SACRAMENTO (KPIX) — As the coronavirus pandemic closes college campuses across the country, students — and their parents — are still stuck paying rent for vacant apartments even as many of those property owners receive pandemic assistance.
Some landlords near campuses aren’t allowing students to break their leases and aren’t passing any of the assistance they receive onto their students.
“No one is caring for us students at all right now and it’s disappointing,” Sacramento State student Jaspreet Khatra said.
Khatra secured her lease at Element Student Living, near Sacramento State University back in December, since June she’s been scrambling to get out of it.
“It’s going to be a lot of pressure on me and my family, considering that my dad and I both don’t have any income right now,” Khatra said.
She formed an organization and started a petition to fight back. More than 1,800 people have signed the petition asking the owner of Element to let students out of their pre-pandemic leases.
Change.org is filled with similar petitions from students all across the country.
The company that operates Element Student Living received a Paycheck Protection Program loan to offset its financial losses due to COVID-19.
PPP data shows Element’s owner received anywhere from $350,000 to $1 million. Similarly, the owners of Academy 65 – another student living space near Sacramento State – received between $2 and $5 million. At The Grad apartments in San Jose, the owners received between $1 and $2 million in PPP loans.
“We’re scared and we’re afraid of what’s to come, you know, how will this affect us long term,” said student and The Grad resident Paola Villalobos.
She’s considering dropping out of San Jose State University to get a full-time job to pay for an apartment that she’s not living in.
“Am I going to have to be a part-time student now?” Villalobos said. “I might to, you know, make up for the money that I’m going to have to pay.”
Students at The Grad are also organizing and their petition has garnered nearly 1,500 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.
While most students are staying at home, others have chosen to move in since they’re not allowed to break their leases. Those students say it’s not going well.
Students have complained to The Grad management that they don’t feel safe during the ongoing health crisis. One student who chose to remain anonymous wrote in an email to management that during move-in there was “zero social distancing” along with “packed elevators with 10+ people.”
“Right now? We don’t feel like we’re cared for” Khatra said. “We don’t feel like they put our health at any sort of importance at all.”
Khatra is being asked to sign a liability waiver, saying she acknowledges that it is possible to she may become sick and that “she agrees to hold owner harmless and releases owner from any and all claims related to physical, or psychological damages resulting from Covid-19.”
Khatra says she won’t sign it.
“I just feel like … they don’t care for their residents,” she said. “They just want to make their money and living in California is already so expensive. Like, I can’t afford a vacant apartment just for the benefit of a company who’s already getting financial aid from the government.”
Owners of The Grad, Element and Academy 65 did not respond to our requests for comment for this story.