Annual apartment shuffle throws many into lease limbo


July is ending, and so are lots of residents’ leases. But many, like UI junior Kelly Metcalf, are stuck between an expired contract and a new place.

Her current lease ends July 27, and the new one is set to begin Aug. 2. And even though both leases are through Apartments Downtown, she has no place to stay for the six-day period.

“It’s such a pain,” Metcalf said, noting she has to work at the UI Hospitals and Clinics between those days and needs to stay in Iowa City.

Some landlords do have options for those who must move in early. Apartments Downtown, for example, offers a “Tenant Altered Lease Date” form, and Heritage Property Management offers an “As-Is” Form.

These forms allow residents to move in earlier. But there is a catch: Tenants must make the cleaning arrangements themselves.

Meanwhile, some local programs and businesses are benefiting from the lease gaps as displaced renters look into storage units.

Sean Pearl, the business manager at Quality Care Storage Co., 761 Camp Cardinal Blvd., Coralville, said he sees an increase in business in July.

The business receives roughly one phone call every two or three minutes — and one visitor walking through the door every five minutes. A majority of those inquiries are from students and their parents, he said.

Pearl noted differences between this summer and the last. The 2008 flood meant more customers because some residents were forced to evacuate. Conversely, he said, this year the company has grown in capacity in terms of what is available for storage — such as a wider variety of unit sizes.

“[This time of the year] is somewhat hectic, but if you’re prepared for it, it can be an extremely enjoyable roller-coaster ride,” he said.

Overall, however, he said, there is no yearly average for the number of customers; storage depends mainly on when people need that assistance, and that varies throughout the year.

While some students seek ways to store their belongings, others just want to get rid of them. That brings in local programs, including city-sponsored efforts, to clear the debris.

A local program — Rummage in the Ramp — aims to save fair quality furniture, clothing, and even nonperishable food items from Dumpsters and landfills, while raising money for nonprofit organizations at the same time.

This program began in 2007 with a joke about having a giant garage sale, said Jennifer Jordan, the recycling coordinator for the city of Iowa City.

Then they realized it was actually a good idea.

“This is my favorite event to work on all year,” Jordan said.

The program has had an average of 100 to 150 volunteers each year and hundreds of donors. Last year 320 donors and 1,124 shoppers took advantage of the rummage. That translated to roughly 19 tons of goods exchanged instead of thrown out.

Customers range from college students to homeowners who have lived in Iowa City for 50 years, Jordan said.

Metcalf did find a temporary place for her things. One of her old roommates is renting a new apartment and can move straight into it, so she can store her things are her friend’s place, she said.

Still, it’s not a pain-free transition.

“When you can’t move straight in, that means you have to move twice,” Metcalf said.

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