INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — Homeowners and real estate investors are not the only ones affected by the rising number of foreclosures and bankruptcies, as a group of apartment renters are now learning the hard way.
More than a dozen, often angry people gathered in the back yard of the 18-unit Penny Plaza apartment complex here Monday to pepper their property manager with questions and complaints.
"It's a bad situation for everybody," said Kathy MacKinnon, as she tried to calm tenant fears.
Last month, most of the tenants were served with a "John Doe" summons, naming each of them as defendants in a foreclosure action filed against the property owners by the International Bank of Miami.
The questions were wide-ranging: "What does this mean?" "Does this mean I am liable?" "Will this do anything to my credit?" "Should I pay my rent?" "Do I have to find another place to live?"
MacKinnon had few answers. And she has questions of her own.
Also named in the foreclosure action were Penny Plaza Holdings LLC, Inspirational Point Holdings Corp., the estate of Stewart G. Penny, Miguel Gonzalez, Jerome Godin, Matthew J. Whitehead III and In-Roc Bay Association Inc.
"The process server just knocked on the door one day, asked my name and if I was a tenant, and gave me the summons," said Shawn Boylan, whose brother has lived in the complex for about eight years.
MacKinnon said she did not know there was any trouble with the property at 2207 Bay Blvd. until June, when Pinellas County Utilities shut off the water. It seems the property owners had let the water bill go unpaid for months.
She later learned that the mortgage had not been paid since November 2007.
MacKinnon, who had been collecting and sending rents to the Miami-based owner, held back some rents and added some of her own money to pay the $3,000 water bill.
When other bills for maintenance and repairs also were left unpaid, she said she opened a local bank account where she now deposits the rent money.
No one, she said, has told her what to do with the rents or whether she will ever be paid back for the money she has spent.
She said about a third of the tenants are not paying their rent, partly because of the foreclosure, and are in danger of being evicted if they continue not to pay.
Carol Parrott, another tenant, said she is continuing to pay her rent and trusts that MacKinnon will "make good" on the situation for the tenants.
David Peckham, who has lived in the complex for about a year, is nervous about the foreclosure.
"This is very disruptive for all of us," Peckham said. "I just want to make sure my rent money is credited correctly."
Most of the units in the 1970s-era waterfront building on the Intracoastal are small and rent for $650 or less.
And although MacKinnon says the building is in sound structural condition, she admits it needs "some paint."
All the units are rented, but at least one lacks kitchen cabinets and appliances.
Others have broken air conditioners, garbage disposals or need carpet.
MacKinnon said she is repairing several units.
The property was last purchased in 2003 as part of a $4.1-million, three-complex package. Two of the buildings were sold, and the original owner died, MacKinnon said.
MacKinnon said Realtors have contacted her about showing the property, but she is concerned that the bank's asking price of up to $1.8-million may be too high.
As to the money owed to MacKinnon, she said she may have to file a lien and get in line.
A representative with Isicoff, Ragatz & Koenigsberg of Miami, the law firm representing the International Bank of Miami, did not return a phone message.