GAINESVILLE — Thousands of University of Florida students are petitioning for rent relief after being encouraged to leave town as classes moved online due to the coronavirus.
The petition, which had about 5,500 supporters Monday afternoon, lists multiple rental companies which manage about 100 properties combined. All, according to the petition, are refusing to allow breaks on rent, even though many students are no longer using their properties.
The largest is Trimark Properties, which manages at least 28 apartment complexes used by UF students, according to the petition. Sophomore Sarah Lobo, 21, has a lease in the company’s Solaria Apartments, which are just east of campus.
She started the petition after Trimark refused to help her with rent when she followed directives by UF officials and left town to stay with her parents in St. Augustine. The company “came back with emails saying they’re sorry about what we’re going through but that rent has to be paid in full,” Lobo said.
A message on Trimark’s website states the same: “At this time, we are not offering any variances in our rental contracts. Rent remains due on the first of each month."
“We are all living in unprecedented times with tremendous impacts on our professional and personal lives,” the message continues. “While we realize that many residents have chosen to leave and return to their parent’s homes, we also have some residents that have chosen to stay for various reasons. ... We are continuing to operate our facilities at full capacity to meet the needs of our stakeholders.”
The company did not immediately return a request for an interview.
On top of rent, Lobo is still paying $225 a month for a reserved parking spot at Solaria Apartments. The company refused to waive the fee, even though she isn’t using the space, she said.
Lobo lost her job as a volleyball coach due to the coronavirus, and she knows many other students in the same position that are struggling to afford basic necessities. Those who worked part-time don’t qualify for unemployment or the federal stimulus checks. Starting a petition felt like the only solution, Lobo said.
“These apartment complexes have told everyone they’re holding a firm line,” she said. “Morally, I think they need to do the right thing and understand if it wasn’t for UF and its students, they wouldn’t even exist.”
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