Living in an urban environment comes with its own benefits and drawbacks.
On one hand, you are in a competitive rental apartment scene. Students who are looking to secure housing — whether at an American Campus Communities property or off-campus residence — usually have to act quickly to secure a lease for the academic year and especially long in advance for the former. Fall and winter of 2019 were no different, with many students securing themselves an apartment well before the unforeseeable coronavirus outbreak this spring.
The pandemic has caused a displacement of the Drexel community, with nearly all students and staff making the migration home after restrictions placed on Philadelphia residents increased and Drexel’s campus closed. As we approach the upcoming school year, many students are stuck with lease agreements, paying for apartments that will likely remain empty.
Due in part to the massive outbreaks at other universities, Drexel this week announced the shift from hybrid to fully remote learning for fall term. As such, Drexel’s campus will remain closed and all students who were to live in residence halls are free from their housing agreements — but the story for residents of ACC and other private leasing companies is not as simple. These companies are not subject to Drexel’s closure policies and may remain in operation, despite a full campus evacuation.
For upperclassmen ACC residents, reletting and subletting are currently the only two methods of avoiding rent obligations — and it doesn’t look like they will allow students to get out of their leases anytime soon. Rent abatements were offered to second-year Drexel students through an announcement emailed to residents on Thursday, Aug. 20. This would allow sophomore students to “receive abatement of their lease installments for that fall term only, with the lease remaining in effect for the period of December 13, 2020 through September 5, 2021.” Since this option was strictly for sophomores (who are required to live on-campus under Drexel’s two-year residency program), it leaves upperclassmen simply out of luck.
As a response to these unjust — yet legal — leasing agreements, many members of the Drexel community have begun circulating a petition that has well over 1,000 signatures as of Thursday night, Aug. 20. The Change.org petition looks to seek lease termination and a rent abatement option for ACC residents at Drexel. Although the rent abatement option was achieved for sophomore residents, those backing this petition seek to gain this option for all students regardless of their grade status.
The Nest at 1324 North Broad, a luxury student apartment complex near Temple University, stated that they would not charge rent in the fall if there were a cancellation of in-person classes. Since some Temple classes did resume on campus, The Nest has gone on to offer a $200 rent reduction to assist students’ financial concerns. These are practices that are not unheard of and could certainly benefit students within the Drexel community, as well.
Pennsylvania state law says that only when the tenant’s privacy is violated by the landlord, the unit is declared unsafe or the tenant joins the military may the lease be legally terminated. Any other form of the tenant breaking the lease could result in legal action by the landlord.
- This issue affects a large subset of Drexel’s student body and presents glaring evidence of legal loopholes, like college students being locked into their leases during a pandemic. Moving forward, college students should be sure to thoroughly read through their leases and look for methods to avoid being locked-in during pandemics or other emergencies. With so many people experiencing financial insecurity due to job losses and cutbacks, rent for an empty apartment should not also be on the list of concerns — but it is for many. Although there isn’t much that can remedy this now, the key takeaway should be to prevent this from affecting others in the future.