Rent resolution reached for mobile homeowners at Florida Sun Estates
Homeowners at the Florida Sun Estates mobile home park (formerly known as Meadows Mobile Home Park) in Tallahassee won’t see a drastic rent hike after all. Last fall, the park’s new owners warned they’d be raising the lot rent from $389 to $895. The increase led to many residents leaving the park. Florida Sun Estates has already evicted five residents and is in the process of evicting more for nonpayment of rent.
Even residents that own their home still pay rent for the lot that it sits on. Florida Statute 723 (the Mobile Home Act) protects those homeowners from unreasonable lot rent, however. The statute does not define what constitutes a reasonable lot rent.
Legal Services of North Florida stepped in to represent the homeowners and negotiate a lower rent with Florida Sun Estates. Ultimately, they agreed on a new rent of $545 for homeowners. LSNF also hosted a free legal clinic at Sabal Palm Elementary, a nearby school, to make sure residents understood their rights. Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna and School Board Chair Darryl Jones attended the clinic, concerned with how the situation was affecting students living at the park.
While homeowners saw their rent decrease to a more reasonable number, renters do not share the same legal protections from rent increases.
“The folks who are just tenants, meaning that they rent both the mobile home and the lot,” says Mary Rose Whitehouse, a lawyer working on the case, “they are still at present stuck with this $895 increase.”
Local leaders City Commissioner Jack Porter is worried about the treatment of renters and may seek to implement policy giving them more protection. She is satisfied with the new agreed rent for homeowners but believes both state and local government can do more to support renters.
“Supporting legal services for tenants, providing more resources locally for rapid rehousing or tenant education,” are just a couple of examples of what local governments can do now, says Porter. She went on to say that these sorts of programs exist, and are successful, in many cities across the country.
Commissioner Porter says affordable housing will continue to be a priority for the city commission.