Imagine living through Tropical Storm Debby in a mobile home park that suffered flooding and then being told after the storm that the park is going to close and you have to move out in a matter of weeks.
Lara Curtis doesn’t have to imagine.
She lives with five children and her husband in a rented trailer in New Port Richey's Walden Pond Mobile Home Park, which is west of U.S. 19. She learned following the storm that the park was closing, and she would need to leave.
“(We were) not given any warning, any time,” she said. “We’re trying to recuperate from being in a disaster.”
The owners of Walden Pond Mobile Home Park sent out a letter dated July 6 to Curtis and other residents that says the park is going to close down, effective July 31. The letterhead reads Walden Pond, LLC, which is a limited liability company that in 2005 bought the deed to the 8.23-acre Walden Pond Mobile Home Park property, according to the Pasco County Property Appraiser's website.
Curtis' letter says she has to vacate the park by 11:59 p.m. July 31. The letter says her lease will terminate at that time. If she is still occupying the property on Aug. 1, the property owner will seek “action for recovery.”
The closure is “due to decreased occupancy at the park and ongoing issues with certain utilities,” according to the letters sent out.
Paul Beraquit says he is managing partner of Walden Pond, LLC. Walden Pond, LLC is registered to Paragon Capital Partners, LLC, according to the Florida Div. of Corporations website. Walden Pond, LLC, is listed as being managed by Paragon Real Estate Holdings. Beraquit is named as the founder and president of Paragon Capital Partners on the company website.
Beraquit confirmed Walden Park's impending closing. He said the letter sent to tenants was drafted by his attorney.
Walden’s closure is “just economics," he said. “We have no income coming in.”
Walden Pond has about 93 lots; roughly 35 of them are occupied, he said.
Beraquit said he can’t maintain the park any more.
Tropical Storm Debby was one of the driving forces behind the decision to close, he said. Nearly half the park flooded.
The letter Curtis received says she has a month-to-month verbal lease without a specific term. It says Florida statutes provide that when a tenant has a month-to-month lease, either the landlord or the tenant can terminate by giving written notice at least 15 days in advance.
“I believe I gave them ample time,” Beraquit said.
If Curtis fails to vacate by the end of July 31, she will be deemed a holdover tenant, and Walden Pond will proceed to take legal action, the letter warned.
“Your compliance with the foregoing demand for possession is not voluntary, and all of your property and belongings must be removed by the end of this month,” the letter said.
Beraquit says he does not know what action he will take if there are still people on the property Aug. 1. He intends to consult with his attorney.
He does plan to turn off water to the park sometime after the July 31 deadline, but he did not provide a specific date.
“Nobody wants to throw anybody out of their homes,” he said. However, continuing to run the park is “just not practical. We just can’t afford it."
Many in the park are on fixed incomes. Some own their trailers. Some of those trailers are at least 10 years old. Assorted residents say they don’t have the money for security deposits for new places. Curtis says there are about 40 families in the park.
Curtis has one of the few phones in the park, she says, and has been letting her neighbors use it.
"There's just so many here that live month-to-month, paycheck-to-paycheck," she said.
Liz Nichols, code enforcement officer for the New Port Richey Police Department, is aware of the announcement of the park’s closing and has been in contact with Beraquit. There are active violations and code enforcement issues there, she said.
Nichols hasn't seen any letter from the court that is required for eviction, just the letter from the business telling residents about the closing.
Nichols is waiting to see what happens after the July 31 deadline.
“I have a feeling there’s going to be people there after July 31," she said.
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