College students pay up to break leases and ditch dorms

California doesn’t protect lease-breaking related to coronavirus pandemic though many universities have shifted to online classes

Los Angeles /
Jun.June 17, 2020 10:04 AM
Some California college students are cutting big checks to their landlords to break leases (Credit: iStock)
Some California college students are cutting big checks to their landlords to break leases (Credit: iStock)

California state law now protects residents from getting evicted over nonpayment but it does not address a different need among renters, particularly college students.

With many California colleges and universities having canceled in-person classes over coronavirus concerns, students who signed apartment leases are now stuck with no legal way to exit without paying penalties, according to the Los Angeles Times.

While state lawmakers barred evictions and foreclosures soon after the virus took hold, they have yet to address the issue of breaking a lease.

Renters — including college students — can only legally break their leases in accordance with the previously agreed-upon terms. In some cases, that means paying a lump sum to vacate the unit.

The 23-campus California State University system is among those that have moved primarily to online courses for the fall, which will cut into occupancy levels at surrounding apartment properties.

One UC Irvine student said she and her three roommates paid almost $2,000 each to break their lease with landlord Irvine Company, according to the Times. Only Solano County passed a law allowing residents to break their leases without penalty as long as it’s related to the pandemic.

Other students are reconsidering whether to rent an apartment near their schools if they’ll only have one or two classes if any on campus this semester.

Low occupancy could spell trouble for student housing investors. Though much has changed since April, pre-leasing rates then were relatively unchanged at around 65 percent, compared to 2019; leasing rates vary considerably between markets.

San Francisco Bay Area tenant law attorney Joseph Tobener said that he’s fielding between 15 to 20 calls a week from parents and students who want to break their leases, according to the Times. [LAT]Dennis Lynch


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