Even when students leave Austin, their 12-month leases stay with them

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Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Nursing senior Liana Chau is excited to graduate and go back to Houston over the summer.

“I’m going to be relaxing and studying,” Chau said. “I need to pass my state board [exam] so I can become a nurse.” 

But Chau has a problem that won’t leave her when she heads out of Austin: her 12-month lease, which extends over the summer. She is going to have to pay more than $1,200 in rent over the summer for her apartment at Overlook Condos in West Campus unless she finds someone to take over the lease. Even though she started advertising for the apartment over a month ago and reduced her rent by about $200 each month, no one has come to visit the apartment, she said. 

“I really haven’t had much luck,” she said. “Everyone wants to sublease their place, and people that are wanting to sublet are taking advantage of that fact and trying to get the best offer they can get.” 

Chau isn’t the only student in this predicament. Morgan Gill, accounting director and partner with the student leasing agency Housing Scout, said most leases in West Campus run for 12 months, from the beginning of August to the end of July. “Dozens” of students, Gill said, call her office every year to get help in advertising their apartments for subleasing over the summer. 

“There are more people looking to rent out their place than people looking to rent out a place,” Gill said. “That leaves a lot of people not able to rent out their apartment or having to take a big cut of how much they can charge for rent.” 

Gill said the majority of leases end up renting for 12 months because landlords need to make a profit on their units. Many students, she said, have internships or homes away from Austin that prevent them from renting out the apartment complex. 

“For an owner, they need to make their rents for their units that year,” Gill said. “A 12-month lease for an owner makes a lot more sense, although it is frustrating for students because, you know, a lot of students don’t need to stay over the summer, so they end up subletting over the summer and leasing their apartment out, and that can be a frustrating process.” 

Jennifer Kim, a biology senior who is trying to sublease her apartment at Quarters Nueces, a West Campus apartment complex, said no one has decided to sublease her apartment, despite her offer to pay for their utilities. 

“I’ve gotten about five or six people that have messaged me showing interest asking for more details,” Kim, who plans on attending medical school, said. “Because the supply is so great, they can be as picky as they want.” 

The summer rent will cost Kim over $1,000 unless she finds a tenant. The rent money, she said, would be a burden on top of her medical school tuition bill, which will cost on average over $200,000 for four years.  

“As of right now, it doesn’t seem as if I will find someone to sublease my place,” she said. “A lot of friends are trying to sublease their place, but they, like me, haven’t found anybody.”

Kim, who is also a student leasing agent with Housing Scout, said the subleasing process is expensive and that a lot of students turn to unofficially subletting their apartments, even though it may be illegal under the landlord’s contract.

“It’s risky on yourself as a tenant,” she said. “[The subleaser] could default on payment, and you could end up paying for that apartment.”