At least one student plans to take legal action against StuHo, the parent company of the Element housing complex, after a series of construction delays led to poor living conditions for residents.
Sean Chapin, a sophomore majoring in human biology, said he met with legal counsel on Feb. 6 to discuss possibilities for receiving monetary compensation from the company. Chapin, along with numerous other residents of the housing complex, had to live in Downtown for several months while Element was under construction, and now experiences ongoing issues with the quality of the building. Residents of Element received a 20 percent discount off of their rent for this semester, but Chapin says that’s not enough.
“[The legal counsel] told me I can report [StuHo] to the Department of Housing if they’re subject to rent control,” Chapin said. “He gave me some next steps for negotiating with them and also said we could pretty easily win in small claims court. He also said we should be getting more than a 20 percent [discount].”
Chapin received free legal aid from Undergraduate Student Government, which offers counseling to undergraduate and graduate students each Monday. StuHo could not be reached for comment.
Element, which is located off campus at the corner of Adams Boulevard and Hoover Street, was promised to be completed in August 2016. Designed to have four stories with 46 townhomes and 4,100 square feet of street-level commercial space, the project experienced issues with obtaining city approval and delays with construction that are still not completely resolved. Students began moving into Element in late November.
However, residents say that construction at Element is still not completed.
“We’re moved in, but they’re still working on the pool, and some of the restaurants I think they were supposed to have in the front,” said Somya Dalal, a tenant at Element who is not a USC student. “They just finished the gym, but they’re waiting on equipment.”
Chapin said that he was also frustrated by the continuing construction at Element.
“I feel tricked,” Chapin said. “Getting woken up at 7 a.m. every day [because of construction] sure isn’t helping my stress.”
A representative from Element’s management, however, said that all construction was complete except for the pool, which was delayed “because of the rain.”
But Stacy Moroz, a sophomore majoring in health promotion and disease prevention, said that she continued to experience problems once she moved in. Her original Element unit was compromised by water damage and a failed electrical system, and she was told by Element management to move into a completely new unit.
“Complications with the first unit were borderline unbearable. Imagine activating a screeching fire alarm every time you took a shower,” Moroz wrote in an email to the Daily Trojan. “We were expecting a functioning unit. So far it looks like we got one, but the first unit we had was also supposedly functioning until it quite obviously no longer was. I’m not exactly optimistic about the success of this one.”
Although the unit is an improvement from the small rooms in the Da Vinci apartments, Moroz said that its distance from campus and different layout from the three-bedroom, three-bathroom floor plan that was advertised made it less than ideal for students.
“In comparison to the Da Vinci apartment we lived in at the beginning of the year in Downtown, [Element] was better due to the proximity of commute,” Moroz wrote. “It’s ‘better’ than the previous accommodations, but in the same way a broken toy is better than the same not broken toy. With the same design and previous complications, who’s to say it won’t break again.”
Ultimately, residents at Element feel as though StuHo did not deliver on its promises.
“We’ve just been waiting for a lot of things to be done, and I don’t think that everything we were put through is worth what we got,” Dalal said.