As she finalized her plans last November to study abroad in Chile for winter term, Krista Wishart went to the University Housing office to give notice that she planned to move out of her Broadway Residence Hall apartment in December. Wishart ran into a problem. She had missed Portland State’s fall term Nov. 1 contract cancellation deadline, and if she wanted to move out of her apartment, she would have to pay $843 in fees. If University Housing residents fail to cancel their contracts before a prescribed deadline each term, they are responsible for all rent charges for the rest of the term, face a charge of $9 per day for the following academic term and forfeit their $150 apartment deposit.
As she finalized her plans last November to study abroad in Chile for winter term, Krista Wishart went to the University Housing office to give notice that she planned to move out of her Broadway Residence Hall apartment in December.
Wishart ran into a problem. She had missed Portland State’s fall term Nov. 1 contract cancellation deadline, and if she wanted to move out of her apartment, she would have to pay $843 in fees.
If University Housing residents fail to cancel their contracts before a prescribed deadline each term, they are responsible for all rent charges for the rest of the term, face a charge of $9 per day for the following academic term and forfeit their $150 apartment deposit.
For example, if a student moved out of their apartment in November, they would be charged rent for November and December, in addition to a $9 per day charge for each of the 77 days in winter term. They would also lose their $150 apartment deposit, totaling at least $843 in charges.
The contract cancellation deadline for winter term is Feb. 15. Any students living in a dorm or apartment in University Housing must opt-out of their housing contract before Feb. 15, if they want to avoid more than $800 in charges.
Avoiding the charges
Fortunately for Wishart, an international studies student at Portland State, she was not subject to the per day charge or forced to forfeit her apartment deposit–despite breaking her contract two weeks after the deadline–because her study abroad program is one of the approved reasons for cancellation.
Other approved cancellations include graduation, internship or resident teaching outside the greater Portland area, required military duty and unforeseen health or financial hardship, according to the Portland State University Housing contract.
“We really try to evaluate those on a case-by-case basis,” said Mary Cloos, housing services manager at PSU.
Another way students can avoid some of the fees is by finding another student to take over the apartment’s contract. The original tenant will lose their $150 deposit, but won’t have to pay the $9 per day fee.
Cloos said she sent out an e-mail to all University Housing residents on Jan. 9, reminding them when their first bill was due and the PSU contract cancellation policy. She said she sends the same e-mail out at the beginning of every term.
The fees are in place to make sure that rooms in University Housing are always full, as well as keeping the maximum number of apartments available, Cloos said.
“They give students an incentive to plan ahead,” Cloos said of the penalties.
The $9 charge must be paid immediately after a contract is cancelled. The charge is intended to offset utility costs such as water and electricity while a unit is vacant, Cloos said.
The per day charge has been enforced for at least the last three years and was increased from $6 per day about two years ago, said John Eckman, interim executive director of housing and transportation services.
Despite the fact that the policy is not new, some residents of University Housing question its effect.
“It’s locking people into housing and not giving them freedom,” said Jessi Even, who has lived on campus for the past two years. “If someone really needs to move out, this financial handicap will not allow them to.”
Cloos has a different perspective on the severity of the penalties.
“I think it’s a generous attempt to be consistent with PSU’s flexibility with students,” Cloos said. “In comparison to universities across the nation, they are generous.”
Changes to the policy
While the $9 charge has been enforced for several years, there is a new policy this year that makes residents pay rent on a term-by-term basis. In previous years, students paid rent monthly and had to give a 30-day notice to cancel a housing contract.
Some students have voiced their concern with the new policy, claiming it does not allow for flexibility.
“I prefer paying month-to-month because it is easier and I didn’t feel confined,” Wishart said.
Another concern with the new policy is that it places a financial burden on students, because the entire rental amount is due at once rather than in smaller amounts each month.
“It’s more of a hassle this year,” Even said. “I don’t see how some students can pay it all up front. It’s easier for the generic college student to do it month to month.
The $9 charge enforced at Portland State is comparable to other universities in the Oregon University System.
University Housing settled on the $9 charge because the figure was similar to charges at other universities within the university system, Eckman said.
Like Portland State, the University of Oregon charges residents a $9 per day cancellation charge. However, University Housing policy at Portland State requires that students only pay the $9 per day charge for the duration of the following academic term, while University of Oregon residents have to pay $9 per day from the day they move to the end of the academic year in June.
At Oregon State University, residents that wish to buy out their contract must pay $6 per day for all remaining days until the end of the academic year in June.
College Housing Northwest, an off-campus property management company, owns buildings like Goose Hallow Plaza, Goose Hallow Tower and the Clifton House, which house many Portland State students.
If a resident breaks a lease at a College Housing Northwest building, the resident must pay one month’s rent, said Amanda Wolf, community director.