DENTON — From the outside, the tan, white-trimmed house on Johnson Street in Denton doesn’t look so bad.
But Denton code enforcement officials found horrific, dangerous, and unsafe conditions inside the residence last fall. The tenant had to move out.
“He's a frequent flier for us,” said Lancine Bentley, Denton's manager of community improvement services. “His name comes up a lot.”
Sadeghian is high on Denton’s list of problem landlords. Since 2008, Denton code officials have worked 11 dangerous building cases involving Sadeghian properties. Sadeghian demolished seven of the buildings. He repaired two of the structures.
Two cases are still pending, including the house on Johnson Street.
“My dangerous building officer definitely feels like he’s the worst,” Bentley said. “When he goes into his properties, they look worse than most of the others than we go into.”
In an interview with News 8, Sadeghian said he has more than 600 tenants and owns about 1,700 properties. He said he felt he had been unfairly portrayed as a bad landlord. Sadeghian specializes in renting to tenants with bad credit.
“We’re better than average, as far as landlords are concerned,” Sadeghian said. “We have a lot of good houses in Denton.”
Given the volume of property he owns, Sadeghian said it’s natural to have some problems. He denies that he lets his properties become run down. He also repeatedly noted that by state law he does not have to make repairs if tenants are behind on the rent.
Often in their dealings, Bentley said that Sadeghian starts off friendly, even telling a code officer in a recent voice mail that he wanted “peace and harmony” with them. But Bentley said Sadeghian sometimes becomes aggressive and threatens to get people fired.
Last month, Sadeghian made that threat in a conversation with Danny Glassmyer, Denton’s dangerous building official, according to an audio recording obtained by News 8.
“I’m going to see why you do this kind of thing,” Sadeghian said. “You may lose your job over this, you know that?”
Bentley doesn’t put much stock in Sadeghian’s threats, telling News 8 that they have more than enough photographs and evidence that the properties in question aren’t being properly maintained.
But Denton code officials are hamstrung in this way: They cannot enter private property or go inside, unless the owner or tenant gives permission. A tenant was the one who led them inside the house on Johnson Street.
Floyd and Robin Williams moved into the house last fall, soon realizing there were major problems.
“It rained and it started leaking everywhere,” Robin Williams said. “The floor in my room — the bottom of it was coming apart. Every time we turned around, it was something else, and something else, and something else.”
They said repeated promises to make repairs weren’t fulfilled. After about two months, Robin Williams realized the house wasn’t safe, and called in city officials.
Officials found a litany of problems. According to code enforcement records obtained by News 8:
- The flooring in various areas of the house was “unstable, unsafe, and in the two right side bedrooms, are considered dangerous and unsafe to the occupants of the house.”
- There was exposed wiring in the rear left bedroom and rear left bathroom. Live wires were hanging out of the ceiling and the walls.
- A leaking roof had collapsed, allowing water to collect. The roof was so unstable that “wind or rain could cause collapse.”
- A sanitary drain was broken and “it is evident that raw sewage” had been flowing into a storm drain. Inspector found human waste in the yard. The sewer had been replaced without permits or inspections.
- The electrical panel was “unsafe and dangerous. There is no dead front, no main circuit breaker and wiring is loose and disorganized. This is a dangerous electrical panel.”
- The foundation was extremely unlevel, which was demonstrated by the tenant “setting a coke bottle down and rolling it across the room.”
Inspectors even found that faulty wiring had caused the medicine cabinet to be electrified.
“If one of us had taken a shower and had gotten out of there and had touched it while we were wet, it would have been over,” Floyd Williams said.
Code enforcement officials deemed the property a “dangerous building” and did not meet “minimum building standards.”
“That property is a hazard,” Bentley said. “Nobody should be living there.”
Robin and Floyd Williams moved out last year. They say when they told Sadeghian they had to move, he was upset that they had called code enforcement.
“He said he wants his rent money,” Robin Williams said. “He don’t care. He told me, ‘Don’t worry about it, you’ll never get another place here in town.”
Sadeghian told the Williams them they owed him money.
In the interview with News 8, Sadeghian said the tenant had “damaged that property and walked away from it. When people don’t ... pay for two or three months, then they call code.”
Bentley disputed Sadeghian’s version of events.
"There’s nothing at 929 Johnson Street that those tenants did,” Bentley said. “All those violations of sewage and electrical and caving-in roof, the tenants didn’t do that. They moved into that. They’re not responsible. Sadeghian is responsible.”
Floyd and Robin Wililams said Sadeghian wouldn’t return their deposits.
These days, they pay $900 a month to live in a Denton motel room, unable to afford anything else. They had saved for months to rent the house on Johnson Street, and doubt they’ll ever again accure the money needed to move.
Floyd Williams has had 13 heart attacks, has back problems and says he’s going blind. He can no longer work full-time.
“[Sadeghian] just put us between a rock and a hard place,” Williams said.
Denton’s Health and Building Standards Commission is scheduled to consider the case next Thursday. They are recommending that the Johnson Street property either be demolished or repaired within 30 days.