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Judge gives owner ultimatum: Fix Dade City mobile homes or go to jail

Fourteen noncompliant homes were removed from Lazy Breeze Mobile Home & RV Park in 2016, and 10 families were evicted on July 1.
Fourteen noncompliant homes were removed from Lazy Breeze Mobile Home & RV Park in 2016, and 10 families were evicted on July 1.
Published Jul. 19, 2017

DADE CITY — The owner of Lazy Breeze Mobile Home & RV Park will face arrest at summer's end if he doesn't bring his housing units up to code, according to county officials.

At a contempt of court hearing on July 7, County Judge William G. Sestak sentenced Rob Work of Tampa, who manages the mobile home park through the company Genesis Holdings, to report to the county jail on Sept. 15 "and sit there until the units are repaired to the county's requirements, or until the units are vacated," said Pasco County spokesman Doug Tobin.

Work said he has spent more than a year attempting to improve the mobile homes on Dade City's south side. But making repairs requires building permits — even for simple fixes like replacing a step — and he says officials won't grant them.

The property manager has not successfully fixed "even one mobile home since citations were issued in this case," said Tobin, who called Work's efforts to repair the units "abysmal."

Work removed 14 of the noncompliant mobile homes from the park in 2016, and 10 families there were evicted on July 1. Those tenants were living in homes that were "never going to pass," Work told the Tampa Bay Times in June.

He said the County Attorney's Office wants to see Lazy Breeze shut down. The county denies that accusation.

"He's very difficult to work with and not able to comply with the requirements to get these permits," Tobin said in June.

The situation stems from county inspections at Lazy Breeze in October 2015. Of 48 dwellings, 42 did not meet minimum housing standards, court records show. Work received citations for structural additions built without permits, faulty or failing heating and electrical systems, rust and broken windows, among other violations. A few of the mobile homes were deemed unsafe or unsanitary.

In December 2016, Sestak ordered Work to repair all mobile homes with violations or clear them from the property by March, according to court records. Work, who was also fined $17,000, did not meet that deadline. At the court hearing, Work was given a more serious ultimatum: bring the nearly two dozen remaining homes up to code by mid September or go to jail. Work could also move tenants of noncompliant residences into violation-free homes.

Work told the Times he is still exploring his options. He does not have plans to evict more residents, for now.

"If we could get the permits, we wouldn't have to do that," he said.

The tenants evicted in June told the Times that Work usually responds to repair requests quickly, but the fixes often are shoddy. In January, employees from Pasco's Public Services Department visited Lazy Breeze to speak with residents about county assistance programs. Tenants told them of "deplorable conditions" at the park, according to county records.

Emails between senior Assistant County Attorney Kristi Sims and former licensing supervisor Michael Wolfe show that the county was concerned about the substandard repairs and used them as a justification for its strict permitting requirements.

"It is counterproductive to your enforcement goals to allow unqualified people to slap together repairs to a mobile," Sims wrote in November 2016. "A policy requiring licensed contractors and strict permitting submittals for repairs will accomplish your goal better of eliminating substandard housing."

When reached by phone on July 12, Work seemed weary and somewhat resigned to the fact that he may not get the required permits by September. He said he's concerned for the well-being of his tenants.

"I can move forward," Work said. "But who's caring about these people?"