This story was published originally Oct. 4, 1997.
The phone calls began before lawyer Michael J. Kanz hit his office door Friday morning.
Tenants, former tenants and managers - 25 to 30 by midafternoon - were calling Kanz to complain about JD Home Rentals, the company that was sued Thursday by Central California Legal Services and two private lawyers over allegations of substandard housing.
Kanz, director of litigation for the legal services group, said the the calls could mean more lawsuits against the company, which is believed to be one of the biggest property management firms in the Valley.
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The complaint on behalf of 112 current and former tenants alleges the company and its agents rent shoddy apartments, refuse repair requests, ignore cockroach and mice infestations and evict residents who complain. Residents allege problems such as leaky roofs, broken appliances, sewage back-ups and droopy ceilings.
Company officials and owner David Hovannisian have not commented about the lawsuit or the allegations. Numerous telephone calls placed by The Bee this week have not been returned.
The lawsuit names the company, Hovannisian, six company employees and three other Hovannisian relatives who reportedly own property managed by JD Home Rentals.
In part, the lawsuit demands an end to the company's "illegal and unfair business practices" and reimbursement for rent paid by tenants living in substandard housing units.
The lawsuit also seeks unspecified punitive damages and damages for emotional distress, pain and suffering. With punitive damages, Kanz said, the case could be worth millions of dollars.
Kanz and other lawyers said the Hovannisian family may own between 6,000 to 8,000 rental units in the Valley. The family does have extensive property holdings, although not all are rentals.
A search of county property records showed that David Hovannisian, sometimes along with his wife, owns 268 parcels in Valley counties. The records show that his father, John Hovannisian and related entities, own 864 parcels.
Fresno city officials have not yet been able to provide statistics on the number of complaints against JD Home Rentals. However, they said they believe complaints against the company are about the same proportionally as other smaller landlords.
Jerry Todd, code enforcement division manager, said the city had a total of 1,775 enforcement cases involving various property owners as of June 30.
An additional 634 complaints were filed from July 1 to Sept. 26, and the department closed 517 cases during that time.
Cases are closed when repairs are made or problems are resolved, Todd said.
City Council Member Henry Perea said officials are working on the city's substandard housing problem with a task force and are toughening ordinances.