Element tenants frustrated by ongoing issues in damaged building, seek legal action

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Tenants of the posh Tampa apartment complex Element say water flowing over everything they owned was only their first problem.

8 On Your Side has received a number of complaints, including some about rental ads for currently damaged units, posted before the existing tenants had actually moved.

Anna Rabin, spokesperson for building owner Northland that’s based in Massachusetts, said the posts were pulled but she added, “the issue of why some listings are still appearing is being looked into” by the company.

Another complaint is problems caused by what one tenant called “spotty elevator service” involving either long waits for a ride up due to heavy usage by contractors and tenants versus the decision to climb dozens of flights of stairs.

Dustin Staggers lives on the 31st floor and is one of buildings more outspoken tenants since the incident. He said both options make him want to break his lease.

“Waiting 40 minutes in an elevator well is just not good,” Staggers said. “And I can’t walk up and down 31 floors.”

Rabin said Northland has addressed safety concerns about the elevators expressed by tenants.

“The safety of our residents is our top priority,” Rabin said. “At no point were the elevators deemed unstable, and we worked with technicians to ensure that repairs were made, and they were fully operational, before moving anyone back in.”

Tenants said they were offered money to sign what Northland indicated is a lease termination agreement that states it is a “full and final release” from “known and unknown claims.”

According to the company, tenants who decided to leave received $1,000 with $500 paid for moving expenses for anyone who relocated in the building. Either way, they were required to sign the lease termination document.

Reginald Metu, who pays about $2,000 to live on the 21st floor, moved in last April but is now ready to move out and seek legal action to cover his costs.

“It looks like a hotel in Baghdad that got blown up,” Metu said. “They kind of gave us the runaround during the entire two-week process so I really don’t take anything they say for a fact.”

A tenant who asked not to be identified claims Northland offered him an apartment on a lower floor “with a worse view,” but for more money. Northland denies the tenant had to “fight management” to keep his rent the same.

Rabin said there are currently no plans to raise rent of the victims who choose to move to a different unit in the building.

“For those transferring to another apartment at Element, we have not made any changes to their leasing terms,” Rabin said.

Staggers said he has had enough and is also seeking legal action.

“Living in a hotel for 11 days, them refusing to abate anyone’s rent,” Staggers said. “It’s just a culmination of a lot of things.”

Rabin said Northland has addressed safety concerns expressed by tenants over the elevator

“The safety of our residents is our top priority,” Rabin said. “At no point were the elevators deemed unstable, and we worked with technicians to ensure that repairs were made, and they were fully operational, before moving anyone back in.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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