Residential Property Management/Do I have the grounds to ask for my money back and rent somewhere else?
Im a university student in a private institution. Our res fees are just as high as our actual tuition, and they dont offer any payment plans. Being desperate to not be late for school, I told my mother it would be okay to pay half of the res fees, and they would let me in. Its been a month now, and i have not told my mother i have yet to see the inside of my apartment because they want everything paid in full first. Lately Ive been feeling like it would be unfair for my mother to pay the rest of the fees if ive already missed living in the apartment for half the lease.
Would it be justified to try and get the sum already paid and use it to rent a cheaper apartment?
Hello! You got lucky, or maybe not, depending on your point of view. Not only am I recently-retired real estate agent with 25 years experience in property management, but when I was younger, I worked in the office of the director of campus housing at a large state university in The United States for a few years. Please note that this is an opinion based on experience and as such, this does not constitute legal advice. If you believe you have you have a legitimate legal claim against the school, you should contact an attorney in your area.
That being said, contracts to live in campus housing are not really leases per se; they're more like contracts with the university for living space. Sounds the same, but there's a subtle difference: they're not housing spaces that are available to the general public; it's really a contract for you to pay for an extra service the of the school which not every student uses--that service being, very simply put, "the provision of housing on campus and the costs associated with maintaining the usability of that space for its intended purpose, including but not limited to staffing, utilities, repairs, etc." My opinion is that not only will you NOT get your money back, but you'll be responsible for paying for the entire housing term, be it a school year or a semester. It couldn't hurt to sit down with someone to explain that you can't afford it and see what happens. If and when you meet with the campus housing people, have ready to show them a reasonable payment plan that you can actually afford to pay in the event someone makes an administrative decision to let you do so--it could happen. I once saw a student get housing months after the registration period ended and rooms had been assigned. You might not want to mention what you told (or, rather, didn't tell) your mother.
In this case, whether it's a private or public school is irrelevant. Because of liability issues, I don't know that any school would let you live on campus without paying in full before school started. Here is how I see the facts as you've provided them: you or someone on your behalf committed to you living in a space, likely in writing, making your student account contractually bound to pay for it, whether you're living there or not.
The fact is, that space could have been occupied by another student who would have paid for it when payment was due. In what you say was desperate attempt to begin school, it was your decision to give your mother incorrect information, whether you knew it was incorrect or not, and the school can't be held liable for that. One could very easily argue the other side of the coin and say that after making that agreement, you've abandoned the apartment by making the decision not to pay the second half--regardless of reason--and deciding to not live there.
However, *someone* with authority to do so signed you up for that apartment or some campus housing, if not that exact location. (In 6000 beds, we had all types of housing, from high-rise building rooms which were shared by three students to shared, newly-renovated and completely-refurbished townhomes and new, garden-style apartments which included bedrooms that were for one or two students.) As a result, nobody else could live in the space designated for you. An empty space is an expensive space for landlords and universities--there are still costs associated with maintaining the building, as I indicated above. Just like a regular lease, right now and probably until the end of the housing term listed on the paperwork, it's considered to be your space, no matter where you actually are.
It probably would have been better for you to have found a different place *before* you or someone else committed for you to live in a space which another student could have used. Hopefully, this isn't affecting the educational portion of your schooling, as in your ability to attend classes. You may have to start looking for someplace else now and pay off this term over time if they'll let you do so. Good luck and please post follow-up questions if you have them. Please also post a follow-up to let me know what happens.
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