EAST LAKE — Ken Noakes made no greedy or stupid bets during the housing boom that cost him when the real estate market went bust.
He didn't have the money to get in the game, but in this housing collapse, not being a player hasn't meant not getting burned.
Like other renters whose landlords have found themselves unable to make their mortgage payments, Noakes, a 77-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran in poor health, is facing eviction.
So are his 72-year-old wife of 51 years, Lynn, and Leigh, 47, the couple's disabled daughter.
The family lives on Social Security benefits, taking in about $2,500 a month. They've been paying up to $1,500 a month rent since 2007, when they settled in a townhouse on Arabian Lane here at Nature's Watch.
They can't afford eviction.
"The moving costs alone would be a disaster right now," Noakes said.
Noakes, who fought in the Korean War, and his wife moved to Florida in 1981. They began renting in Nature's Watch in 2003.
Their current home is the second they've rented from John Geigle, who owns several Nature's Watch properties.
On limited means, they lived a simple life as the real estate market exploded. An occasional cash bump from Noakes' sale of chemical cleaners like car wash soap and red clay remover helped.
Much of their energy has gone toward caring for Leigh, who was left with serious brain damage after a hit-and-run accident in 1990.
In contrast, Geigle spent the boom years investing in real estate.
He likes Harley-Davidsons and Corvettes. In his home, according to a former business partner, there's a photograph of him and his brother lighting cigars with $100 bills to celebrate making their first $1 million.
In January 2005, Geigle sold the home the Noakes family would eventually rent to an occasional investment partner named Marcella Kaigler, who took out a $248,000 adjustable-rate mortgage on the property.
Kaigler moved in, but the property was too large for a single woman and she wanted to leave. In December 2005, Geigle paid Kaigler $50,000 and again took ownership of the property through a quitclaim deed.
Geigle, 59, agreed to take responsibility for paying the mortgage, which stayed in Kaigler's name.
"At the time I took over, it was appreciation I was hoping for," Geigle said, "and that never happened, it went the other way."
As the big returns of the boom years dried up, Geigle found himself losing money. On one investment — $2 million for a condominium project that went bust — the borrower paid him back only $400,000.
In December 2007, the interest rate jumped on the mortgage Geigle was paying on the Arabian Lane property. He couldn't keep up and tried unsuccessfully to negotiate better terms with the lender.
In March of last year, he stopped making payments.
He feels for Noakes and his family, but said he had tried to get reasonable terms from the bank and has also suffered in the downturn.
On his own home, which is also in Nature's Watch, Geigle said he owes $970,000, but has it for sale at $749,000 and isn't getting any offers.
"This has not been a bowl of cherries for me, either," Geigle said.
The lender on the Arabian Lane home foreclosed and took ownership June 29. On July 5, Realtor Connie Sachse, who represents US Real Estate Services, a handler of foreclosed properties for lenders, paid Noakes a visit.
She said that if the family vacated in two weeks, they would get $500.
Of course, the family doesn't have the money, or a place to go.
Sachse said the company isn't moving to evict them quickly and will work with the family, but they eventually must leave.
"I think it's absolutely awful that these folks are in the position they are in," Sachse said. "It's the times we are in, I guess."
Noakes continued to pay his $1,500 rent to Geigle until October, when he confronted Geigle over pocketing the money and not paying the mortgage. Noakes said Geigle agreed to take $750.
Time passed and Geigle asked for $1,000 a month, which Noakes paid from March to June. That's the last payment Geigle will get, Noakes said.
The war veteran is worried not just because he doesn't have the money to find another rental. In 2007, he had open heart surgery. In May, he had cataract surgery and a few days later suffered a mild stroke.
Since then, he's had some troubling short-term memory lapses. He confuses numbers, too.
"I can't move right now," he said. "I really shouldn't be running around moving things."
Will Van Sant can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4166.