Alachua business owners weigh litigation against city

Woman enters home
The city of Alachua has ordered a dozen tiny homes like this one to be removed. (Photo courtesy Kaptured by Kacy Photography)

Tiny home business owners are considering legal action after the city of Alachua ordered them to remove all of their tiny homes on wheels.  

Krsna Balynas and Govinda Carol are the owners of Simplify Further, a company that rents out tiny homes on Airbnb. They own four tiny homes and manage eight others across four properties in Alachua.  

According to a change.org petition, where Balynas and Carol wrote their story, the saga began in 2020, when the city wrote them up for code violations. The couple says they subsequently had a series of meetings with the city and were never given clarity on code definitions, although officials led them to believe the homes on wheels were considered RVs and not in code violation. 

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Then last week the city of Alachua ordered Balynas and Carol to immediately vacate the tiny homes and have them removed within 14 days, citing health and safety concerns.  

This week, the Institute for Justice (IJ), a national civil liberties law firm, wrote a letter to Mayor Gib Coerper and city officials calling the order unfair and “illegal.” 

“The city’s interpretation of the state building code is also completely arbitrary and irrational and regulates Krsna’s and Govinda’s tiny homes in a manner that exceeds the scope of their authority to do so,” the letter said, citing a new inspector classifying the homes as structures, rather than RVs.  

The IJ letter said Balynas and Carol were threatened with arrest if they do not comply. It asked the city to allow the couple to run their tiny home business as they have previously or allow them 120 days to remove the homes.  

“We have yet to hear back from [the city] since this letter was sent and continue to build our case to take to litigation if it becomes necessary,” Balynas and Carol wrote on their petition page.  

Balynas confirmed that position in an email to Mainstreet Daily News.  

“[We] plan to pursue legal action if the City does not come to a clear and reasonable solution for us to continue our business in the City of Alachua,” Balynas wrote. 

Coerper and several other Alachua officials did not return Mainstreet’s requests for comment. 

Balynas and Carol say they have worked for more than two years with no action taken by the city. The IJ views this as Alachua reaffirming that the tiny homes did not present any code violations.  

“Alachua officials represented to Krsna and Govinda that their tiny houses would be classified as RVs for purposes of the application of the city’s code,” the IJ letter said. “The meaning of a law cannot be said to shift depending on the person enforcing it. That is tyranny.” 

The letter says the Department of Business and Professional Regulation inspected the tiny homes and gave the owners a license. It also says one of the city’s officials, who inspected the tiny homes, approved a permit for an electrical connection in one of the homes.  

Balynas and Carol say removing the tiny homes would be detrimental to their ability to earn a livelihood. It would also put them at risk of losing their “Superhost” designation—given by Airbnb to exceptional hosts—if they are forced to cancel existing reservations. 

Simplify Further claims to have brought thousands of visitors to the Alachua County area, bringing in tourism revenue for other local businesses in the city of Alachua.

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Archer

Are they “homes” or tourist cabins? Seems like they ought to treated as public lodgings like rental cabins at KOA, state parks, etc., although that may run afoul of local zoning, I don’t know.

Spring Covington

We recently moved to the Alachua city as well and were also told no tiny homes on wheels, were allowed on our property. This is horrible behavior , from a new city officer. I will be praying this new official helps local property owners to continue to be able to add tiny homes where appropriate, and your buisness can continue as well.