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Past might force couple from home

A Seminole trailer park has asked the couple to leave because of the wife's past problems with drugs. They're refusing.

By MONIQUE FIELDS

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 26, 2000


SEMINOLE -- Kim Daniels married for love -- and to make sure his girlfriend could stay with him legally.

He has known his wife, Kim Halak Daniels, for more than 20 years, but their marriage was kick-started when Mrs. Daniels wanted to purchase property so that the couple could move to a larger home in the Holiday Village Mobile Home Park, 6580 Seminole Blvd. Her application was denied because she pleaded no contest to the sale or delivery of cocaine in 1991 and violated her probation in 1996 and 1997, said J.J. Damonte, the park's attorney.

Daniels, a 20-year resident of the park, and his wife say they were told by Sharron Colbert, the park's office manager and a member of the board of directors, that marriage could solve the issue. So on July 3, the two were hitched.

"They forced us to get married, and that's not right," said Daniels, who is on disability with knee and back injuries after a career as a fisherman.

Problem is, marriage didn't solve their dilemma. The Danielses say Colbert, citing her criminal background, has asked Mrs. Daniels to leave. The couple say they have no intent of leaving and fear eviction. Damonte hasn't been instructed yet to send an eviction notice, and he is not aware the park has sent any notices. But he does know that Mrs. Daniels is not wanted in the park.

"They are trying really hard to keep that kind of trouble out of their park," Damonte said. "It's a family park. It's not a 55-and-older park."

Mrs. Daniels, who has been diagnosed with severe depression, says she has made restitution for her crime, spending about three years on house arrest and probation.

"All I want to do is get a trailer, get my life settled and have a normal life," she said.

That shouldn't be a problem, said Ellen H. de Haan, an attorney for Becker & Poliakoff, a law firm that represents 5,000 community associations.

"She's not a nuisance. They are not creating a nuisance together. There is no evidence of drug use at this time. They have no grounds for making the demand," she said.

Others see it differently.

"Getting married and all of that, that sure puts a wrinkle in it. But they have every right to screen out potential tenants," said David Eastman, an attorney and a member of the Mobile Home Law Committee of the Florida Bar.

For at least 13 years, the park has been conducting criminal and credit background checks on potential tenants, Damonte said. Based on that information, the park has routinely declined applications for potential tenants who had felony convictions or bad credit and has evicted a convicted pedophile and a convicted bank robber, he said.

There is no appeal process in place, Damonte said, but the Danielses have collected about a dozen signatures from neighbors who say they have no objections to the couple living in the mobile home.

Sharon Rackett, 55, and her husband, Mel, have lived next door to Daniels for two decades. Her only complaint was loud music -- and that was 20 years ago.

"I see no earthly reason why she can't live there," Rackett said. "If she's straightened herself out, why shouldn't she have another chance?"

Douglas Eckerson, 32, agrees. "They're fine neighbors," said Eckerson, who has lived across the street from Daniels for three years. "I've never had a problem with them."

Still, some neighbors understand why the association would deny Mrs. Daniels' application.

"I'm not going to blame them," said Tom Syvertsen, who has lived in the mobile home park for four years. "They have high standards for who gets in. I think she needs to prove herself."

Daniels feels torn between keeping his home or his wife. "They're trying to break us up, thinking I will leave," Daniels said. "I'm staying."

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