Bay Area college students forced to pay rent while away for remote learning

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Students and families across the country are grasping for ways to pay for college-area apartments no one will be occupying. Many find themselves stuck in long-term leases they signed well before the pandemic.

Families we've talked with tell us landlords seem unwilling to renegotiate their leases.

Edward Hwang is a rising senior at the University of California, Berkeley. He checks out his playlist on Spotify, a nice distraction from the stresses of the coming school year.

He has no plans to move back into this apartment since all his classes will now be online.

"I'm just waiting to see what legal actions the landlord takes against me," said Hwang.

Hwang signed for the apartment alone, assuming he would split the rent with four other roommates.

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That's now unlikely to happen.

By the end of the year, Hwang expects to owe $60,000 in back rent he says he won't have.

It's the same situation around San Jose State University.

Cathy Kung guaranteed the lease for her son Sterling at an apartment complex he signed for in January.

But she has since lost her job of 22 years.

"I am under a tremendous amount of financial pressure right now," said Kung.

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State Senator Scott Weiner says more needs to be done to help these families.

"California is not doing enough to address the realities of what people are facing. Whether its renters, whether it's small businesses," said State Sen. Scott Weiner (D - San Francisco).

Hwang says his landlord is refusing to renegotiate the lease.

7 On Your Side reached out to Landmark Properties. It says it is complying with the law and is trying to find new tenants to take over Hwang's lease.

Cathy Kung says she proposed going into mediation with her son's landlord, but he declined.

She says the company also refused to give her 24 months to pay off the lease.

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The management company, Asset Living, has not responded to 7 On Your Side's request for comment.

"I was hoping the property owner would show some sympathy," said Kung.

Hwang says if he can't settle with his landlord he will be left with only one option.

"Worst case scenario, I would have to declare bankruptcy," he said.

"We're now at the cliff and we're going to see huge economic ramifications," said Sen. Weiner.

A bill by Sen. Weiner, which would have offered assistance to small landlords so they wouldn't have to pressure their tenants for rent, failed in the state legislature.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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