I’ll have to pay $26,018 if I decide to break my lease.
Why is it so difficult to lend help to the future of this country?
Legislators tell us that we are the future, we are the ones who will build this world into the place we need it to be. Students are portrayed as the hope of this world.
That hope has been fickle lately.
It’s time for elected officials to rise up and support the student community, to allow us to break our leases so we can properly focus on building a better future, instead of scrounging up all of our resources to pay for off-campus housing we are not using.
As a freshman at California State University Northridge, not only do I fear catching COVID-19, but I have the burden of a useless, yet legally binding lease, hanging over my every waking thought.
Unforeseen circumstances have obliterated the plans of millions of college students like me to continue on in our higher education journey. ‘Shelter in place,’ for me, meant going home. I left to stay with my family so I could feel safe during these troubling times. The concept of an apartment by school became obsolete overnight. I needed to cut my losses and regroup with my loved ones to prepare for an increasingly abysmal future.
I thought my landlord would understand when I wanted to break my lease around campus because everything had transitioned to remote learning. I was promptly told that I couldn’t do that. I would have to continue paying for an apartment that I wasn’t using. COVID-19, coupled with the inability to break our leases, has created a seemingly unending battle between pursuing higher education and making rent on time.
For some, the pandemic is the biggest worry, for college students in off-campus housing in Los Angeles, it is one of many concerns. With vacant apartments, I understand many landlords find the need to keep anyone they can, but I do not see how I should have to continue paying for an apartment I can’t use. With the lack of media coverage, the general public is unaware of the predicaments most college students are facing, all while students like me are experiencing a lack of resources and access to assistance.
Most California schools are distance learning, but the same restrictions on leases for off-campus housing remain. Some places charge a huge cancellation fee and others require that tenets find someone else to take over the lease – a tall order near a campus with no students. If landlords are not extending leniency in light of this pandemic and massive recession, then it’s time for Governor Newsom to act.
Non-Profit Organizations such as Young Invincibles are actively advocating for change and seeking COVID-19 relief for students stuck in their leases. The movement distributed a petition that received over 1,000 signatures urging Gov. Newsom to act.
Governor Newsom needs to provide relief by supporting lease cancellation without penalty or face the reality that millions of students will be put in dangerous circumstances if they are forced to decide between rent and food. Legislators need to act now.
We can’t let the economy matter more than human lives. California can work with students to build a more equitable society – and show future generations that in this moment of uncertainty we chose to protect the mental, physical, and spiritual health of young people more than a rent check.
Alexia Barajas is finishing her second year at California State University Northridge where she is interested in pursuing Public Relations. Her passions include community empowerment, public relations, and social justice. In the future, Alexia is looking forward to continuing her education and further exploring community advocacy in working with non-profit organizations.