Some off-campus apartments still expecting students to pay rent

USC students who have left for home are frustrated with off-campus apartments as they are still obligated to pay rent.

Any USC students who have returned home from their off-campus housing are still being asked to pay rent for their unoccupied rooms.

The Lorenzo, an off-campus housing option for USC students, advised those who have been impacted by the coronavirus to contact management for alternative solutions.

“If you have not been financially impacted by COVID-19, we kindly ask that you continue to pay rent on the 1st of the month as required by your lease,” a statement from the Lorenzo management said in an email to its residents.

In response, Lorenzo residents created a petition pushing for a waived or reduced rent.

“Although most of the residents have already left the complex due to fear of their own safety, having all amenities closed, and having canceled all events, Lorenzo still charges all residents with the same price tag,” the petition reads.

The petition currently has over 800 signatures including support from both students and parents.

Many students are being asked to pay their rent despite likely not being able to return until the Fall, if not later.

“My current issue is that I am leasing off-campus housing and have returned home, thus having to pay costly rent for an apartment I won’t be able to return to until minimally this upcoming fall,” said Danielle Wallius, a USC junior and Lorenzo resident.

Wallius also expressed her concern about paying for the high fees of the amenities, despite the apartment’s closure of the facilities.

“All [amenities] have been closed due to social distancing concerns, leaving current renters with a hefty bill each month for essentially nothing,” Wallius said.

Annalysa Cowie, who lives at West 27th Place, said she is disappointed because students had no choice but to leave.

“I’m a little upset there can't be anything compensated, especially for students who aren't living there right now [when] we were told to get off campus and not to be around there,” Cowie said.

Ling Luo, an apartment resident on 30th Street and Raymond Avenue, feels relieved that she still has income from her student job at USC which allows her to pay the rent. She noted that other students aren’t as fortunate.

“If they have jobs outside of campus, they might not have employers that are as nice so they may need to seek outside help,” Luo said.

Luo added that the owners of the complex are being flexible about making payments on time depending on a resident’s financial circumstances.

“If we’ve lost the ability to pay, for example, losing a job or another source of income, we can still call them to figure out the options available,” said Luo. “We just have to keep good communication,but they're trying to be accommodating.”

Tuscany, another popular off-campus apartment housing spot for students, also sent out an email to residents.

“We are not able to offer or commit to an early lease cancellation or rent abatement,” the email said.

On March 30, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the city will prevent landlords from increasing rent during the pandemic in an effort to curb financial pressure on local tenants. The restrictions are imposed on almost all properties in LA, covering about 624,000 apartments, excluding recently built complexes and single-family rentals.

In Garcetti’s emergency order on March 15, he also said that Los Angeles tenants will not be evicted for not paying rent and “will have up to six months following the expiration of the local emergency period to repay any back due rent.”

USC’s COVID-19 page has the following statement regarding Garcetti’s order:

“On March 15, 2020, Mayor Garcetti issued a public order for the City of Los Angeles that temporarily prohibits landlords from evicting tenants who can show that they are unable to pay rent due to circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including: (a) loss of income due to a COVID-19 related workplace closure; (b) child care expenses due to school closures; (c) health care expenses related to being ill with COVID-19 or caring for a household member who is ill with COVID-19; and (d) reasonable expenses stemming from government-ordered emergency measures.”

Update April 2, 2020 7:00 p.m.: This story has been updated to reflect the university’s guidance regarding off-campus rent.