As Campus Apartments Empty, Rent is Still Due

Photo: Abdullah Paracha

COVID-19 has cost many their jobs, already making it hard to make ends meet and pay rent on apartments and houses. But for college students, many of whom rely on on campus jobs for income, rent is not only a financial issue, but a moral dilemma.
“Paying for rent while I don’t live there is horrible and expensive,” Redwan Choudhary,who attends the University of Virginia, said. “But I also pay for classes and don’t go to classes so it’s not that bad.” Choudhary, a rising fourth year at UVA, is one of many college students stuck paying rent for an empty apartment.
Ihlan Omar, a member of the House of Representatives in Minnesota, has called for rent to be nationally cancelled during the pandemic. This would alleviate the burden for both college students and general citizens, but until — and if — the bill is passed, most college students will continue to pay rent. Choudhary was able to have his lease ended two months early, but many students were met with the binding nature of their leases.
Marwah Shuaib, a member of UVA’s graduating class of 2020, thinks that the current rent situation uncovers a plight that has been unfolding for much longer than the past few months.
“It’s like your lease basically becomes a trap,” Shuaib said, “and it also just kind of confirmed what a lot of college students who live in off campus apartments already know: that building managers definitely take advantage of college students.”
Shuaib’s thoughts have been echoed by many college students, but not all consider the viewpoint of building managers or landlords. For many managers and landlords, rent is what is used to support their own families. So while they understand that it might be harder and useless for college students to pay rent right now, they can’t completely forgive the rent.
Paying rent during the COVID-19 pandemic seems like a two-sided coin. On one side, the college students who aren’t all able, and who aren’t living in their apartments, paying rent. On the other side, landlords and building managers who need the rent to support themselves. But there is a third point of view.
Colleges such as UVA have asserted that paying rent aligns with the honor code, and refusing to do so breaks the honor code. Since not paying rent is technically stealing, students are required to uphold leases and pay rent.
Paying rent right now is a mess of contracts, morality, and needs that hasn’t been faced before. Some students are suffering, while others see a silver lining. Awais Paracha, a first-year medical student at Saint Louis University, thinks that even though he’s losing money, it’s worth it.
“Money comes and goes, and there will be plenty more,” said Paracha. “But this time with my family is invaluable.”