Things not so bright at ‘Sunny’ mobile home complex

Lemuel Walker talks about the holes in the wall and the door falling off his bedroom in the mobile home he rents in Sunny Oaks mobile home park north of Ocala. Alan Youngblood/Star-Banner

CLSMF’s Renters Rights Unit Leader, Natalie Maxwell, talks to the Ocala Star Banner about the deplorable conditions her client is having to live in because of the landlord’s refusal to make necessary repairs to the unit and maintain a habitable home for his tenant. Moreover, since there is no housing condition code in Marion County, there nothing the tenant can do except continue to be at the mercy of the landlord or try and find other housing that he could afford on his limited income.

The sign outside Sunny Oaks mobile home park, located on a quiet stretch of Northwest Gainesville Road, advertises “affordable country living.” While the price may be affordable, at $475 a month, residents Lemuel Walker, 50, and his girlfriend, Carmen Soto, 53, find the living quarters anything but sunny.

On a recent day, German cockroaches scurried across their ceilings, walls, kitchen counter and cabinets, and also breached the refrigerator. A gaping hole at least a foot wide could be seen in both the kitchen and bedroom floors. Walker said frogs, lizards and even a snake have used the holes to gain entry into the house.

Walker and Soto say they lived without heat this winter and now are going without air conditioning, despite paying an additional $50 per month for the service. Water leaks and soft, uneven floors are a concern…

“If Mr. Walker was living within city (of Ocala) limits he could have reported it (his complaint) to code enforcement,” said Natalie Maxwell, an attorney with Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida who is representing Walker. “They would have come out and, given the condition of the home, they definitely would have taken some sort of code enforcement action, which would have helped bring it into compliance.”

Or, perhaps, code enforcement would have sided with the landlord.

Either way, the county system lacks that crucial mechanism. And for Maxwell, who has spent eight years representing low-income clients in affordable housing disputes, that is cause for concern.

“The largest problem is, when I contacted the county code enforcement, because there is no county code related to housing conditions, they aren’t able to do anything,” she said.

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