Photo provided by wgnagel_uci/Flickr

In light of the COVID-19 shutdown, student residents in off-campus housing communities are concerned with lease termination fees exceeding $8,000 per lease. Irvine Company has offered Rent Assist Programs that deter two months’ worth of payments at a 50% reduction rate. However, they have not addressed the lofty termination fees.

“If you are unable to pay your full rent in April and May, we are offering the option of deferring 50% of your April and May rent payments over a six month period, interest-free,” the Irvine Company said in an email to off-campus residents.

UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman released a statement on March 10 stating that students “are strongly encouraged to return to their off-campus residences, if possible” and are recommended to “stay at home during the spring quarter.”

UCI currently has 15,662 beds in on-campus housing, and the New University received statistics that suggest more than 10,000 students have taken measures to return home due to COVID-19. As of April 12, less than 5,000 students remain in on-campus housing.

“I can’t imagine how frustrating this might be for students. Many of them have either paid that $8,000 and left because they wanted to go home or others are just staying,” said Daniela Romero, ASUCI Internal Vice President. “We just wanted to point out to Irvine Company that half our student population is leaving, so why aren’t you doing anything to help us?”

Students have expressed financial and academic concerns about the impact of an unexpected loss of income and expensive termination fees due to the crisis.

“I’m maybe speaking more on behalf of others than myself, but there are some students who are unable to pay the termination fee because they’re ridiculously high, and it’s hard to have those external stress factors come into play when we’re also required to be joining in on our online classes,” said Lori Sinanian, a fourth year student who experienced the lease termination firsthand.

Jennifer Nguyen, ASUCI Housing Security Commissioner, said that ASUCI has been reaching out to local government institutions to address that students are suffering from loss of income due to the shutdown.

Despite the complaints regarding termination fees, Irvine Company maintains that the company is “committed to providing necessary support for those who need it.”

“Irvine Co. recognizes that families and businesses are facing health and economic hardships due to the significant impact of the COVID-19 virus,”  President of Irvine Company Jim Krohn said.

Over 3,000 students have signed a petition urging the Irvine Company to lower termination fees. 

“The Irvine Company benefits immensely from the reputation of UCI and its growing student population,” said an anonymous student in a petition testimony. “It would be nice to see the Company show some kindness towards their tenants during these uncertain times.”

The petition measures include canceling early termination fees, providing a lease termination with a reduced fee, providing free or discounted moving and storage services, and providing two to six month rent relief for students and members who have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

“Anyone is allowed to sign onto the petition, which is raising awareness so that we, by the power of the media or by the power of the voice, can try to show concern that we’re seeking alternative options,” Sinanian said. “We’re trying to humanize the situation and I feel like any human can participate in that. And that is as simple as signing onto the petition.”

The New University reached out to the Irvine Company but did not receive a response.

Chelsea Pan is a 2019-2020 City News Co-Editor. She can be reached at citynews@newuniversity.org.

Michelle Cornelius is a 2019-2020 City News Co-Editor. She can be reached at citynews@newuniversity.org.