Students face difficult fall housing decision as contract cancellation deadline approaches

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Students must decide soon whether to cancel their fall off-campus housing contracts without knowing whether fall classes will be remote or in person. (Photo illustration by Preston Crawley)

Leer en español: Estudiantes de BYU enfrentan difícil decisión de viviendas para el otoño

See also: BYU students split over whether to enroll for Fall Semester if classes are remote

BYU students living in off-campus housing must decide soon whether to cancel their housing contracts for the upcoming Fall Semester, despite BYU not having announced whether classes will be held on campus or remotely.

Section 22 of the standard off-campus housing contract states, “At any time not less than 90 days before the commencement date in paragraph two of this agreement, either party may terminate this agreement.” That means for most fall housing contracts, which begin shortly before classes start on Aug. 31, the cancellation deadline will occur before the end of May.

However, the University announced May 14 that administrators may not decide whether to hold fall classes on campus until as late as July, long after the cancellation period for off-campus fall contracts has passed.

In its announcement, the University encouraged students to carefully read their contracts. “When you signed the lease, you entered into a binding legal contract with your landlord. Off-campus landlords are not BYU employees or companies, and the university does not have power to cancel the contract or release you from it,” the announcement states.

The announcement also encourages students to pay close attention to time-sensitive cancellation conditions and acknowledges the difficulty of making a housing decision without knowing whether Fall Semester will happen remotely.

“We wish we could give definitive guidance on how events will proceed, but these are very uncertain times,” the announcement reads.

Julie Brooks, a law student who recently petitioned Provo landlords to release homebound students from their off-campus housing contracts, posted about the upcoming cancellation deadline on the @provo23b Instagram account she runs with a small team.

“If Fall Semester remains online and students want to cancel their housing agreements, they have 90 days before their contract goes into effect to cancel and not have to pay rent during Fall Semester,” the post reads.

Brooks postulated on a comment from the @provo23b account that most contracts begin Aug. 26, making May 28 the deadline for cancellations.

“It’s really important to get this information out now to give people time to make a decision, especially since their landlords won’t warn them,” Brooks said. “Landlords never tell their prospective tenants about the 90-day clause.”

She lamented the circumstance’s inherent difficulty, saying it wouldn’t be right to pressure BYU into making a premature decision about Fall Semester.

But not everyone agrees. Holly Stewart Franz said her son had a difficult time canceling his housing contract when he moved back home after winter classes went entirely remote, and she doesn’t want him to repeat the experience.

“Students need to know right now whether fall classes will be online or in person so we can cancel housing contracts,” Franz said. “My husband is pretty upset with BYU for requiring students to live in BYU-contracted housing that uses these horribly-written leases and then not holding landlords accountable for refusing to adhere to the contract during this unprecedented pandemic.”

Kelly Keene Blier, whose daughter was intending to live off campus for the first time this fall, also said she wished BYU would do more for students living off campus.

“College is a financial struggle for many students and the contracts they sign exploit those students,” Blier said. “If BYU approves the housing, they should have more of a say in the contracts and how and why they can be terminated.”

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