Tenants complain of wrongful evictions and harassment at low-income housing complex in St. Pete

There are growing calls for the St. Petersburg Housing Authority to investigate one of its own, after several complaints about how that employee is treating tenants at a property she manages.

Those tenants live at the Boca Ciega Townhomes, which are not part of the St. Pete Housing Authority.

But the St. Pete Tenants’ Union says those who live there are left in a terrifying and chaotic situation -- facing harassment, intimidation and "wrongful evictions."

FOX 13 spoke to tenants about those concerns and investigated their complaints.

"It's hard, you know, being a single mom, trying to work and do what I need to do for my kids. It's stressful. It's been stressful on the kids. It's been stressful on myself," said Kiera Owens.

Owens and her four children have called the Boca Ciega home for the past eight years. She’s now facing eviction over what she says is a discrepancy with the property manager, Katrina Weekley.

The Boca Ciega is a low-income property with income-adjusted rent. Owens said when she got a new job, she reported the additional income but that months later, she abruptly received a notice stating she owed more than $3,000 in back rent with only days to pay it.

Owens is now working with Bay Area Legal Services to fight the eviction.

"I just wanted to stick up for everyone, to be a voice for everyone," said Owens.

READ: St. Pete Pride festivities set for this weekend: here's what you need to know

That’s because she’s not alone. One neighbor told us she got an eviction notice after her teenage daughter got a part-time job.

Residents say living at the Boca Ciega isn’t peaceful.

"It's hell. It's really tough," said one tenant.

READ: St. Pete man arrested for DUI after crashing into FHP car

We spoke with a number of tenants who said they’ve been subjected to harassment, intimidation and retaliatory eviction practices.

"We are on a low income, subsidized housing. And she knows this, but she's not going by the book. She’s not giving people proper paperwork," said Kayonte Blackwell. 

Blackwell said when she was laid off, she reported the change in her income to management, but months later received an eviction notice, despite paying her rent.

"This is a nightmare. You know, I thank God I have a roof over my head, but, you know, someone's trying to take my roof for no reason," said Blackwell. 

Managing the Boca Ciega is a second job for Weekley. By day, she’s on the executive management team for the St. Petersburg Housing Authority.

The Boca Ciega is not one of its properties, but the St. Pete Tenants’ Union is calling for the housing authority to investigate Weekley.

READ: Pool company owner sentenced to 18 years for defrauding nearly 100 Florida homeowners

"It's just absolutely unacceptable that the director of asset management for the St. Pete housing authority is harassing and potentially exploiting tenants with these made-up fees, especially since this is a low income residents and we are in the middle of a housing crisis," said Ash with the St. Pete Tenant’s Union.

In a statement, the SPHA told FOX 13:

"As part of our commitment to maintaining a professional and ethical work environment, the St. Petersburg housing authority conducts thorough reviews of all our employees. The St. Petersburg housing authority is not aware of any complaints regarding Ms. Weekley."

READ: Couple caught in rip current drowns while on vacation in Florida with six children: Officials

Weekley did not directly respond to FOX 13’s requests for comment.

A Boca Ciega property manager who said she was responding on behalf of Weekley told FOX 13 the tenants are all facing eviction for committing housing fraud. They denied the allegations made by tenants and added they are following HUD guidelines.

Tenants, however, are also calling on HUD to investigate.

SIGN UP: Click here to sign up for the FOX 13 daily newsletter

"I feel like they should do an audit in the office," said Owens.

Owens is confident she did the right thing, reporting income from her new job and yet is grappling with where else she’d go.

"I'm not sure. That's why I’m trying to do everything i can to fight for my place to stay," said Owens.

We reached out to HUD to find out if there were any fraud cases related to tenants at the Boca Ciega. FOX 13 also asked about the amount of federal subsidies received by the property and if there would be an audit. We’ll let you know what we find out.