Questions surrounding renter’s rights raised following flooding at Element

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Almost two weeks have passed since the flooding disaster at the Element in downtown Tampa.

Hundreds of people were forced out of their homes for days, and some of them have not moved back in.

It’s raising important questions about your rights as a renter, including do you have to pay rent for the days you weren’t in your home, and can you get out of your lease early?

Dustin Staggers is one of the hundreds of people who were forced to stay at a hotel for several days because of a break in the municipal water supply inside the Element apartment complex. Water damaged dozens of units on July 16.

“You get displaced out of your house it’s stressful,” Staggers said.

Some people were allowed to move back in this past Monday, including Staggers. He and several other tenants have now sent demand letters to management, requesting rent relief, reimbursements, and an option to end their lease.

“Asking for rent abatement or putting nice filters in or have an inspector come in, I don’t feel like we’re reaching those seem like reasonable request for me,” Staggers said.

Attorney and owner of the Law Offices of Stephen K. Hachey Stephen Hachey told 8 On Your Side by law you don’t have to pay rent for days you’re unable to stay in your apartment. He added, by law, you have the right to break your lease if the property is deemed unfit to live in. 

“If the landlord makes the repairs and the property is habitable the tenant loses the right to break the lease, but if the tenant deems the property is uninhabitable it’s up to the tenant to get inspections to take to the judge and explain why they should be able to break the lease,” Hachey said.

Hachey suggests that if you’re ever in a similar situation, talk with your landlord first.

“By reaching out and communicating hopefully you can work out a solution that’s good for all parties involved,” Hachey said. “Hopefully the landlord will do right by the tenant and understand the situation and provide relief or financial compensation or if they feel unsafe, the landlord could terminate the lease.”

A spokesman for the company that owns Element, Northland, sent 8 On Your Side a statement last week. You can read below:

Our goal is to welcome back residents on Monday (July 26th) pending approval of the city fire chief and construction services manager. Crews have been working around the clock since last Friday to get the building ready for occupancy and we are happy to report that all of our elevators are now operational. One issue we have been working through that could potentially impact our timeline is ensuring consistent water pressure throughout the building.

We have contacted residents whose apartments were more severely impacted by water damage, and who will not be able to return in the short term, and are assisting them as they consider other housing options.  

We know this has been an incredibly challenging situation for everyone and we cannot express how much we appreciate your patience.

The Element Staff

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