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Student Housing Laws College Students Should Know

College can be an exciting time for students. It's a time to experience independence from parents, meet new friends, and possibly live in a new state or city. However, it also comes with some responsibility. In order to have a happy and healthy time during one's college years, it's important for the student to have acceptable living conditions.

For this reason, all college students should be aware of the housing laws that affect them. Read on for information on student housing laws and the rights students have with regard to housing.

Implied Warranty of Habitability

Even though living in a dorm room is different from a normal landlord-tenant arrangement, students living in dorm rooms still have certain rights. One right is an implied warranty of habitability. A warranty of habitability is implied in all rental housing, whether it's a regular apartment or a dorm room. This warranty guarantees that the tenant's dorm room or housing unit:

  • Is not infested with bugs or rodents
  • Has hot and cold running water and heating, if necessary
  • Has a proper lock on all doors and windows, and
  • Is sealed off from the elements.

Most university housing departments have a system in place for reporting problems with your dorm room. You can refer to your university's website to find more information about how to report a problem with your housing.

Privacy Rights

When it comes to student housing laws and privacy rights, students get the short end of the stick. College students living in university housing have less robust privacy rights than tenants living in regular rental properties. For example, in an apartment, a landlord would be required to give notice before entering a tenant's apartment. In addition, the landlord would have to have a valid and specific reason for entering the tenant's apartment.

In student housing, on the other hand, the amount of privacy a student has depends on the specific college's housing policy. As a result, it's very important for a student to be familiar with the housing policy of his or her school.

Right to Fair Housing

Fair housing basically means that each individual in the U.S. has the right to choose housing that is free from unlawful discrimination. There are federal, state, and local fair housing laws that protect people from discrimination during various housing transactions, such as renting or buying a house, apartment, or condominium.

These fair housing laws prohibit discrimination against certain protected classes. The protected classes as defined by the federal Fair Housing Act are race, color, national origin, religion, disability, sex, and familial status. State and local fair housing laws can also offer more coverage, such as including age, marital status, and sexual orientation as protected classes. California, for example, includes the federal protected classes as well as gender identity, gender expression, marital status, religion, ancestry, sexual orientation, source of income, and genetic information of a person.

While students are not a protected class in and of themselves, each student is still protected under fair housing laws. This provides students with the right to ask about, apply for, and obtain housing without being discriminated against on account of their race, national origin, color, religion, disability, sex, familial status, or any other protected class status given to them by state or local laws.

If you're a student who feels you may have been discriminated against while looking or applying for student housing, you can file a complaint online with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). If you have questions or concerns, you can also contact your local HUD office.

Getting Legal Help

If you have questions about student housing laws, you may want to contact an education attorney or landlord-tenant attorney in your area.

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