CLEARWATER — Just after her 80th birthday in March, Shannan Johnson had what she calls an "episode." A combination of blurry vision, confused thoughts and unsteady footing — it's something that happens sometimes after the mini stroke she had in November.
With a fixed income that barely covers everyday necessities, Johnson knew she couldn't afford to hire a professional for the in-home care her doctor suggested. So her 47-year-old son, Terry Sean Hannan, came to live with her. Three days later, she found an eviction letter taped to the door of her home in Serendipity Mobile Home Park, a 55-and-older community at 29081 U.S. 19 N.
More than two months have passed since that day, but Johnson says she still hasn't been told why her son can't live there. She's met the park's requirements for moving in a non-primary resident — paying for a background check and corresponding with park staff — and even provided a note from her doctor. But the letters kept coming.
"You are hereby notified that you have violated (Florida Statutes), and the Rules and Regulations (of the park) by permitting the continued unauthorized occupancy of the home," a May 18 letter to Johnson from park attorney Andrew J. McBride reads. An almost identical letter was sent to her son, and both said he had seven days to leave the park.
Hannan soon left, and Johnson says she has lived in constant fear since.
"I'm a little old lady with health problems, and I need someone with me," she said. "I never know when something is going to happen, and without someone here, I don't have security."
Homeowners association president Ray Brooks, who has rallied a support group for Johnson, says she doesn't need just anyone there, "she needs her son."
"By God, people get older, and when people get older, they have a right to have their children move in to take care of them during hard times," he said.
McBride did not return repeated calls for comment, but the statute he cites in the letters says a park can evict a resident who doesn't comply with park rules. Serendipity declined to provide its most recent list of rules, but according to the most recent set Johnson has seen, dating back to 2005, she doesn't think she's violated anything.
"They just simply aren't allowing me the comfort of having my son in my home, so I live with constant apprehension and just hope I can make it through the day without an incident," she said, calling the ordeal a type of harassment. "Where is the compassion? Where are my rights?"
Johnson said that after weeks of unanswered questions to McBride and property manager Jeffrey Scott Hahn, who declined to comment several times, she and Brooks started trying to figure out it out themselves.
It couldn't be his age, they said. The 2005 rules say as long as one resident is 55 or older, a second resident can be as young as 45, and Hannan is 47. The part of the rule book that addresses eviction says a person could be asked to leave if they have been convicted of violating a federal, state or local law that is "deemed detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of other mobile home owners of the park," but Hannan's state record shows only a string of traffic infractions, including one felony charge for driving without a license, and an eviction charge from 2005.
Johnson says she doesn't think those are the problem either, because according to her bank statements, the $30 check she wrote to Serendipity for the background check wasn't cashed until June 10, weeks after the last letter and months after the first, which she got before staff ever mentioned the background check.
Someone can also be evicted for failure to get approval to move in, rules say, and in letters to Hannan, McBride says "your application has been denied. You are not approved by the Board of Directors and/or Park Management to reside in the Park." But Johnson questions if there was ever a vote.
Board president Bernie Lantiegne declined to say why Hannan's application was denied or whether it ever came up for a vote. Board vice president Cliff Bittner did not return calls for comment. Board treasurer Judith Mootsey said the board did vote, but decided to refer the situation to McBride because "we always involve legal counsel in any situation where there could be a problem." She declined to elaborate. Board secretary Linda Taylor declined to comment on whether the board voted and would not say whether the board takes regular minutes.
Larry Stanley, one of five directors on the board, said he would he doesn't remember voting for anything regarding Johnson or Hannan, "but that doesn't mean it didn't happen." The rest of the eight-person board did not return calls for comment.
Along with the group of about 20 park residents supporting Johnson, Palm Harbor Civic Association member Jo-Ann Totty said her group plans to step in, too.
"She needs someone to speak up for her, and we have more voices," she said. "As push comes to shove, we will stand behind her, get signatures, do whatever it takes."
Resident Bob Hart, who is a shareholder in the resident-owned community, said he's on board to help because he's tired of arbitrary park policies. He said if Johnson's son was in fact denied, she has a right to know why.
"Seniors come to live in places like this because they need rest and help, and that is not what they are getting anymore," he said. "So much for living in peaceful serendipity."
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Megan Reeves at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153. Follow @mreeves_tbt.