TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — 8 On Your Side is helping a local mobile home community fight an unexpected rent and tax increase, cutting through the red tape and showing them a path to challenging the double whammy.
8 On Your Side talked to residents at the Sunshine Mobile Home Park in St. Petersburg who say the latest rent like has them feeling devastated.
“It usually matches the social security increase each year, close to that, but this time it’s almost three times as much,” Donna Pettaway said.
According to a notice from the park’s owner, residents will also be charged $957 for the ad valorem tax and $42 for the non-ad valorem tax.
“Most people on the $70 increase were not even going to be able to afford the $70 increase,” another resident said.
And residents say they’re not able to afford a lawyer to help them challenge the charges.
“We do not have the resources for legal advice,” one tenant said.
“We need to be heard. We want to be heard because this isn’t the only issue that we have, we have many more,” said Terry Harmer, “But this is the most pressing.”
8 On Your Side asked attorney Russ Klemm what they should do. Klemm suggested they form a homeowners committee and request a sit-down meeting with park’s owner, Legacy Communities, and have them explain the increase with documentation.
“It sounds like if you want to fight the owners, you have to unite together,” I said.
“You do,” Klemm said.
And unite, they did.
Terry and neighbors followed the tedious process to form the committee. By law, it’s max five people, designated by a majority of affected homeowners.
They collected signatures and drafted a letter requesting the sit-down.
“We wish to understand and be informed,” the letter said.
“I need to know who I should email this to, do I email it to everybody?” Terry asked. “I’m scared to death. I have no idea what I’m doing.”
A Legacy spokeswoman told 8 On Your Side last month that they will meet with communities when they make these types of requests. We asked when they planned to meet Sunshine’s committee. A few days later, they told us a meeting was scheduled for Feb. 14 at 2 p.m.
“I want to work with them so that we can help our committee, help our entire community,” said Terry.
The committee has more work to do. First, they’ll have to find out what similar parks are charging.
Then, at the Valentines Day meeting, they’ll make their case, explaining why they think the increases are too much.
Last month, Legacy told us they try to keep rents reasonable, and blamed the dramatic increase in the cost of property insurance, taxes, and so on.
In Florida, landlords can raise your rent by as much as they want, but they must provide adequate notice.
“Mobile home park tenancies are regulated by the Florida Mobile Home Act (Chapter 723, Florida Statutes). The manner in which rent can be increased must be disclosed prior to tenancy. This disclosure is in the prospectus, which is approved by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). Further, the Florida Mobile Home Act has a strict prohibition against unreasonable rent or rent increases,” Molly Collins, a spokeswoman for the Florida Manufactured Housing Association said in a statement to 8 On Your Side.