UC Riverside students stuck in leases after classes move online

UC Riverside students are up in arms over off-campus rental agreements they signed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic moving their courses online.
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- University of California Riverside students are up in arms over off-campus rental agreements they signed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic moving their courses online.

"My roommates and I were set on moving into off-campus housing since it is usually more affordable and we're all low-income. However we didn't realize that being off-campus means we are not insured for anything if COVID were to hit," said Angela Saha, a sophomore at UCR.

In April, Saha and her roommates signed a lease with University Village Towers within walking distance of the campus. Two months later UCR announced it was moving to remote learning for the fall due to health and safety concerns.

Saha said she reached out to the apartment's management to cancel the rental agreement since she and her roommates would not be returning to the campus.

"They say that the only way we can cancel our contract is to not really cancel it but we can give our lease to someone else to take over. Obviously with everything being online no one is going to want to take over it," said Saha.

Saha said not only are they trapped in the lease, but the apartment complex began offering lower rent to attract new renters and did not offer the same to current leaseholders.

In a statement to Eyewitness News, University Village Towers said in part, "We understand the unprecedented circumstances facing the student community and are exploring a number of areas where we can offer flexibility to our residents."

Students with leases at other university apartment complexes are experiencing a similar issue.

"The roommates that I was planning on staying with, they are all trying to figure out a way to cancel the lease and we are all very stressed about how to take care of this because we're just students as well," said Shayona Shah, a sophomore at UCR.

Students have started an online petition in the hopes they will be released from their rentals for the school year.

"I want the city of Riverside to actually be helping us and UCR to listen to our pleas as well as (Assemblyman) Jose Medina and for these places that are off-campus to understand where these students are coming from. We are literally being taken advantage of right now," said Saha.
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