By Alyssa Garcia
DAVIS — Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, student concerns about the transition from in-person to online classes have coincided with concerns regarding apartment leases.
As many student residents of Davis feel uneasy about their ability to cancel leases and/or pay rent, ASUCD Legal Services released statements and advice on options available to students about both the renewal of leases and signing new leases for the 2020-2021 year.
ASUCD released this statement as a way to help people who may need it and the city of Davis has also taken action stating, “At a time like this where everything is uncertain the topic of rent and leases has proven to be one of the largest concerns for students and anyone who has been subjected to harsh conditions.”
One recommendation is subleasing, in which the tenant(s) find someone to take over their lease for some time or the lease period.
However, some students are unable to come back due to varying reasons, and with the amount of apartment vacancies in Davis, the supply of subleasers exceeds the demand for a place to sublease.
Taking this into account, ASUCD Legal Services also suggested negotiating with landlords/leasing agents where tenants may be able to obtain a buyout and only pay a partial amount of their whole lease.
Residents may also be able to cancel rent for a certain number of months depending on their landlords and what they may be offering. However, the feasibility of this is unclear as many landlords/leasing agents have not been very lenient.
ASUCD noted this in their memo that “it will take a cooperating landlord/leasing agent that wants to work something out before this will happen.”
In addition, ASUCD Legal Services recommended cleaning the place, turning in keys, and making it clear in writing that you will not be paying rent or staying in the apartment starting in September 2020.
This suggestion is the riskiest as it is possible that the landlord/leasing agent may sue you for unpaid rent. If this does happen, it is best to respond to the lawsuit right away, ASUCD mentioned.
For any Davis students/residents dealing with rent issues and who would like help, ASUCD Legal Services is available. Legal Services can connect students to an attorney who is able to answer questions and provide advice on how to pursue the situation.
On Aug. 26, 2020, the city of Davis extended the city’s urgency ordinance which allows for economic relief through Sep. 30, 2020.
Landlords will not be able to evict tenants that have been impacted by the pandemic as long as the tenants follow the provisions. The provisions include a written notice to the landlord about their incapacity of paying rent and document proof that COVID-19 financially impacted the tenant has no later than 30 days of the rent due date.
However, the payment will not be forgiven as the landlord may seek out the missing rent once the urgency ordinance expires and must be paid within six months of the expiration date.
The city of Davis has also decided to continue waiving new city utility bill late fees for residential and commercial customers, allowing late payments through September 2020. Therefore, the city will also not shut off water.
Despite this extension, many students feel that it is not enough.
Alejandra Melena, a third year human development major at UC Davis, has expressed her vexation on the subject stating, “It’s hard knowing that after September 30th this aid may not be available to people who have been significantly affected by COVID-19. I wish Davis would come up with a resolution that allowed us to leave our leases without any repercussions as none of us expected to be put in these difficult situations that not only involve us, but our families as well.”
Other students have voiced opinions that the city has not provided much help as people continue to face financial and employment problems that inhibit their ability to continue with rental leases.
For some, the extension does provide a temporary relief to the economic constraints that this unprecedented event created. Still, members of the Davis community continue to seek a long lasting and solid solution to the rent crisis that has continued for months now.