Students say year-long housing contracts cause difficulty

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Students say a shift from academic-year housing contracts to full-year contracts imposes financial burdens and limits their ability to pursue internships, field studies and study abroad programs that their majors require or encourage.

Evan Jones, a web developer for BYU On-campus Housing, said that out of the approximately 33,000 students who attend BYU, 4,000 live in Helaman Halls, Heritage Halls or Wyview and approximately 1,000 live in BYU family housing.

This leaves 28,000 students, or 85% of the student population, seeking housing options off campus, a majority of which have changed their housing contracts to year-round contracts.  

The Lodges at Glenwood, The Branbury, The Riviera, King Henry and Alpine Village are among those that switched to year-long contracts. Collectively, these complexes house around 4,000 residents, or 14% of single BYU students living in off-campus housing, all who are locked into year-long contracts.

Students express difficulty with having to commit to year-long contracts through BYU-approved housing sites. (Hannah Miner)

BYU student Allison Giles is one of the thousands of single students affected by the financial commitment of a year-long housing contract.

“This school promotes us going to get internships and going to further our education in other places, but then we can’t sell our contracts and it just puts everyone in a huge bind,” Giles said.

After landing a summer job in California, Giles attempted to sell her year-long contract at an all-women’s housing unit in Provo, an experience she called “unpleasant”.

She said she received little help from management but eventually found someone who was willing to buy her contract. After paying the $150 transfer fee, Giles thought she was in the clear.

She was shocked to find that when the buyer didn’t move into the apartment, Giles remained accountable for the contract despite paying a fee to remove her name off the contract. After going to the property management company, Giles was eventually let out of the contract.

In comparison to other universities in the state of Utah, BYU housing is in the minority when it comes to year-long contracts. 

UVU housing is similar to BYU given its proximity to Provo housing units. Although UVU students are not required to comply with the BYU housing guidelines, some complexes posted as UVU housing still tailor their units to BYU housing guidelines, and many UVU students live in BYU-approved housing. With the exception of students living at home or renting a house with month-to-month contracts, some of UVU’s students are also affected by this year-long lease commitment.

The Utah State University housing community offers students the option to purchase an academic-year contract, which traditionally lasts from August to May, and separate contracts for the summer. When students provide proof of marriage, missions or other programs that would require an early termination, residents are allowed out of their contract early and receive their deposit back. 

Many BYU off-campus housing complexes do not allow students to receive their deposits back for early terminations in similar situations.

BYU sophomore Matthew Hunter tried selling his current contract due to his recent engagement. Because he gave management a 120-day notice, he was able to get out of the contract but will have to forfeit his deposit.

“It would be nice if they had some sort of deal for when you went away to do things or knew you weren’t going to be there,” Hunter said. 

He said having spring-summer contracts, which last from May until the end of August, would relieve students of the stress of having to sell contracts they don’t want or need.

While some locations don’t offer much flexibility, more locations are allowing residents out of their contracts under certain circumstances, including marriage, graduation and internships.

Riviera Apartments Leasing Specialist Tatum Guymon said within the past couple of years, the apartment complex switched from semester-long contracts to year-round contracts. 

She said that like many off-campus housing units, they offer early termination for anyone who will be getting an internship, going on a mission, getting married or enlisting in the military.

“I am really grateful for this option, especially for missionaries,” Guymon said. “I think this should’ve been implemented a long time ago.”

In all these scenarios, the deposit of the resident moving out is not refunded because it is still considered an early termination of the contract.

BYU student Julianna Brown said she would rather have her deposit taken away than have to pay rent for an apartment she wouldn’t be using.

“It seems fair considering that you are ending your contract early,” Brown said.

Jennifer Sappenfield, a leasing agent at The Branbury, said The Branbury’s switch from fall-winter contracts to year-long contracts came from their corporate offices. She said because more complexes made the switch, The Branbury jumped on board and made the switch starting this academic year.

BYU Off-Campus Housing manager Pat Newman said if there are problems students feel they cannot resolve with their landlords, those at the Off-Campus Housing Office try to find resolutions for the students in certain situations.

“If a student has attempted to address the concerns with the management, they can come to us for advice on how to address the issue. If the concern is not able to be addressed on that level, the student has the option to go to the Center for Conflict Resolution,” Newman said.

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