EUGENE, Ore. -- As University of Oregon students were hit with the news that in-person classes would now transform to online learning, many found themselves scrambling to figure out what the next steps would be for the housing leases they had signed.
Johnny Quinn is a sophomore at UO who reached out to the managers of his apartment complex to see if anything could be worked out to assist students who will not be living in their units. He said his emails and calls were not returned, and the communication by the complex was vague.
"At the end of the day, we're all students,” Quinn said. “We're not there just to be there. We're there for school, and we didn't have school."
Quinn said that due to the loss of on-campus jobs, keeping up with rent payments can be a struggle for many students. This is especially true for students who went home to be with their families and will not be returning to campus before their leases are up.
“My roommate was somebody who worked two jobs,” Quinn said. “He worked 40 hours a week to pay his rent. When the school shut down, he didn't have a job to pay rent."
While students recognize that leases were signed and terms were agreed upon, Quinn said that it would have been nice for students to feel more supported during the pandemic.
Joshua Caraco, the hotline manager for the Springfield Eugene Tenant Association, said he feels for students who have no choice, but to pay until their leases are up. He said many are already in student debt, so housing debt only adds to the equation.
"Why should we hold their parents accountable?” Caraco asked. “They're adults now too. Many of them have lost their jobs, and now they have no reason to be here."
Caraco said he has received numerous calls from students and parents over the months have wondered what types of options exist.
“Generally speaking, if someone wants to terminate a lease early, there are a couple of options. Either they can be charged an early termination which could be no more than one and a half month’s rent or they could be charged actual damages which could be the price of rent until another tenant is found.”
Caraco said that it’s difficult to fill the student units, causing students to feel threatened to pay until the duration of their lease. He said that the laws in place are not helpful to students, in this case.
"It’s unfortunate, but we’re all going to bounce back from it," Quinn said. "We're all at college for a reason. We're all in it together."