On March 10, 2020, the University of California, Riverside (UCR) decided to go remotely online due to the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19. Going online was a safety measure taken by the university to reduce any risk of students and staff getting sick. Additionally on March 13, 2020, I was told that it would be my last day working at my after school position. What was thought to be temporary for a couple of weeks turned into indefinite uncertainty for the world.
Now, both my job and the university will not be meeting in person for the rest of the school year. With no job and classes being online, shelter in place orders being mandated, I have decided to move back home to my permanent place of residence with my mother in San Francisco, seven hours away from Riverside.
Growing up with a single mother, she has always been the only support I have had with finances. Unfortunately, her job as a house cleaner has also been affected and postponed without a certain date in the future as to when she can return. Her clients do not feel comfortable with anyone coming in and out of their house and it’s very understandable. As both my mother and I have lost our jobs, and school moving remotely online, there is no reason for me to continue to be in Riverside. However, the only thing holding me back is the lease I have for the off-campus house I was living in.
After speaking with my landlord and our lease ending in mid-June, he decided that paying $4,000 would be the only way to break out of our lease. As we began to express that we couldn’t afford that, let alone any rent for the time being, he said we had until March 31st, or the offer was going to be thrown out and the remaining rent that would’ve been $6,500 remains. As the rent moratorium went into effect April 1st, he began harassing us by calling us continuously and threatening to speak with the Dean of UCR if we did not respond. He additionally told us that he would win taking us to small claims court and that this situation was putting our graduation at risk.
As a 21 year old, this situation makes me very uneasy. I’ve worked very hard since I was 18 to build my credit and maintain it that way. Now something that is beyond my control could ultimately cause me to get an eviction report on my credit. As a young adult, who is graduating in the spring, I have plans to move out and find my own place in the fall. I no longer know if this will be possible having such a burden on my credit report. No company or landlord will want to rent to me. I think this situation is unfair and does not speak of my character to my responsibilities with finances.
I really hope that an emergency executive order will allow students like myself and thousands who are in similar situations to break free from their leases without penalty. This is the only way I can feel secure that my future will not be hindered due to this ongoing pandemic.
Karen Polanco is a student at University of California, Riverside.