UCI Students’ Summer Sublease Struggle

As June begins, summer taunts UCI students as we battle our last week of classes and cram for final exams. Dreams of summer vacation and home-cooked meals with family weigh on the minds of some, while others prepare to tackle summer courses. One extra stress that weighs on many students during this time is finding a summer subleaser: the search for a fellow student to take over your apartment lease for the summer.

Each spring quarter this painstaking process repeats itself. Even though many of us just want a place to live during the regular nine months that constitute the academic year, we have limited housing options. I am one of these students, and although I successfully found someone to sublease my apartment for both summer sessions this year, the process is stressful and time consuming.

The standard year-long lease agreement poses trouble for those who want to leave Irvine for summer, graduate early, or study abroad. Most leases for both on-campus and off-campus housing run for the period of a year, and rents are often higher than $900 a month. This system is not conducive to student budgets as it causes an expensive burden, especially because financial aid is not offered during summer to help soften the blow of ridiculously high rent costs.

Students are responsible for finding their own subleasers with little to no help from the housing offices. Class Facebook pages and Anteater Housing Network become cluttered with posts about every detail of students’ apartments in order to find a match; students even go as far as hanging flyers around campus. It’s painful for me to see these desperate posts, knowing that there aren’t enough students who want to attend summer session for everyone to get their apartments filled.

As students hunt for someone to take over their lease for the summer, many lower their original rent price by hundreds of dollars in order to make their offers more appealing to potential tenants. The rent on single rooms becomes so low that is becomes even more difficult for students to rent out their double or triple shared rooms. Adding to the dilemma, last-minute cancellations leave the leaser with no other options.

Even though I knew from the beginning that I did not want a year-long lease, I was forced into it by Vista Del Campo.

I started advertising my apartment in March, which felt a little bit overkill but totally necessary since I knew the earlier I started the higher my chances of filling my apartment. Thankfully, I found a tenant willing to pay close to full price, but I still made the exception of giving her half of June and September free. It was a stressful process: From advertising and perfecting my posts, to deciding who would most likely be reliable, I could not help but wonder what would happen if I failed to find someone or if they broke our contract at the last minute.
Even if you are successful at finding someone to sublet your space, you are still responsible for completing paperwork between your roommates, subleaser and housing office, as well as covering the rent and other damages if anything goes wrong.

The apartments available to students are limited, costly, and mid-grade for a reason. These apartment companies want to do the least amount of work and make a profit off of students who have no other choice. The housing companies are well aware of the high amount of subleasing demand for the summer, but want little to do with aiding the process. UCI should take action to facilitate subleasing, such as creating a special department within their housing office or a department of financial assistance.

As much as I dislike the practice of making students sign year-long leases, I understand why ACC Housing does it this way. The American Campus Communities Housing is competing with the Irvine Company, a corporation which has a monopoly-hold on nearly all of the off-campus apartment rentals in Irvine, Tustin, and Newport Beach, along with most Orange County shopping centres, including the Spectrum. With virtually no competition, the Irvine Company has the power to raise rent and control the competition throughout the county. ACC Housing is trying to offer students an alternative to the Irvine Company, yet does not have the time to lose profits on the process of cleaning and replacing tenants in apartments every nine months. Therefore, they only offer one-year leases as well as dramatically increasing rent prices each year.

Unfortunately, little can be done to change this. The only recourse is to live further away from campus or commute. We are subject to whatever these companies decide to do with their properties. In Orange County, there is no escaping the clutches of this greedy, profit-driven corporation. And the subleasing struggle continues.

Emilia Williamson is a second-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at eewillia@uci.edu.