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Davis, California

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Students face leasing extremes

One night in January, when the temperature dipped below freezing, the glow of phone screens drew attention to an apartment complex’s leasing office.

There, bundled in puffy fleece jackets and scarves, were three figures, two hunched down in lawn chairs clutching steaming travel mugs and the third lying in a sleeping bag at their feet.

“We were told that in the past, 200 people had lined up waiting to get an apartment [at this complex]. And that scared us a little bit,” said Jordan Stritzel, a first-year animal science major. “We got it into our heads that we should get here early to have the pick of the litter.”

Stritzel and her two friends arrived at Piñon Apartments at 10:30 p.m. with the intention of staying outside all night in order to acquire a lease when the office opened the following morning.

In Davis’ competitive student housing market, their efforts are not uncommon. With leases for the following school year opening in January and entire complexes filling in a matter of hours, some may go to great lengths to secure their living situation — sleeping on sidewalks or accepting apartments passed down by friends that haven’t been refurbished in years.

With the particularly competitive apartments closer to campus, sometimes the extremes still aren’t enough.

“We got discouraged by the cold and left at two in the morning — when we went back at 7 a.m. there were two other groups there. Unfortunately we didn’t get the kind of apartment we wanted — the group right in front of us did,” Stritzel said.

In situations where arriving hours before the office opens doesn’t guarantee the desired apartment, students rely on friends to pass down their lease.

“You literally have to start three weeks into the quarter to get at least one room at The Colleges [at La Rue]. It’s insane,” said Louise Chen, a third-year biological sciences major. “It’s hard because not a lot of people are willing to turn in their lease; the majority of the time, as the people who live there graduate, they hand down the lease to someone they know.”

Passing down leases to friends is useful in that it circumvents stress — but as a result, management isn’t able to refurbish apartments.

“If you pass down, you don’t have to sleep outside, but you get apartments that really need to be turned [over]. We do repairs, but turning over allows for the painting, the flooring, the deep cleaning. On one hand, pass downs are great, the faces have changed but the lease continues, but we want to make the place nice; we have a standard to uphold,” said Ray Ortiz, Sycamore Lane Apartments leasing agent.

When passed continually year after year, apartments can slowly fall into disrepair, to the point where major repairs are in order.

“Our apartment is trashed — okay, maybe not trashed, it’s just that we kept resigning and resigning the lease year after year, and they never got time to hire anyone to clean up all the mess or repair all the damages. Some of our bathroom doors aren’t working, and our plumbing is kind of bad,” Chen said.

If done correctly, a passed down apartment can maintain the same lease agreement for years, leaving management with a diminishing product.

“We closed for one year to renovate. I have a four bedroom that’s been going since we reopened. Which was around eight leases ago. Now, we’ve offered to come in and paint, spruce up the place, and they’ve been great, but it’s like please, let us fix this place up for you! We offered to switch them to another apartment, but with that comes the increased rent. They renew at a lower rate than our market rate.”

Despite less than pristine living conditions, proximity to campus and downright competition keep students vying for passed down apartments.

“The passing down is a problem. It’s changing the rules completely. I had people sleeping outside to get on the waitlist, and I couldn’t accommodate them. I got down there at 7 a.m. and opened the office, just to start getting them out of the cold. I was full at 9 a.m., I just didn’t have contracts. That’s really the fact,” Ortiz said.

While the students were able to get out of the cold, many were not able to get into a lease for the following year.

“I had 24 four bedroom [units this year], 18 of them renewed; some of them were passed down and the six I had left were taken by in-house residents (residents already in the complex). Passing down is great, but we also want to get new people in as well.”

Ultimately, when trying to move close to campus, the options come down to networking or braving the elements. Though Ortiz said that he’d be happy to sign leases in April, with friendlier weather, the market itself prevents this.

“Part of it is that students push it, they start working on passing down early, otherwise it’s just market — you have a product to sell,” Ortiz said. “Where it began? I don’t know, it’s been that way for a long time. We jump off early, there’s no doubt about it, and we tried to push to start later. All it did was increase the line.”

1 COMMENT

  1. […] Students face leasing extremes One night in January, when the temperature dipped below freezing, the glow of phone screens drew attention to an apartment complex's leasing office. There, bundled in puffy fleece jackets and scarves, were three figures, two hunched down in lawn chairs … Read more on The Aggie […]

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