Many of you have questions about off-campus student housing, and leases you have signed with third party providers. We understand this is an area of great concern, and that it’s been extraordinarily difficult to plan for the fall semester and to finalize your housing decisions. We truly wish things were different, and we appreciate your flexibility and understanding.
Please know we’ve been advocating for your best interests at every turn. Our real estate and housing administrators have already spoken to landlords who own or manage properties totaling more than 16,000 beds around our campuses. Your safety remains our top priority, and these conversations have given us a chance to share important information with landlords, including recommendations for cleaning and touchless move-in/move-out; resources for procuring deep cleaning services, cleaning supplies, and PPE; and templates for signage.
We will continue these conversations in the coming weeks. But in the meantime, we want to provide an update on what we know, and answer some general questions you may have.
Many landlords seem to understand the difficult situation that students and families are in, and their reasons for wanting to terminate leases. There is a general desire to be helpful, but many landlords also point out that they have notes to pay on properties and staff they are trying to keep employed.
In our conversations with landlords, we have specifically asked how they are handling requests to terminate agreements, and any changes they are making in their property management as a result of COVID-19. Their responses have varied, but some general trends have emerged:
- Terminations are not being allowed, although a couple of landlords indicated they allowed terminations in certain limited instances (e.g., documented proof of compromised health resulting in higher risk; and international students unable to travel to the United States).
- Most landlords are waiving relet fees and/or application fees when a student (or the landlord) finds a replacement tenant.
- There is an even mix of landlords assisting tenants to backfill space versus requiring students to find a backfill tenant on their own.
- Most landlords have enhanced cleaning of common areas.
- Most landlords have restricted access to common amenities to allow for social distancing.
- Most landlords are not setting aside beds for quarantine, although those who still have vacancy have usually indicated they will allow students to relocate and quarantine in a vacant unit, if it is a furnished apartment.
- Most landlords are not requiring students to sign an addendum relating to COVID-19 (e.g., requiring students to do health assessments, agree to quarantine before/after moving in or if they test positive).
- Most landlords are filling their beds in the same occupancy type that they usually use (i.e, if their rooms are double occupancy, they are leasing them out as double occupancy). Only a couple landlords have indicated they will limit remaining occupancy to single occupancy, or that they have had increased requests for single occupancy.
We have urged landlords to be as flexible and as lenient as possible, particularly in waiving fees and in assisting students in the relet process. The landlords, though, have binding leases in place, so these decisions ultimately rest with them.
We will continue to keep our lines of communication open with landlords, and update you as appropriate. We understand this is a challenging time, and we are working hard to support you as best we can.
Please stay safe and stay well.