Do students in off-campus housing still have to pay rent?

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN)) — KXAN has fielded several questions from students who decided to move out of their off-campus apartments in Austin because of COVID-19.

Hailey Shari Scott

Hailey Shari Scott, a cheerleader at the University of Texas, said she lived at Skyloft in West campus, and is still being asked to pay rent, despite moving home to Hutto for the spring semester of her sophomore year. Scott said she didn’t want to put herself at risk of getting the virus.

“[The leasing manager] told me, unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do,” said Scott. “I can try to sublet it for $350, but I’m like no one is going to want to live in the apartment with what’s going on.”

Scott said her parents are now faced with paying $1100 a month for her empty apartment until the lease ends in July.

Letter Ion sent to UT Austin student

The father of a UT student also reached out to KXAN seeking answers. He said his daughter, who is now home with her family in Plano, lived in the Ion apartments on San Antonio Street. Ion management sent her a letter stating it will cost two-and-a half month’s rent to break a lease, and the amount will be more if it’s not paid by April 3.

Despite COVID-19, Jeannie Nelson, Executive Director of the Austin Tenants Council, who’s been fielding a “good number” of calls from both UT and Texas State University students and parents, said if there’s a lease — rent is still due.

But Austin’s 60-day grace period on rent payments will buy them more time, she said.

The council encourages students to communicate with landlords in writing to try to work out a settlement or payment plan. Or, if simply just vacating the apartment, which would avoid the eviction process and send the debt to collections.

It’s even more complicated if there’s a roommate that can’t pay the rent, however.

“People on joint leases should definitely be planning for worst-case scenarios with their roommates, and maybe putting roommate agreements in writing if they haven’t already done that,” Nelson said. “With the new city orders, at least UT students will now be able to pay rent late, if they’re able to.”

By comparison, as far on-campus housing, UT Austin has already started prorating housing costs for students with spring semester housing contracts since March 21.

A credit, which varies by room type, will be issued to their respective student account. The university is already taking fall semester sign-ups, as normal, too.

UT Austin had about 7,300 students in dorms across campus before COVID-19. The university has about 50,000 students overall, which means the majority live off campus.

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