According to a proposed class action, the property manager of a number of off-campus housing complexes has continued to charge rent despite the fact that students were forced to move out months ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Defendant Campus Advantage, Inc. operates private dormitory housing near college campuses that offer amenities “specifically geared” to students, including shared living quarters, study lounges, residence life programs, free printing, shuttle services, swimming pools, game rooms, fitness centers, and a “sophisticated roommate matching program,” the case says. Two of the defendant’s complexes are Northgate Lakes and The Verge, located outside the University of Central Florida, per the suit.
The lawsuit relays that universities such as UCF asked students to leave campus, including from dormitories similar in layout to those operated by the defendant, because high-density areas with “extensive shared common areas” became unsafe due to the “elevated risk” of disease transmission amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Relatedly, universities recognized that it would be “inequitable and improper” to charge students for unsafe, unoccupied housing and have begun issuing refunds for housing costs, the complaint says.
In contrast to the so-called “responsible actions” of some universities and despite its inability to safely provide the services for which housing costs were paid, Campus Advantage, however, has retained all funds paid by students and continues to charge rent to those who pay month-to-month, the lawsuit alleges.
According to the complaint, students at UCF were informed on March 17, 2020 that all classes would be transitioned online through the end of the Spring 2020 semester. Students who lived on campus were either “told they had to move out or were strongly encouraged to do so,” the case says, and given most campus facilities were shut down, “they had no meaningful choice but to comply.”
Although UCF has reportedly agreed to return a “fair portion” of students’ room and board fees, the defendant, a self-proclaimed “student housing management expert,” has refused to do so, and instead informed one of the plaintiffs that it “intended to continue to collect rent” in order to “pay bills for the property,” the lawsuit alleges. The three plaintiffs, each a parent of a student who moved out of the defendant’s facilities during the pandemic, claim the company has begun “haranguing and harassing” proposed class members over rent payments for March through June “that they do not owe,” including by placing debt collection calls.
According to the suit, the purpose of the contract between the defendant and plaintiffs—to provide dormitory living with all the advertised services and amenities—was frustrated when students were forced to move home and could no longer attend campus.
The lawsuit echoes a similar case filed against the property manager of another off-campus student housing center near UCF who has allegedly refused to refund students’ rent payments amid the COVID-19 crisis.
ClassAction.org’s coverage of COVID-19 litigation can be found here and over on our Newswire.