Bay Area College Students Trapped in Pre-Coronavirus Leases

July 27, 2020

Bay Area college students, already disrupted by the pandemic, are struggling to renegotiate tightly-drawn leases signed before the crisis. Lawyers and renter advocates say students at universities in San Jose, San Francisco, and Berkeley — expensive markets where high demand often forces students into making quick and early decisions on apartments — are being squeezed to pay rent for rooms they may never set foot in. 

Bay Area, Legal Aid attorney Lara Verwer, said students are generally newer to the landlord-tenant relationship, and can more easily be enticed to sign ironclad leases with stiff penalties. “It’s almost trapping students,” she said. Most locked in leases well before the pandemic, taking advantage of rent discounts for early renewals and ensuring a reserved apartment with their friends for fall. 

While some property owners have worked with tenants, others have drawn a hard line. Students and parents complain about stand-offish or unresponsive property managers and being forced to advertise apartments on Facebook and Craigslist to find renters to assume their leases. But the students are competing with their landlords advertising rent discounts at the same properties.

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