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Party to celebrate rent-dispute settlement

It will be a different kind of party when residents of the Crescent Lake Mobile Colony get together Feb. 29 at the Apollo Beach Holiday Inn.

It's a lawsuit settlement party, and mobile park residents say it is long in coming.

More than 100 tenants in the Riverview park sued the park in 1987, alleging that their rents were too high and that the park had fallen into disrepair. The tenants own their mobile homes but rent their land.

"The party was their idea, not mine," said St. Petersburg lawyer Christopher Jayson, who represented the mobile home owners in their long-fought class-action suit against their landlord.

The landlord, Waldo Spitler, declined to comment Friday.

A jury found in the tenants' favor, estimating that their rent increases were 15 percent to 55 percent above market value. But Hillsborough Circuit Judge Daniel Gallagher overruled the jury verdict.

The tenants appealed their case, and an appeals court sided with them. But payment plans were not entirely clear, and it took close to a year for the lawyers to work out a settlement plan.

Both sides finally settled on a payment amount of $410,000, said Lawrence Colgan, president of the mobile homeowners' association.

Some of that money will be used to pay lawyers, and some of it will repay a loan to the Federation of Mobile Home Owners of Florida, Colgan said.

The 93 tenants and former tenants who have remained in the lawsuit will get about $4,000 each on average, Colgan said.

"They'll be cutting checks at the party," he said.