BYU students struggle with gap weeks between housing contracts

Published: Saturday, Aug. 10 2013 10:30 p.m. MDT

Landlords around BYU said they try to work with students to avoid "homeless" situations, and the school launched a campaign last week encouraging students to communicate with property managers if they discover a gap between housing contracts.

Photos courtesy of BYU

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PROVO — Before she officially enrolled at BYU this year, Emily Nichols found herself in a bit of a bind. After deciding to switch from one Provo apartment complex to the next, Nichols discovered her old contract ended two days before she could move to her new place. She would experience the infamous "homeless weekend."

Nichols ultimately arranged to stay with her roommate's sister because her roommate was changing apartments as well. She never discussed the problem with either landlord.

"Most apartment complexes around Provo are like that, so I didn't bother fighting it," Nichols said.

Her weekend sleepover may have been unnecessary. Area landlords said they try to work with students to avoid these "homeless" situations, and BYU itself launched a campaign last week encouraging students to communicate with property managers if they discover a gap between housing contracts.

Despite this, the "homeless weekend" legend persists, to the frustration of Provo landlords.

"Property managers are frustrated by the appearance that they are emptying their properties," BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said. "This is not the case."

BYU contracted housing, independently owned and operated Provo apartments that rent to BYU students under terms defined by the university, offer lease terms that coincide with the semester schedule at BYU. Gaps frequently occur between these terms. However, most property managers allow residents with contracts for subsequent semesters to remain in their apartments during the breaks, Jenkins said.

Problems can occur when students decide to move to a new complex. Property managers may want to clean a vacated apartment between tenants, or may not have available space for students who want to move in early. In such cases, communication is key.

"We ask students to go to their property manager and do it early," Jenkins said. "If they've done that, BYU can help them explore other options."

Several property managers overseeing contracted complexes said they were willing to work with students who found themselves in this situation, and had done so in the past.

"Normally, we are not completely full for summer," said Berkley Sumner, a property manager for Continental Apartments. "We're usually pretty open, as long as we have a room available."

Dan Bishop, one of the owners of Mountain View Management, a company that oversees several BYU contracted apartment complexes and condos, said he has a similar policy.

"As soon as a unit has passed cleaning check, we can move in new tenants," he said. "We don't charge extra, we just try to accommodate as best we can."

Most property managers in the area have a policy to prevent contract gaps, Bishop said, but not every landlord is as willing to work with students.

"There are some landlords who say your contract is over, you better be out the door," he said.

Mary Blanchard, a property manager with Legend Real Estate, which also oversees several BYU contracted properties, said that although she feels for students left without a place to go, her company has not made a policy of working with students who want to arrive early or leave late. Limited availability and full cleaning schedules sometimes make arrangements impossible, she said.

Legend Real Estate does occasionally allow students to move in early, "but most of the time we aren't very helpful with that. If they renew their contract, we allow them to stay," Blanchard said.

Occasionally, a student ends up "homeless" for a time by choice. Joe Stay, a student at BYU Idaho, which experiences a similar problem, said he and some friends decided to go camping and couch surfing when they discovered they would have to pay extra to move in early to their new apartments.

"If I really wanted to, I could have stayed in the apartment," Stay said, "but I figured I could save money and have fun — kind of like an adventure."

EMAIL: epenrod@deseretnews.com

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