West Dallas resident

HMK Tenants Seek Home Purchase Instead of Eviction

Tenants of Dallas landlord HMK Ltd. want help buying the homes they’ve been renting. City officials are now asking the landlord to make it happen, but so far the landlord declines.

“The houses simply will not comply with the new standards, and I’m not about to sell these houses to my tenants who are low-income households and set them up for failure,” said HMK owner Khraish Khraish.

About 200 remaining HMK tenants face a June 3 deadline to leave their homes. The extension until the end of this school year was negotiated with the city in a court order after the landlord first notified hundreds of tenants about a proposed eviction last year.

Pearl Brown pays $430 a month to rent a 560-square-foot house in West Dallas from HMK. It is on the Dallas County Appraisal District tax roll valued at $13,500 in poor condition.

“If they could repair it I would like to stay here, but I don’t know if they can repair it or not,” Brown said.

The 80-year-old tenant has lived in the house for six years. She said it has serious structural, electrical and plumbing problems.

The landlord last year said HMK could not comply with new Dallas housing codes that require rental homes be maintained at a higher standard.

Tuesday, the HMK owner said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and other city officials suggested selling the homes to tenants in a meeting Monday.

“The mayor has vilified me for the past year. He has said that I am a negligent landlord, that I’m a slumlord. He said that the houses are in disrepair. And so he searched far and wide for the best affordable housing option for my tenants, and guess what he found? He found my own homes. And I find that very ironic and very sad,” Khraish said.

Rawlings was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

David Villalobos, with the Texas Organizing Project, has been a tenant representative in meetings with the city. He said tenants wanted to purchase the homes all along because affordable homes are very hard to find in Dallas.

“The thing that was unanimous of all the tenants was that they wanted to stay and own their homes, they wanted a pathway to home ownership,” Villalobos said. “We are asking the city to step up with some assistance to repair the homes if they’re given the opportunity to purchase the homes.”

Tenant Stephanie Hanson said she wants to purchase the 1,040-square-foot home she rents from HMK. It is valued on the tax role at $19,900 and rated in very poor condition.

She does not want HMK to hold the note.

“He says he’s got 60 houses to sell, but all of the houses are still in his name. So what is that? That’s rent-to-own,” Hanson said. “If for any reason he decided he was upset with me, wanted to take the house back, he could and I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.”

Hanson also accused Khraish of accelerating her eviction by declining her rent payments after she was a day late.

“He’s not accepting it. So he hasn’t accepted my rent since December,” Hanson said.

Khraish said he has declined rent payments from around 80 tenants, which provides them with money for moving expenses.

“She has pocketed three months rent and now she should have enough money to transition out of the house,” he said.

Khraish said dozens of his homes have been demolished as people moved out in the past year. The landlord said he is working with Habitat for Humanity to build affordable new homes on many of the West Dallas lots. He also claims plans to build an affordable housing complex on five acres of land along Singleton Boulevard.

“We can have low-income, multi-family, class A, affordable housing that the community can go to,” Khraish said. “The June 3rd deadline is something the city can extend if it wishes to, but it doesn’t wish to.”

City officials have said they are continuing to negotiate with HMK while also looking for other options to help tenants find affordable housing.

This story originally appeared 3/28/2017 on NBC 5.