How to Navigate Student Housing During the Pandemic

Colleges in California are still deciding how they are going to pursue the upcoming school year.  Whether they’ll be open to the public, closed, or partially available for classes, it’s anyone’s guess.  These undecided details place extra stress on students who are searching for shelter options.  Below we’ll discuss how to handle your student housing lease amidst the pandemic.  

Situation #1: On-Campus Residences

It is most likely that students who are reluctant to face the new reality of dorms that adhere to social distancing and other safety guidelines should be able to pull out of their leasing agreements.  To make sure you are allowed to cancel your lease, you need to check your school’s policy for housing cancellations.  Deadlines, refund policies, and penalty fees will differ per college campus.  However, students are also experiencing problems with securing on-campus housing as universities decrease the allowed number of tenants.  Even though on-campus housing opportunities are dwindling, some universities are conversing with local hotels and private housing owners to see if any extra housing can be arranged. 

Situation #2: Off-Campus Residences

Off-campus housing opportunities usually encompass apartments governed by landlord-tenant laws instead of the campus policy.  A housing community differs from on-campus housing because it has a lease agreement detailing how it must remain operational for tenants, while campus apartments rely on the academic services and campus restrictions.  Before you attempt to renegotiate an off-campus lease, you need to do these four things: First, review your lease for an attorney fee provision, which is a major risk for tenants.  Second, examine your lease for a force majeure clause, which invalidates contracts when occurrences outside of someone’s control (a pandemic for example) ensue.  Third, figure out if all parties must sign to add an amendment to the lease (that way you have documentational evidence).  Fourth, decide if you want to proceed with the leasing arrangement or cancel it. 

What To Do When Cancelling a Lease

A standard 30-day notice should be given by the tenant who desires to vacate the premises.  Once you issue the notice, the landlord’s duty to re-rent the unit as soon as possible begins.  That way, tenants cannot be charged for unpaid rent if there is clear evidence that the landlord could have already re-rented it.  If tenants use their entire security deposit towards their last month of rent, they are able to use a 60-day notice to leave the premises.  In the past, this action might have been met with a 3-day eviction notice, but in these times eviction is prohibited.  Keep in mind that this is a bold move.  Beware: if you live with multiple roommates and nobody pays the rent, the landlord can pursue the most creditworthy person for all of the missed payments.

How to Efficiently Negotiate 

Start a conversation with your landlord.  Consider the subletting option, and see if it’s a possibility in your apartment complex.  Tenants may also request a rent reduction, waiver, or deferral.  Don’t be afraid to communicate with the property owner; we are in troubling times, and the best way to stay afloat is to find the best sheltering options and increase your savings.  

Click the link below to read Lila Seidman’s full article: https://www.latimes.com/homeless-housing/story/2020-07-09/how-to-get-out-of-your-student-housing-lease 

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