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Some students who are remaining home for the fall semester are seeking to sublease or transfer their lease.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

Students who will not be returning to campus next semester have begun searching for others who can take over their leases for the fall. 

After Penn made the announcement on June 25 that it would invite students back to campus under a hybrid instruction model, students who decided not to return to Philadelphia flooded Penn GroupMe and Facebook chats looking to lease out and find subletters for off-campus apartments and houses.

Students looking for subletters said they received responses quickly. Rising College junior Sophie Lovering posted in the Penn Class of 2022 GroupMe and on the Penn Class of 2022 Facebook group an hour after she learned Penn's plan for the fall. Lovering said six to seven students reached out to her in the following two days about subleasing the room of her housemate, who will not be returning for the semester.

Rising College and Engineering junior Kevin Liang said that within 24 hours after posting in his class GroupMe, at least 10 students contacted him about subleasing his room in a three-bedroom apartment.

Liang, who is from Canada, said that he decided to take classes from home next semester rather than returning to Philadelphia after hearing Penn's decision.

Rising College senior Linda Zou, who lives in New Zealand, said that the rising coronavirus cases in the United States and the risks of traveling through three or four international airports to get to campus convinced her to stay home. Because of this, Zou found another student to take over her off-campus lease. 

Several people seeking subletters said they were contacted by students who had already secured on-campus housing because of the uncertainty surrounding fall housing assignments. 

The University will provide housing for incoming first-years, sophomores, and transfer students through its College House system, according to the June 25 fall announcement. Only a portion of incoming juniors and seniors will be accommodated in on-campus housing, and Penn will lease additional off-campus space for those students who applied for on-campus housing but cannot be accommodated. 

“A common similarity that I see is anxiety and rushing,” Lovering said about students looking for housing. “A lot of people are nervous about it because they might not be able to pick their roommates, where they live, or how far they’ll be from campus.”

Liang said he has been contacted by several students who have reached out to him seeking certainty with housing, including an incoming junior who was not guaranteed to keep her on-campus housing assignment. 

Rising Wharton junior Lauren Arribas is also transferring her year-long lease of an apartment at the Radian, and plans to sublease from another student in the spring if the spring semester is conducted in person. Arribas said she decided to remain home for the fall semester because she did not feel that paying rent for her University City apartment would be worth it because she anticipates her classes will all be online. 

Students reported mixed experiences when dealing with their leasing companies. 

Lovering said that her landlord, University Realty, has been good at communicating with tenants and was flexible about late fees and move-in dates. 

Like Lovering, Liang said he has had a positive experience with his leasing company, University City Housing. UCH allowed Liang and his roommates to push back the start date of their lease from June to August, and did not charge him a fee for transferring his lease.

Arribas, however, said her experience with the Radian was not as smooth. Initially, she tried to break her lease, but was told she had to find someone to either transfer her lease to or sublease for the semester. The Radian told her they would try to help her find someone to sublease from her and also placed her on a list of people to contact for subleasing, she said.

In an emailed statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian, General Manager at the Radian Dan Vassalotti wrote that they have received a relatively small amount of inquiries from their residents about changing or transferring their lease. 

Vassalotti wrote that students still had to pay the $200 transfer fee provided in the lease contract but wrote that “in any case where there is financial hardship, including for a resident who owes larger rent payments, we work individually with each person to try to find a solution.”

Arribas said that after finding someone to transfer her lease to, she asked the Radian if she could get the $200 transferring fee waived, but they refused. 

“Even though I wasn't a burden to them and I replaced myself, I still have to pay this extra fee, and it’s not very convenient at this time,” Arribas said.