The Orion

Off-campus housing makes changes to fit student needs

Director+Off-Campus+Student+Services+Dan+Herbert+cautions+students+looking+for+housing+to+be+careful+and+thoughtful+when+signing+a+lease.+Photo+credit%3A+Carly+Maxstone
Director Off-Campus Student Services Dan Herbert cautions students looking for housing to be careful and thoughtful when signing a lease. Photo credit: Carly Maxstone

Director Off-Campus Student Services Dan Herbert cautions students looking for housing to be careful and thoughtful when signing a lease. Photo credit: Carly Maxstone

Director Off-Campus Student Services Dan Herbert cautions students looking for housing to be careful and thoughtful when signing a lease. Photo credit: Carly Maxstone

Mathew Miranda

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Rumblings of aggressive leasing tactics being used by certain Chico property managers have been stifled in recent days after an outbreak of rumors spread across campus in February.

After receiving a forwarded email regarding the new off-campus properties and possible new marketing strategies being utilized, The Orion spoke with Dan Herbert, director of off-campus student services, on Feb. 13.

Herbert said he began hearing stories in November about the Chico housing market being more aggressive than previous years.

“(It has) definitely been a different leasing season this year, with a lot of new beds being built in Chico,” Herbert said. “There are almost a thousand new beds being opened in town, so I’m not surprised there’s going to be folks that are being a little more ambitious in their strategy to bring students into their housing.”

The most unusual story heard by Herbert was a student who believed they signed an application to see if they were qualified and later returned to say they were no longer interested in the apartment, the student was told they had signed a binding agreement and was locked into a lease.

“I’ve been in Chico for 45 years, as a student and then as a business owner, and I’ve never seen that kind of aggressive strategy,” he said.

Herbert said that over a two week period at the beginning of February at least a dozen students voiced concerns to him about leasing issues.

“Students are saying they are getting locked into agreements that they weren’t realizing they were getting into,” he said.

Herbert elaborated on the issue, saying that properties in Chico may have more liberal application standards and some students may not be fully aware or experienced enough to understand the power of their signature.

“At 18 years old, you sign a contract and you’re bound by it and that’s something not everybody grasps,” he said. “I want people to give as much thought to (signing a lease) as they would when they’re going to a car lot.”

Although Herbert would not confirm any of the rumors, he did speak to new off-campus properties having a faster application process.

“It certainly seems like we’ve turned a corner on how the application or lease signing process takes place for student housing in 2018,” he said.

On Feb. 13, The Orion also spoke with Cesar Alvarez, a Chico State freshman who believes he was tricked into signing a lease by one the new off-campus properties.

Alvarez stated he was unaware he had signed a lease, until receiving an email from The Post On Nord congratulating him on choosing a house with them. At the time, he believed he signed an application to reserve a spot at the apartment complex. Alvarez also said that the employee he signed this “hold” application with did not ask for a source of income or for a guarantor. A guarantor is someone who is financially responsible for a renter’s debts if he or she can no longer make payments.

Three days after the initial meeting with Herbert, The Orion received an email from him regarding The Post on Nord and AMCAL Multi-Housing Inc., the owners of the property.

The email stated that the property owners want to provide the students time to “consult with trusted family or friends before obligating themselves for an $8,000 (to) $10,000 lease based upon an impulsive on-the-spot decision.”

The Post on Nord contacted all the students who had previously not secured a guarantor to inquire about their desires to stay in the apartment complex or to give them the opportunity to opt out.

“Up to this point, students were obligated under the terms of the lease even if they were unsuccessful in obtaining that backup support,” AMCAL stated in the email.

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Dan Herbert sent this email on Feb. 16 to The Orion to explain new AMCAL policy changes.

The Orion was put in contact with AMCAL’s Senior Director of University and Market Rate Housing Stephen Clarke and Carol Schwartz, AMCAL’s project manager.

According to Schwartz, applicants now have 14 days to secure a guarantor if they cannot meet The Post on Nord’s rental criteria. However, Schwartz clarified that each individual is reviewed and a decision is made whether a guarantor needed. Prospective residents must present proof of a credit score of 500 or above, have a verifiable source of income or verifiable employment in this country and a total monthly income that is at least three times the sum of the highest installment rate.

Schwartz also said the policy change does not consider a lease to be completed unless a guarantor, if required, signs. In all cases, now and previously, there is a 72-hour grace period after the lease is completed during which prospective residents can cancel the lease without penalty. For instance, if it takes 13 days for the guarantor to sign the lease, a student still has a 72-hour grace period to change his or her mind.

Schwartz explained the reasoning behind the policy change.

“We understand that it takes some time, parents are busy, students are busy at school, so we felt two weeks would be an appropriate time,” she said.

When asked how many students had decided to opt out of their obligation, Clarke said that about half of those without a guarantor wanted to continue with the leasing process.

“About half of that group (those unable to secure a guarantor) still wanted to hold on to that lease because they wanted to continue to work to get the process completed,” Clarke said. “(The other) half (either) didn’t contact us back or (when) we contacted them they didn’t want to move forward, so we canceled it.”

Clarke made sure to clarify only a handful of students chose to opt out, compared to those who have already leased at the property. Also according to Schwartz, the project is 42 percent pre-leased.

When asked to comment on claims that The Post on Nord uses aggressive tactics or tricked students into signing a lease, Clarke stated, “I don’t think that’s true, that’s not how we operate.”

“As soon as we were informed that there were students that were not happy, we immediately took action to make sure we were doing the right thing,” Schwartz said in response to the claims.

In a second interview with Herbert after the policy change, he stated the reports of aggressive market strategies had stopped completely.

“We haven’t had any concerns at all almost since the day we talked,” Herbert said. “Things have really resolved themselves specifically (since) The Post on Nord was willing to make some changes to their policies.”

Herbert continued to speak highly of The Post on Nord saying they were responsive to his concerns and came up with an amicable solution. They even offered some low-cost housing to students with emergency housing needs.

“This shows these are property owners that I can work with on a regular basis and feel very comfortable recommending our students to live in these places,” he said.

Ultimately, Herbert still wants students to take their time when deciding where to live so that they make an educated decision, which they will not regret for years to come.

“As a father of three who sent his kids to college, I do not want to see a student be jeopardized in their college education because they over-committed to their rental obligation,” he said. “There’s nothing worse than seeing someone over-obligate themselves and then be stuck for years to come because they have to get new student loans and more debt to cover student housing.”

Students in need of assistance regarding off-campus housing can visit the off-campus student services website, which provides resources for rental housing tools, the housing certification program, roommate compatibility surveys, sample roommate agreements, finding roommates and current Chico property listings.

Students are also encouraged to stop by Kendall Hall 110 to speak with Herbert. These students can request an appointment by calling his office number, (530) 898-6131.

Mathew Miranda can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @MathewMiranda24

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