The Housing Contract Addendum
By Guest Contributor Grace Brill, Computer Science Chair of the College of Arts and Sciences Student Leadership Council.
On July 9th, University Housing released an addendum for the housing contract, which contains relevant information about health and safety, future contract changes, terminating housing contracts, and the “Acts of God” clause. With the July 16th 11:59pm cancellation deadline approaching soon, it is important for students living on campus to understand the new conditions of the University Housing contract. Students living on-campus next Fall should pay close attention to the Addendum because “In the event of a conflict between this Addendum and the 2020-2021 Housing Contract, this Addendum will prevail”. This document seeks to summarize the most significant changes made to the University Housing contract for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021.
FSU will approve all requests for contract cancellation received before 5 pm, July 16
To read the Fall 2020/Spring 2021 University Housing Contract in its entirety: https://housing.fsu.edu/future-residents/contract-and-processes/contract-terms#fall-2020-spring-2021
To read the Addendum to the Fall 2020/Spring 2021 University Housing Contract:
To read the University Housing Fall Updates:
This document is divided into five sections:
Health and Safety
Future Contract Changes
Terminating Housing Contracts
“Acts of God” Clause
1. Congregate Housing
From the University Housing Fall Updates article published on June 6, 2020, the University outlined provisions relating to congregate living. The “Room assignments” section indicates that Housing will not assign triple or quadruple bedrooms unless specifically requested by a group and that single bedrooms cannot be guaranteed for those who request them. In addition, Housing outlines the changes to communal services such as microwaves and ice machines, which will be unavailable in the common kitchens.
2. Health and Safety
Under the “Health and Safety” section from the University Housing Contract Addendum, the University explained regulations required for students choosing to live on campus. Students will be expected to comply with regulations not limited to but including diagnostic and surveillance testing, contact tracing, disinfection protocols, updated guest restrictions for residence halls, and isolation requirements. Florida State University and University Housing reserve the right to “...request or require…” students who break these regulations to leave on-campus housing.
University Housing also provides more information about health and safety under the “Additional terms, conditions, and responsibilities for the 2020-2021 FSU Housing Contract”, or “Additional terms,” portion of the addendum. These conditions include but are not limited to: students must wear masks when indoors unless eating, drinking, or in an individual room, students are responsible for cleaning their living quarters, students must adhere to guest policy changes, and students must provide documentation of their COVID-19 status to University Health Services prior to or shortly after their arrival in addition to any future requests made by University Housing.
3. Future Contract Changes
Under the “Additional terms” section of the addendum, University Housing specifically includes a stipulation stating that “The University reserves the right to make additional and/or to modify existing policies, procedures and regulations as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve. The University agrees to make every reasonable effort to inform resident students of any regulation changes or pertinent policy information”. This stipulation of the addendum raises concerns for incoming residents since University Housing has the ability to freely change the housing contract. The impacts of this stipulation on students are unclear, but students should be aware that their contract can be adjusted at University Housing’s discretion.
"If the academic calendar availability is adjusted, the semester rental rate for on-campus halls and Seminole Dining plans will not be adjusted" (news.fsu.edu).
4. Terminating Housing Contracts
Furthermore, according to the “Additional terms” portion of the addendum, University Housing has the power to “... terminate housing contracts due to public health emergency needs”. This particular clause raises concerns due to its vague wording. For instance, what constitutes “public health emergency needs”? How are international and out of state students expected to travel home safely? What if an international student is unable to return home due to travel restrictions? Will University Housing grant accommodations for international students and out of state students that cannot afford to return home? For students deciding whether or not to cancel their housing contracts, these are important questions that need to be addressed by University Housing to ensure their safety and financial well-being.
5. “Acts of God” Clause
The most important portion of the addendum is the “Acts of God” clause, which is a part of the “Additional terms” section. In this clause, University Housing states that if the University is closed because of “...causes beyond the University’s reasonable control…” which include but are not limited to “...epidemics, pandemics, war, embargoes, fire, earthquakes, acts of God…”, then students will not be granted “...a contract cancellation, release, or any refund of any housing fees or payment”.
According to Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute, an “Act of God” refers to “...an overwhelming event caused exclusively by natural forces whose effects could not possibly be prevented”. However, since the language of this clause is vague and open for interpretation, this allows for many important housing decisions to be made at University Housing’s discretion. The implications on students living on-campus are unknown since these events are difficult to predict, but students need to be aware of the new terms added to the housing contract.
Cornell University Legal Information Institute Link: https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/act_of_god
Nothing in this document should be construed to constitute legal advice.