Off-campus living poses challenges for tenants
Inflexible move-in and move-out dates hinder maximum sublet sales
June 13, 2012, 8:41 pm · Updated June 13, 2012, 10:05 pm·
For many students, moving off-campus promises freedom from communal bathrooms, RAs and strict move-out deadlines.
But for some, the decision to rent an off-campus house or apartment has been more difficult than they imagined. For many who choose to sublet their new rooms, the process of transitioning to off-campus living begins even before they move in as new tenants.
“There’s just so many people who have places to rent out and not enough people looking for places to rent,” rising College junior Claire Stuhlmann said. While she was able to find a subletter for her room, he will only be staying and paying rent for a month.
Despite getting approval from the previous tenants to move in before the contract began on June 1 — in time for the first summer session of classes, Stuhlmann’s landlord informed her that she and her roommates would have to accept the house “as is,” thus forfeiting cleaning and an inspection of damages caused by previous tenants.
“Landlords close to Penn should look at the academic calendar and base contracts on it,” said rising College junior Connie Hua, who similarly forfeited a cleaning of her new house when subletters moved in before June 1. “A lot of landlords could change it to May 15, for example, and make everyones’ lives a lot easier.”
Hua’s landlord never told her that her subletters’ early move-in would be a problem, and only revoked the cleaning when the company discovered they had moved in early.
“If your lease isn’t beginning until June 1, you might lose some of the people who need a place to live and are starting classes in mid-May,” said University City Housing Regional Manager Bill Groves, which mostly uses contracts that start later in the summer.
Groves also said when tenants with June 1 leases want to move in early, they are generally able to accommodate the extra few weeks if the previous tenant has moved out.
But some new renters were not as lucky with their landlords. One rising College junior, who asked to remain anonymous because of continued interaction with her landlord, said she was refused early move-in by her landlord after being denied an extension to her on-campus room past May 15.
“They were completely inflexible,” she said. “Not only couldn’t we move ourselves in, but we couldn’t move any furniture in even though I knew for a fact that the people living there had moved out before the end of May.”
Since she needed to be on campus beginning May 15, the junior ended up living with a friend until she was able to move into her new off-campus room. Stuhlmann added that many of her friends had similar problems. Those who flew home right after exams and were unable to store boxes in their new house before June 1 were forced to make alternative arrangements for both their subletters and their belongings.
The strict move-in dates are a legal issue for some landlords.
“Technically the house is rented out to the previous group so we have no legal right to let [new tenants] move in early because their lease doesn’t start until June 1,” said Jennifer Palmer, an agent for Palmer Properties. She added that this policy extends to moving in furniture or storage items, as well.
Off-Campus Services, Penn’s office dedicated to assisting students living or considering living off-campus, stresses that they can often help students communicate with their landlords, but only if students reach out for help.
“Students who are caught in these types of situations should reach out to the office for some guidance on how they can talk to their landlord and what they can and can’t do,” said Barbara Lea-Kruger, director of communications for the school’s Division of Business Services. “We can’t help them if they’re not going to look for help.”
Penn’s housing staff also said students should use OCS as a resource when dealing with leases.
“I’ve always guided students to establish a solid relationship with their landlords so that if they are moving in early they’re making allowances for the apartment to be cleaned,” said Peter Gemmellaro, manager of Off-Campus and Customer Services. “If there are holes in the wall they should make sure those damages that occurred are taken care of and that they’re not responsible.”
Palmer said she has attempted to accommodate those who wish to move their belongings in early, but since she hasn’t had many tenants ask to move in early for summer classes, she doesn’t view the June 1 start date as an immediate problem.
“We’ve been doing it so long that way I don’t even know,” Palmer said when asked about the rationale for starting contracts on June 1. She also acknowledged that if she identified a trend of more students requesting move-ins before June, the company would consider a change.
Gemmellaro and Lea-Kruger agreed that while they would raise a potential contract change with landlords if more students approached their office with a related issue, there has not been a massive influx of complaints about moving in on June 1. But for now, some summer residents will not have places to live, even if only for a few weeks.
“As long as the landlords are as inflexible as they are about move-in dates and the on-campus people are inflexible about when you can live on campus,” the College junior said, “I’ll probably still have to live in a friend’s place and store my stuff in a random house.”