Association, Resident Reach Deal
Article Courtesy of The Tampa Tribune
By Laura Kinsler
Published March 13, 2009
ZEPHYRHILLS - Betmar Acres will pay close to $11,000 to settle a lawsuit it brought against one of its own homeowners.
The homeowners association for the 1,670-mobile home community also will pay roughly $5,000 for legal fees.
The 55-over community had sued homeowner Cheryl Okke last year after she replaced a 1971 mobile home on her lot with a 2005 model. The replacement home complied with the community's deed restrictions, but it violated the associations' bylaws because it was more than a year old.
"I got together with Association President Gus Clark, and we sat down and hammered out an agreement we could both live with," Okke said.
The association will pay $8,500 to the lawyers who defended Okke and her mobile home dealer, Karsten Gallery of Homes. It also will reimburse Okke $300 for the cost of the arbitration conference, $1,200 for new permits and $980 for other expenses.
Clark said homeowners will not be assessed to pay for the settlement. "We had a fund where money was put aside," he said.
He said he was disappointed because he thinks the case could have been resolved at no cost to the association, but board member Harry Taylor withheld information about an earlier settlement offer from the rest of the board. The association ended up taking Okke to court on Jan. 22.
"It's interesting the way it worked out, because at arbitration Karsten offered to pay them $1,500 to settle," Okke said.
When Clark learned about the earlier settlement offer in February, he called an emergency board meeting to grant Okke's variance and resume negotiations.
Several of the association's trustees have since resigned. Taylor did not seek re-election to his post this month. His term expires at the end of March.
Okke said she was not aware of the 12-month rule adopted by the board a few weeks after she purchased her lot in 2007 - and before she actually moved into the community. Her variance requests were repeatedly denied.
She said she's satisfied with the agreement, although it fails to compensate her for her lost wages or stress-related health problems.
"I haven't worked since Oct. 4," she said. "Mostly I've been trying to deal with this."
But with the case resolved, she will be allowed to complete the installation of the mobile home skirting, carport, stairs and new driveway.