ATHENS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) — An Ohio University student says she’s now stuck with a lease for an apartment she will never step foot in after COVID-19 changed her school's plans and her leasing company isn't offering a way out.
Sarah Dudziak is planning to take her courses fully online, as she has not been included in the first two phases bringing students back on-campus. However, she says she didn't find this out until after signing her lease at River Gate Apartments in Athens.
"I was like, do you have a COVID policy or are you doing anything to help out the students that aren’t going to be coming back to school because everything’s online?," Dudziak says she asked management. "They said no, you’re responsible for your lease."
One clause in Dudziak's lease, titled "Lease Term," states she won't be let out of the contract due to, and not limited to, "school withdrawal or transfer, business transfer, loss of job, marriage, divorce, loss of any of the residents in the Apartment, bad health, or for any other reason, except for as provided by law."
Another clause, titled "Termination," adds on that "Resident acknowledges there is no right to early termination of the Lease and Resident will not be released from this Lease for any reason..."
Ohio law, however, does allow for the termination of a lease for certain situations, like domestic violence cases or military orders.
"There’s no concessions being made or any help given which is my biggest concern," Angela Dudziak, Sarah's mother, said. The Dudziaks say they attempted negotiating a buyout, covering overhead costs, or a portion of the lease, but none have worked. Their only option so far has been to find another student looking to sublease her spot. That has proven difficult.
"They [management] told me if I could get it subleased, I could offer an incentive, which I did," Dudzaik said. " I had one person text me, but they said 'oh, we don’t want to sign anything because I’m online right now and I don’t know if I’m going to be part of phase 2."
Lawyers say leases like these are written with little option for ways out.
Lawyers have told the Dudziaks the same. The Central Ohio BBB's best tip for this situation is for before signing; read the contract carefully. Before signing, you can try to negotiate clauses or lines that you don't like. If the landlord won't budge, be willing to walk away.
"These contracts are written rock-clad to hold kids responsible, they’re not going to let them out of these leases at all," Angela said.
We reached out to Homestead, the managing company overseeing River Gate. We were referred to the property manager at River Gate and we reached out. We have not heard back as of publishing.