Lealman man struggles to get rid of home’s former owner
LEALMAN - On March 22, Timothy Cundiff sold his modest house to a co-worker for $10,000. His wife Robin was at the closing, too, and signed off on the deal. After Cundiff left for Ohio, though, his wife decided to keep living at the house, at 3730 43rd Ave. in Lealman, an unincorporated community just north of St. Petersburg. Despite legally owning the house, Michael Panapolis had a tough time getting rid of her. Cundiff was still living in the house 10 days ago when Panapolis stopped by to clean and start moving in. He told her she couldn’t be there, and she replied that her husband was coming back for her soon, according to Panapolis.Then he texted her, saying he would be by the following Saturday and that she needed to be gone by then. When Panapolis turned up with his girlfriend, though, Cundiff didn’t budge, claiming she had 30 days to move after the closing. This time, a Pinellas County sheriff’s deputy was called out to the home. The deputy told Panapolis the dispute was a civil matter and that he needed to evict her. The clerk of courts office, though, said he couldn’t evict her because Cundiff wasn’t a tenant. An unlawful detainer action, sometimes used to get rid of an invited guest that has overstayed his welcome, would have been expensive, perhaps costing Panapolis $3,000 to $5,000 in legal fees, he learned from his title company. Panapolis also didn’t want to escalate the conflict. Cundiff was living in the house with her 20-year-old son and at least four dogs, including a pit bull, and he wanted to move in with his girlfriend, along with his child and hers. “We’re not dealing with rational people,” Panapolis said. “Rational people move out when you buy their house.” Cundiff moved out today after squatting in the house for 21 days, and only after a reporter and photographer showed up with Panapolis on Thursday. “She was pretty upset that The Tampa Tribune was out there,” Panapolis said Friday. “She completely changed her tune and said ‘I’m gonna leave.’
“We’re moving today,” Cundiff said on Thursday, from the passenger seat of a pickup.
When asked why she had stayed after signing off on the sale in March, she said ‘Signed what paper?’ before the driver left and then returned.
“If you want to interview me, I’m not interested,” Cundiff said.
Panapolis’ predicament was rare, sheriff’s Sgt. Tim Grundmann said.
“If she’s involved in the sale and approved the sale of the house in any way, we can toss her out right now,” Grundmann said.
A check of the Pinellas County Property Appraiser’s website confirms that Cundiff had, in fact, agreed to sell the house. Deputies can’t rely solely on that, though, and are not in the business of investigating property ownership matters, Grundmann said.
“When it comes to a borderline civil matter, we’re walking on egg shells,” he said. “It takes basically a lawyer to interpret what the statute book is saying.
Panapolis would have had to have given deputies all the documentation needed to unequivocally prove Cundiff had signed off on the sale, Grundmann said.
“We can’t just throw people out of their residence,” he said. We have to do it lawfully, or it’s going to come back and bite the sheriff.”