TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — On Tuesday, members of the media, residents and local leaders met outside the front gates of The Meadows neighborhood in Tallahassee after management failed to respond to multiple communication attempts by city leaders and residents.
After a short gathering, members of the media were told to leave the front of the property and move to the sidewalk and closer to the street. Residents told security that the members of the media were invited by them and were their guests.
The media and local leaders then moved to the sidewalk as requested. City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow grabbed a microphone after they had moved and began to address the gathering about how management knew they were there.
"They refuse to answer phone calls from elected officials or make any type of meaningful effort to communicate with these residents," Matlow said. "They know we're out here, right now. The message that they're sending is to 'Get in the roadway because we do not care.'"
In September, the Meadows Mobile Home Park was taken over by Florida Sun Estates, who raised lot rents from $389 to $895 monthly.
A spokesperson with Florida Sun Estates said 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.
According to a news release from Tallahassee City Commissioner Jack Porter, one resident said she and her husband were promised something would be in writing this week. But, each time they go into the office to get a written agreement, no one is in the office. The couple added that their lease ends on Jan. 31.
State Representative Alison Tant said in a release that she has, "called, written letters, and have spoken with a very dismissive staff person." The District 9 representative said that she is working with other local leaders and organizations to address the concerns of residents and the safety of the children who live there.
Several residents say their cries for help on where to go next are being ignored by the new owners.
So, the community is doing what it can to provide legal, financial, and moral support so they're not alone.
"I'm not going anywhere because myself and a couple other elderly ladies, you're going put us out in the pandemic," exclaimed Meadow's resident, Glenora Gardner, at Tuesday's rally.
Residents of the Meadows Mobile Home Park say the new owners of what is now Florida Sun Estates are ignoring their pleas for more information regarding their leases. Back in September, not only did rent more than double, tenants are no longer allowed to re-sign new leases.
"You just can't come in and force people to move out of their homes."
They can only buy trailers in addition to paying the newly increased lot rent. That means any existing leases will not be renewed leaving residents with few options like Rukeiya Heywood.
"September to now when my lease is about to be up at the end of the month that's not enough time."
Residents and community leaders are looking for accountability from the new owners as lease terminations might mean evictions.
At Tuesday's rally, park security asked all media to vacate the property, causing more anguish among the community.
"I'm going to need you all to vacate the property this is actually private property."
The group is trying to send a new message to the property's new owners. They're asking for help.
Tallahassee City Commissioner Jack Porter said, "we cannot reach the management company to resolve these folks' cases and get assistance."
Leon County Schools promises families who are forced to move will be allowed to keep their kids at Sabal Palm Elementary. The gate that connects the Meadows and the school? Still closed.
"The children no longer have safe access to the school, we have invited the management and owner to get involved to make a positive impact," said Krista Campbell, the Community Leadership Chair of the Community Partnership School at Sabal Palm Elementary School.
Commissioner Jack Porter is working with other community leaders to put together a fundraiser for the Meadows' residents. Those details will be unveiled once they set everything up.
Last Tuesday, ABC 27 told you lawyers with Legal Services of North Florida worked to negotiate a smaller rent hike but that is only for people who already own their homes, not for renters.
Florida Legislators are working on bills to limit how much landlords can raise rents going forward statewide.