Rights in Student Housing

Rent Control Statutes Exclude Dormitories

Typically, rent control ordinances do not cover on-campus, university housing.  For example, the San Francisco Rent Ordinance states that the term “rental units” does not include dorms owned by colleges and universities.  San Francisco Administrative Code § 37.2(a)(3).  Similarly, the City of Berkeley Rent Stabilization and Eviction for Good Cause Ordinance excludes any property owned by a governmental agency and university housing.

Discrimination Issues in Offering Housing

Campus housing is considered an “auxiliary service,” meaning that although it is self-supporting and not directly related to the educational process, it still “accommodates, contributes to or enhances educational activities.”  Courts have said that university housing must be provided in a nondiscriminatory fashion that does not hinder educational access.  In De La Cruz v. Tormey, 582 F. 2d 45 (9th Cir.), the court found that the absence of on-campus day care services was sufficient in to support a Title IX discrimination claim.  Given the holding in De La Cruz, it is likely that schools must follow federal and state anti-discrimination housing laws by providing housing to families with children and people with physical challenges.  This would include granting students with disabilities reasonable accommodations.

Duty to Provide Safe Housing

The agreement signed by a student to live in university housing does not create a landlord-tenant relationship.  It is a license agreement.  The dorm resident is a licensee.  Courts have held property owners liable for injuries caused to licensees.  Rowland v. Christiansen, 69 Cal. 2d 108 (1968).  The duty of a landowner to keep premises safe is no longer determined by the status of the visitor.  A licensee or guest, and even a trespasser, are all owed a duty of care.  Civil Code § 1714(a).  Thus, dormitory residents have the same basic protections afforded other tenants, including the right to a safe, quiet and habitable dwelling.  Universities have therefore understandably closely monitored dorms and created policies explicitly listing sanctions for various kinds of unruly behavior.