An attorney representing students at Illinois State University said he expects to get plenty of questions about off-campus lease agreements from students now that the university is moving to mostly online instruction this fall.
Ed McKibbin is the students' attorney in the Dean of Students Office. He said his office has been getting calls from students who don't want to move back to campus right now.
He said many students found out when campus closed in March during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, they can't break their housing contracts.
“I always advised people who had not yet signed a lease, based upon experience, you probably don’t want to sign that lease unless you know for certain that, 'I really am going to need this apartment, regardless of whether my classes are online or in-person because I am going to be there no matter what,'” McKibbin said.
He said students could try to sublease, seek emergency financial aid from ISU or propose a settlement with the property management company that could buy them some time.
“From what I was told, the property management companies were certainly willing to work with those students who are struggling,” he said, adding students could potentially make several affirmative defenses in civil court if they have good documentation, such as a doctor’s note, but he said those cases would be determined by a judge.
“There’s always that possibility, but it’s a difficult process,” he conceded.
For students who planned to live on campus, ISU has extended the deadline to Aug. 18 to cancel without penalty.
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