Davis Student Lease Cancellation and Rent Relief

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Economic conditions regarding COVID-19 are directly affecting students in off-campus housing throughout the City of Davis. 

Many students are bound by rent agreements we were coerced into signing back in the early months of 2020 before the pandemic hit the US and due to the unprecedented unemployment crisis, are now unable to afford paying rent, dropping out, or are simply unable to study on campus, making the need for housing moot. 

On the UC Davis Off-Campus Housing Facebook page, all recent posts are students desperately trying to find people to replace them on their lease because they are unable to cancel leases they can’t pay for. However, there is no one to find because COVID-19 has moved learning online, left low-income students unemployed, and prospective students are holding off university acceptances until the pandemic cedes. 

Fortunately, there is hope for students who are stuck in these agreements as lease contracts are able to be altered outside of case-by-case agreements with landlords. One renewal lease agreement between a UC Davis student and Davis apartment, for example, states, “No … Lease Contract changes are allowed before the initial Lease Contract term ends, except … as otherwise allowed by law.” Therefore, changes to local law have the power to provide leeway to students who wish to exit their leases due to COVID-19.

Additionally, legislation has already been passed in Berkeley to protect Cal students from “exploitative lease terms” by the Berkeley City Council. 

“ The change allows tenants to terminate their leases with 30 days’ notice if they qualify under “Covered Reasons for Delayed Payment,” which include material loss of income, or if they “are or were registered at an educational institution that cancelled or limited in-person classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the item’s cover memo.”

“ The document does note, however, that tenants whose leases have not started may be able to terminate “without paying any fee or having further liability.” Further confirmation will be provided by the city attorney early next week, Robinson added." -The Daily Californian

EDIT: Students in Berkeley are still facing hardships trying to use the new law to get out of paying rent for their lease cancellations but I still have this added as hope that we too can get something passed specific to the situation of students in Davis and hopefully will not face the same problems.

The City of Davis cannot fail its students by not taking action to protect them from lease agreements that they signed without anticipating this pandemic. Students, especially those who elected to live on off-campus housing, signed with the expectation that they’d be able to study on or near campus and/or would have means of income from their or their parents’ jobs to pay rent and tuition, but now that is often not the case. The city cannot allow students to go bankrupt for making accommodations to pursue higher education right before a national catastrophe. Therefore, the City Council must act by implementing new legislation to allow cancellation of student leases throughout the city amidst COVID-19.


COVID-centric student lease accommodations should include:

  1. No cancellation fees for students cancelling leases before the lease’s agreed date because of COVID-19 related reasons (material loss of income, unemployment due to COVID-19, and are or were enrolled at an educational institution that cancelled or limited in-person classes due to COVID-19)
  2. Allow the cancellation of lease agreements during their agreed term with the maximum penalty of one(1) month’s worth of rent if cancellation is due to COVID-19 related reasons
  3. Subsidized rent and rent relief for student renters who have had roommates and/or fellow leasers cancel because of COVID-19 related reasons.

Students are among one of the most vulnerable groups affected by the pandemic as we were overlooked for the initial stimulus check, have less job stability, and face difficulties adapting to online learning, so we need the City of Davis to take action as to not let us be kicked while we are down.

EDIT: Many of you have written to Davis City Council or showed up to the City Council meeting on 7/21/2020 and I am so proud. Writing and showing up with public comment will help put this on the agenda and get this passed, so please keep doing so!

Here are their emails:

Michael Webb – City Manager – cmoweb@cityofdavis.org

Gloria Partida – Mayor – gpartida@cityofdavis.org

Lucas Frerichs – Vice Mayor – lucasf@cityofdavis.org

Will Arnold – Councilmember – warnold@cityofdavis.org

Dan Carson – Councilmember – dcarson@cityofdavis.org

Brett Lee – Councilmember – blee@cityofdavis.org

To my fellow UC Davis students, tell them who you are, your story, and that you want this issue on the agenda with their support. Also, keep sharing this petition. We can do this!

I know some of you would like to help organize around this, so I made a discord group that can be found here: https://discord.gg/kdp6sHH