Jane DeCoil, a spirited 70-year-old woman, represents herself in an eviction case involving violations of mobile home park rules. Driven by her determination, she enters the courtroom, adorned in a vibrant top and sporting bright-blue eyeshadow, her gray mullet neatly pulled back. Across the aisle, she sits alone, armed only with a plastic folder containing handwritten notes for her defense.
The hearing commences with the plaintiff’s attorney questioning DeCoil about the state of her yard. As they pore over photographs, DeCoil meticulously identifies each object – a gardening hose, a trellis, an empty terracotta pot, and an outdoor sink. She admits to initially disregarding the violation notices, unable to fathom that these infractions could lead to eviction. Unfortunately, by failing to address the yard’s condition, DeCoil found herself vulnerable to the eviction process.
Florida law grants mobile home park owners the authority to evict tenants who violate their rules, with everything outside the mobile home falling under the park owner’s jurisdiction. Although DeCoil had resided in the park for nearly a decade, a change in management three years ago subjected her yard to new regulations. These rules, outlined in the lot rental agreement, strictly prohibited the storage of any items outdoors or beneath the mobile home.
Following a two-hour hearing, the judge ruled in favor of the park owner, resulting in DeCoil’s eviction. According to state law, she had ten days to sell her home or relocate it. Providing some leniency, the judge granted an additional five days.
DeCoil faced a unique set of challenges compared to renters outside of mobile home parks. While most tenants receive only 24 hours to vacate after an eviction, mobile home owners are granted additional time to handle the complex process of moving or selling their properties. However, this additional time rarely proves sufficient. Tom DiFiore, an attorney from Bay Area Legal Services, expressed that homeowners often find themselves losing not only their homes but also their entire investments. Relocating a mobile home can be an expensive endeavor, ranging from $5,000 to $15,000, with the added complexity that many homes are difficult, if not impossible, to move to another site, as noted by Jacob Haas, a research specialist at the Eviction Lab.
For DeCoil, losing her mobile home meant losing her retirement plan. She had envisaged spending her remaining years in her affordable dwelling, paying less than $500 per month for lot rental. However, the eviction pushed her into a challenging situation with limited options and unforeseen financial burdens.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- Q: How does Florida law allow mobile home park owners to evict tenants?
- A: Florida law grants mobile home park owners the right to evict tenants who violate their rules, with everything outside the mobile home falling under the park owner’s purview. This includes yard maintenance and adherence to the rules specified in rental agreements.
- Q: What challenges do mobile home owners face during the eviction process?
- A: Mobile home owners often face significant hurdles when evicted, including the difficulty and expense of relocating their homes. Relocating a mobile home can cost between $5,000 and $15,000, and many homes are immobile, making the process even more challenging.
- Q: What are the potential consequences of eviction for mobile home owners?
- A: Eviction can result in significant financial losses for mobile home owners, as they may lose their entire investment in the home and be forced to find alternative housing options. Selling the home may also be challenging due to the pending eviction, which can deter potential buyers.