West Campus apartment complexes may evict students for violating social distancing guidelines that restrict indoor gatherings to 10 people in response to college students’ parties around the nation.
“As a reminder, our lease agreement has a policy that residents should not have gatherings of more than 10 people,” American Campus Communities wrote in an email to its tenants obtained by the Daily Texan. “If these guidelines are not followed we will be taking disciplinary action that could lead to eviction.”
American Campus Communities owns multiple West Campus properties including The Callaway House, The Castilian, The Block, Crest at Pearl, Texan and Vintage, and 26 West, and say they will enforce social distancing rules at all their apartment complexes. The addendum in residents’ leases requires students to have fewer than 10 total people in their apartment, including those living in the apartment.
“We are dedicated to promoting the wellbeing of our residents and doing what we can to help you feel a part of the community, especially in these dynamic times,” American Campus properties said in an email to residents. “Our ability to have a successful fall semester depends on it. We’re in this together.”
The City Of Austin’s Eviction Moratorium order placed bans on evictions until Sept 30. But according to the moratorium order, evictions are allowed if tenants “pose an imminent threat of physical harm to the property owner, the property owner’s employees, or other tenants, including other tenants within the household.”
Warnings will be issued before eviction, but how many warnings are issued varies on the severity of the incident, according to American Campus.
Martin Serra, the legal services for students attorney, said if residents signed leases or community policies stating they would follow guidelines on gatherings of 10 or more people, landlords can pursue an eviction hearing despite the moratorium.
Amy Shreeve, rhetoric and writing sophomore who lives in The Block, said when she learned eviction was a potential consequence, she felt less inclined to report parties.
“I would like some kind of penalty but eviction seems very severe, especially since a lot of people are struggling with housing insecurity right now,” Shreeve said. “Even if you’re having a large party that is potentially risky to other people you still deserve to have a place to live.”
Shreeve said American Campus Communities has not clearly communicated how students will be monitored and if eviction is the first step — or the tenth step.
According to American Campus, they will investigate large gatherings if a staff or resident submits a report.
Nicholas Senktas, an international relations and global studies and economics junior who lives in The Pointe on Rio, said although he was initially pleased to hear American Campus Communities would enforce social distancing guidelines, he soon changed his mind when they mentioned the potential for eviction. He said fining people for hosting parties would be a better system.
“I don’t think they will actually evict anyone,” Senktas said. “However, I think the fact that they even threatened to do that in the first place is ridiculous.”
Originally published on September 2, 2020 in The Daily Texan
By Brooke Ontiveros
Photo by Jack Myer