TAMPA — The first thing you see, then smell, is the garbage. Beer bottles, diapers, a broken chair. All baking in the sun at the entrance to Tampa Sun Mobile Home Park, where a trash compactor used to be.
It was bad enough when the bin disappeared without warning a few weeks ago, residents said. Bad enough, too, when holes in floors were left gaping and mold and termites moved in.
But on Wednesday, things got worse. A vague message taped to some doors ordered residents to leave the park at 1814 N 47th St. by Thursday.
The notice says the park will close July 30. Whoever wrote the note says he or she regrets the closing. "I always planned to continued to operate the park. That plan, however, is no longer feasible under the circumstances. This letter shall serve as written notice of termination of the Lease, effective as of 5:00 p.m. on July 30, 2009."
According to state records, the property is owned by a Hollywood, Fla., limited liability corporation called Taryag, headed by a woman named Sharon Brandt.
Phone calls and messages to Brandt were not answered. A number that some resident's had to the park's corporate office was disconnected. A lawyer representing the residents said he finally found a possible office number for the owner, but a woman who answered would not identify herself. Then she hung up.
Thursday afternoon, there was talk around the park of a manager being fired while still collecting rent, talk also of the park's owners vacationing in Israel.
"For them to do this, it's not fair," said 24-year-old Crystal Giddens, who lives in lot 21 with her boyfriend. Giddens says she's one of the lucky ones who will be able to afford a hotel room for a few nights. About 40 people live at the park near Interstate 4 in east Hillsborough.
"We've been paying our rent and everything, and all of a sudden we've got to go," said Deirdre Curry, 38, to the group of her neighbors gathered outside.
Cue the lawyer.
Cary Alan Cash, from the law firm of Brasfield, Fuller, Freeman, Goldis & Cash, showed up around 1 p.m. to whoops and hollers. Cash said he specializes in mobile home law, and when he saw the Tampa Sun park's story on the news, he wanted to help.
"I hate that you're going through this," Cash told residents. He said the main problem isn't that residents are being kicked out — it's that they weren't given sufficient notice. Even the week-to-week renters should get at least a week to pack up and go, Cash said.
He told them he'll try to get in touch with the park's owners and work things out amicably, but if need be, he'll take legal action through an emergency injunction to stop the evictions.
Residents were told their water would be shut off on Monday. Cash said he would contact the water company to alert it to the situation. He told residents to compile a list of problems or questions.
"I've got one for you right now," said a voice in the crowd. "Do we just stay tomorrow?"
"Yes," he said.
Kim Wilmath can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3386.