USC students waited in line for hours on Thursday to sign a lease at Empire Columbia apartments and watched outraged as prices increased.
The students were told in an email that they would have to sign their lease between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. on Thursday before rates rose on Friday, when an apartment would not be guaranteed. This changed, however, at 9:55 a.m., five minutes before the leasing office opened when an email was sent out announcing dramatic increases in pricing.
While in line, some applicants claimed that the rate was increased based on how late in the day an applicant signed the lease and throughout the day based on how many people had already signed.
Second-year political science and economics student Davis Latham arrived at Empire Columbia at 8:30 a.m. to get in line to sign a lease. He was prepared to pay $775. This new email increased the lease price by $110 and the parking price to $100 per month. He called the corporate office but did not receive any help.
“I think it’s a perfect example of greed,” Latham said. “They’ve increased every fee they can across the board.”
Students waited in line all day to get a lease, including first-year criminal justice student Bethany Hutchinson, who said she was waiting in the same spot for 45 minutes.
“I had to skip all of my classes and work,” Hutchinson said. “We were expected to be here for like an hour maybe.”
Jennifer Covington, a second-year biochemistry and molecular biology student, expressed her confusion at the prices rising when her application fee was for a specific lease price.
“I’m really upset,” Covington said. “I paid an application fee of $50 on the rate that I was going to be paying, which was $750 per month.”
Covington emphasized that the apartment complex was not prepared for the number of students who waited out the door of the lobby to sign a lease.
“They knew they had 300 applications coming in. They should have been prepared to have this many people show up at 10 a.m. when they said they were opening their doors,” Covington said. “And they were clearly not prepared to handle this volume of people … it’s really ridiculous.”
Empire Columbia did not respond for comment.