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Community comes together to help Meadows residents facing evictions after rent hike

Free legal help and more for Meadows community
Posted at 11:30 PM, Jan 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-04 23:30:27-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — "To be put in this position and be a parent I have five children who look to me to make sure I keep a roof over their heads and it's like they're jeopardizing that for me."

Chanice Johnson has been living at Meadows Mobile Home Park for two years. Now, her family and the rest of the community are facing financial stress, loss of investment, and evictions after new owners Florida Sun Estates took over back in September, raising the lot rents from $389 to $895 a month.

"Who can afford that?"

A spokesperson with Florida Sun Estates says they're raising prices to make improvements to the park. But, they're no longer letting people rent mobile homes, they'll only be available for purchase. That means anyone with an existing lease can finish it out but will have to vacate when it ends unless they choose to buy the home.

"But I still gotta pay you $895, I'm still paying you rent for a home that I own."

To make sure residents know their rights, North Florida Legal Services is stepping up to provide legal representation at no cost. They're also helping them get access to rental assistance.

Executive Director, Leslie Powell-Boudreaux, said, "Whether again it's litigation, negotiation, or some sort of agreement with the mobile home park."

The City of Tallahassee is also going to help residents with utility costs for those staying at the park or on down payments and first month's bills for those that must leave.

Mayor Pro-Tem, Curtis Richardson, said, "We're going to do everything that we can to provide the resources that we have available."

Nearly 80 students that live at the Meadows attend nearby Sabal Palm Elementary School. Meadows' residents also say a gate that connected the school and the mobile home park is now closed since Florida Sun Estates took over.

With these pending evictions, students may be forced to relocate schools. At Tuesday's free legal clinic, Leon County School's Superintendent, Rocky Hanna, said not to worry.

"If you are forced to relocate at no fault of your own then we will continue to find ways to bring your child to Sabal Palm if that's what you so desire."

Legal Services of North Florida have reported a steady increase in home evictions over the last three years. 1,000 people filed for eviction applications in the first seven months of 2021.

The next free legal help clinic on rental assistance will be on Jan. 20 at the South City Foundation Tech Hub.