DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Khraish Khraish is at the center of controversy after telling hundreds of his tenants that they would have to suddenly move out by the end of this month and find a new place to call home. Now, he is claiming to be the champion for those same residents who live in the 305 rental houses that he owns in west Dallas.
Speaking from his business, HMK Ltd. on Singleton Boulevard, Khraish said that he is willing to allow the tenants to stay until after the school year ends. But Kraish said that is on one key condition: "The city simply agrees to keep code compliance and it's other legal resources from citing me, fining me, penalizing me for keeping my homes open, I'll be more than willing to allow my tenants to stay longer."
Khraish said that he is waiting to hear back from the city.
A judge recently blocked HMK from forcing out tenants until he could hold a hearing on November 7. Khraish said that there will be immediate consequences without striking a deal with the city. "If we must go to court on the 7th, and if we win the dissolution of the temporary restraining order, we will begin the eviction process."
Under the city's new housing restrictions, Khraish could face hefty fines and possibly criminal charges if his rental properties do not comply. This is why, he said, he wants to shut his business down as quickly as possible.
Khraish has previously made his offer to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who was unavailable for comment Thursday. But the Mayor did not want to talk about it publicly at City Hall on Wednesday, telling reporters, "As I said earlier, I'm not going to be negotiating in real time on all that."
Dallas County property records show HMK's rental houses in west Dallas are assessed as high as $59,000 and as low as $4,500. Most are assessed below $20,000.
The city has previously taken HMK to court for sub-standard conditions, and at least one tenant has sued the company for allegedly violating state law. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff called HMK the "most prolific slumlords in Dallas County."
When asked if it was true, Khraish said, "Of course not. We take exception to those allegations."
Despite complaints from some residents, Khraish said that his rental homes are not in terrible condition. Khraish said, "I would take exception to the word terrible. Is there room for improvement? Of course. But there are economic realities. If I'm to invest more money into my properties, I must charge higher rents that my tenants can't afford." Khraish said that the $300-$575 which he charges in rent each month would have to be raised to more than $1,000.
One of HMK's tenants, Carter Milam, who had to retire early because of a disability, said that he pays $500 a month in rent. He said that he moved to a HMK property assessed at $5,400 after he could no longer afford to live in his last apartment in the Oak Lawn neighborhood of Dallas.
Finding a new place to live will be difficult, Milam said. "Most of them will shut the door. They won't even hear of that. Not the money that I have. This place let me in with the money that I make."
Milam said that he would like to stay, and is not happy that Khraish wants him and others to move out. But, Milam said, he is preparing to move out Monday, October 31.
On Wednesday, Milam said, he was surprised to find HMK employees at his house adding a stair to his front steps and building a new staircase in the back of the house -- two years after he first made the request, he said.
Khraish said that he has a long-term plan that he has also pitched to Rawlings. He has offered to sell all 305 rental houses to Habitat for Humanity so that they can build new homes. Habitat's Bill Hall confirmed that he is interested and is negotiating with Khraish. Since 2005, Hall said that his organization has bought 80 homes and lots from HMK.
Khraish said that he is willing to sell some other houses which he owns to tenants and offer them financing. He is also proposed to the city building an assisted living facility and affordable housing units on property which he owns, but said that he would need help from taxpayers.
Khraish said, "The ball is in the city's court. I'm more than willing to be a good partner."
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