and not want to ask for help in fear of retaliation.”
The program requires inspections any time there's a new tenant. The way it works is that when someone makes an application for utilities, they have to get the house inspected by code compliance.
Last year, Garland code officers documented more than 1,500 life-safety violations and 1,600 critical violations during those inspections.
“It’s been effective in bringing the housing stock up to the standard that’s expected across the city and required by law, and I don’t think that’s too much to ask,” Killen said. “If you’re going to offer housing to an occupant, I think you should make certain that the housing is safe.”
Killen said it has had a "shape up or ship out" effect.
“We’ve actually had landlords that we felt were offering properties below standards tell us that they would dump their inventory and that they would leave the city because of the program,” he said.
Garland officials have identified nine Sadeghian rental properties. All have been permitted, inspected and deemed safe for habitation.