When I considered leaving RIT housing, the first thing I did was pull up a copy of the RIT Housing Terms and Conditions for the 2013 – 2014 academic year. At no point did I call the Office of Housing Operations; I banked on my ability to interpret the housing contract, which in hindsight was not the best decision. Reading the contract from the beginning, the first section I came upon, section 1.05 “Contract Cancellation Dates” seemed to address my situation perfectly.

“Students returning to RIT that submit a housing contract for the 2013 – 2014 academic year and then decide not to attend RIT or to move to non-RIT housing (including parent/guardian’s home), must cancel their 2013-2014 RIT housing contract by submitting a cancellation form to RIT Housing Operations. Failure to do so will result in a cancellation fee or no-show fee.”

The verbiage of this section seems fairly straight forward. Students who have an academic year contract need to cancel by a date that the housing office lists, which for spring semester was Jan 27. When brought to the attention of the housing office, I was informed that my interpretation was wrong.

For Housing Operations, this section means that students who are returning to RIT housing for a specific time frame (single semester or full year) have the capacity to cancel before a listed date in accordance to their entry date. That means as a full year student I did not qualify for the Jan 27 cancelation date.

After speaking with a few employees, I was informed that by cancelling I was going to incur a cancellation fee equal to a half semester’s rent for my apartment, in accordance with policy 5.12 “Termination Fee”.

“Any resident terminating his/her RIT housing contract to move to non-RIT housing (including the resident’s parent’s/guardian’s home) and remains a registered student (full or part time) will be charged a termination fee of one half a term’s rent.”

Nowhere was this mentioned in section 1.05. From a visual layout standpoint, not cross-linking the fee section with the cancellation section is very misleading. The only two cross-linked sections in 1.05 are: 5.07 “Cancellation Fees for Fall Semester” and 5.08 “No-Show Fee for Fall Semester”. Neither of these sections applied to my situation, and because I thought my question about cancellation was answered in 1.05 I did not bother to read further into the contract.

If I cancelled with RIT, I was going to owe a half semester’s rent. If I broke my lease on my new house, I was going to lose my security deposit and my first month’s rent. The potential monetary losses were essentially the same across the board.

I do not think that the Office of Housing Operations was out to get me. I was victim to a torrent of poorly written, misleading verbiage and a plethora of subsections sprinkled throughout the contract. I do think that the housing office needs to clean up the way they structure housing contracts. Their verbiage is confusing and they do not define crucial terms like returning student. Additionally the physical layout and lack of cross-referencing to relevant sections makes it very easy to miss important sections.

I was in a situation where I was trying to plead my case against a contract I had already signed my name to so, in the end, I ended up paying my fee and moving out of RIT housing. Let my financial burden be a lesson to you. If you’re unsure about a contract, ask the responsible party and always be sure to read the fine print.