HOA suing park owner over rent hikes

Article Courtesy of  Florida Keys News

By Katie Atkins   

Published January 30, 2018

A group of homeowners at Marathon’s Galway Bay Mobile Home Park say their rent has gone up a whopping 48 percent in the last three years.

In an effort to see future rent reduced or get a refund, they, represented by their homeowner’s association, are suing the park owned by Ralph Mutchnik, 72 — who separately faces three felony charges for alleged actions he took against one of his tenants.

Mutchnik was not in court Tuesday at a first hearing in front of Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Mark Jones at the Marathon courthouse. There were, however, about 35 Galway Bay mobile-home owners filling the courtroom.

According to the complaint, filed in Monroe County Circuit Court last July, the lot rent at Galway Bay, mile marker 47.5 oceanside, ranged in 2015 from $817 to $1,086 monthly. It’s a 55-and-over community and there are 62 lots on the property.

Rent went up by about 20 percent in April 2016. Seven months later, homeowners were notified the rent would go up again for 2017 by another 18 percent. In December, another 10 percent hike was announced for April of this year. The fee for late rent is $225, on top of $25 daily, which went up by $10 in 2017.

This is the Galway Bay Mobile Home Park at mile marker 47.5 oceanside in Marathon.

Mutchnik’s Tallahassee-based attorney David Eastman told Jones Tuesday the complaint should be tossed because the HOA didn’t collect the proper forms and signatures from homeowners in time agreeing to be represented in a lawsuit.

After about an hour of hearing both sides, a frustrated Jones sided with the HOA’s attorney, Nejla Calvo of Legal Services of Greater Miami, that the homeowners clearly wanted to be represented by the HOA in a lawsuit over the rent hikes.

He also ordered the defense to provide access to Galway Bay’s documents of income and expenses, by March.

Another hearing has not been set, but Calvo said she hopes one will be scheduled in March or April.

“Tuesday’s hearing is a strong step forward for the homeowners so they can proceed with this lawsuit to seek the relief they’re entitled to,” she told the Keynoter.

Mutchnik’s attorney, David Eastman, did not return phone calls by press time.

Tuesday’s hearing came on the heals of Mutchnik’s Jan. 11 arrest on felony charges of criminal mischief, grand theft over $20,000 and filing false documents against real or personal property. He’s accused of intentionally destroying a 34-foot trailer at Galway Bay belonging to tenant Andrew Garshott and taking his possessions, including thousands of dollars in cash, according to an affidavit filed by State Attorney’s Office investigators.

Mutchnik’s arraignment is Tuesday at the Marathon courthouse at 1:30 p.m.