Lawyer explains clause in rental agreements as College Suites residents struggle with move out

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TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Dozens of students told NEWS10 they were confused and couldn’t understand how they were forced out of their apartments at the College Suites at Hudson Valley. Well we couldn’t understand it either, that’s why we combed through more than 40 pages of one student’s lease agreement to figure out how the complex management could be allowed to break leases and force out all its residents on just a week’s notice.

We found one section that stopped our search in its tracks — a section on terminations and something called a “force majeure” clause.

“Sometimes it’s a flood or a hurricane or a war or some other disturbance — potentially a global pandemic, right? Saying that something like that has occurred that allows the party to say, it’s impossible for me to perform, and therefore I’m giving you notice that I cannot perform and I’m relieved of my obligations to honor the contract,” explains Lisa Richman of McDermott, Will, and Emery law firm.

Richman explains there’s no hard and fast rule on when force majeure notices have to be given out. NEWS10 obtained the lease renewal notice and College Suites cites COVID-19 as the reason for the change. But Richman says typically, a more concrete explanation on why the complex is unable to provide safe housing under the contracts is needed — but only if it’s taken to court.

“A party claiming force majeure might never need to ‘prove it’, so why is that? Well if their counter party doesn’t challenge it, doesn’t come back to them and say, how exactly has force majeure prevented you from performing under the contract,” she explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.

NEWS10 has reached out to United Plus Property Management, the company that owns College Suites, every day since we learned about the sudden vacate notices. We haven’t gotten a response to why and what contract term they used to effect the change.

An RPI representative confirmed the school is working to lease College Suites to extend its campus housing. Richmond says she can’t speculate on the specific deal.

“I can tell you that just having performance become more difficult, more expensive, or less profitable, typically speaking, are not reasons that allow you to avoid your performance,” she says.

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