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  24 Feb 2023

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Basic Legal Issues in Student Housing

Housing problems, such as a lost security deposit or a slow response to maintenance requests, can develop into legal problems if a landlord-tenant conflict persists long enough. 

It's critical for students to understand their obligations and rights with regard to leases with property owners off-campus. 

With some planning, students can steer clear of the most frequent legal problems, security deposits and maintenance conflicts.

This article gives an overview of many of the most important legal issues that college and university housing professionals must deal with.

We do this without using overly formal or legal language unless necessary.

Specific Student Housing Laws Everyone Needs to Know to Avoid Legal Issues 

Students who live in student housing still have specific rights even though it differs from a typical landlord-tenant relationship. 

Implied Warranty of Habitability

An implied guarantee of habitability is one right. No matter if it's a standard apartment or a dorm room, all rental accommodation comes with an implicit warranty of habitability. This warranty promises that the tenant’s dwelling unit or dorm:

  • Is not plagued by pests or rodents.
  • Must have running cold and hot water, heating.
  • Has good locks on all the doors and windows. 
  • It is sealed off from the elements. 

There are usually procedures in place for reporting issues with your dorm room at universities' housing offices. 

Rights to Privacy

Students may be at a disadvantage when it pertains to privacy rights and laws governing student housing. Less stringent privacy protections apply to college students living in university housing than to tenants of conventional rental houses. 

A landlord, for instance, would have to give notice before accessing a tenant's apartment in an apartment building. Additionally, the landlord would need a good cause and a clear explanation before accessing the tenant's unit.

Additionally, a student's level of privacy in a residence hall is governed by the housing policies of the particular college. Therefore, it's crucial for a student to be informed about it.

Right to Fair Housing

In essence, fair housing refers to the freedom of every American to pick a place to live that is devoid of unjustified discrimination. 

People are shielded from discrimination by federal, state, and local fair housing laws when engaging in housing-related activities like renting or purchasing a home, an apartment, or a condominium. 

The bias against certain protected groups is prohibited by these fair housing legislation. 

The federal Fair Housing Act lists the following categories as protected classes: race, color, national origin, religion, handicap, gender, and familial status.

Additional protections, such as marital status, age, and sexual orientation as protected classes, can be found in state and local fair housing legislation. 

For instance, California covers a person's marital status, gender identity, gender expression, ancestry, religion, ancestry, sexual orientation, genetic information, and source of income in addition to the federal protected classifications. 

Does Fair Housing Act Apply to College Dorms?

Each student is covered by fair housing legislation even though they are not themselves protected classes. 

Students now have the freedom to inquire about housing, apply for it, and get it without fear of discrimination based on their race, national origin, color, religion, handicap, sex, familial status, or any other protected class status recognized by state or local laws.

You can submit an online complaint to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development if you're a student who believes you may have experienced discrimination while searching for or applying for student accommodation (HUD). 

You can also get in touch with your neighbourhood HUD office if you have any inquiries or worries.

Legal Issues Related to Security Deposits 

Documenting the state of the home at the beginning and end of the year will help prevent problems with security deposits. This should have images and videos that could support students in court if a dispute arises. 

Typically, the law mandates that students must leave the home in the same state that they found it, unless there is normal wear and tear damage. 

Knowing how a security deposit should operate can assist students with determining what is fair.

Students frequently get into a lease agreement with incorrect expectations regarding their security deposit, and some homeowners look to take advantage of that. The default position should be receiving the full deposit returned.

Legal Issues Related to Move-out Instructions 

Landlords need to emphasise the necessity of adhering to move-out guidelines in order to receive the full deposit returned. 

Carry out move-out procedures provided by your landlord or rental business properly.

You need to assure tenants that they will receive their entire deposit back if they adhere strictly to the instructions and there are no serious damages to the property.

Legal Issues Related to Maintenance

The landlord-tenant act necessitates written correspondence between the parties in order to demonstrate that a landlord is not fulfilling a maintenance request in a timely manner. 

It is advised that students always submit maintenance requests in writing in addition to using the phone as specified in the lease. It is crucial to communicate issues as soon as possible. 

The problem frequently worsens and becomes more expensive than it would have if the tenant had called it in at first. Sometimes occupants don't call something in because they don't want to be billed or don't want to worry the maintenance staff.

Final Thoughts

Professionals must deal with a wide range of legal challenges, including questions about how to appropriately balance and/or minimize risks as well as federal and state statutory and regulatory compliance issues.

Occupants should never worry that their question is ridiculous or anything of the sort; they may contact their landlords to ask them any question they want.  

To learn more about how to report an issue with your accommodation, you may also visit the website of your university.

Also, landlords and property managers shouldn’t forget the importance of task automation for their properties. When you use a reliable student housing property management system, it makes it easier to operate your property as a business. 

To learn more about Booking Ninjas and the service they provide, schedule a free call with us right now.

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