Students are often charged for dorm damages but are unaware of why they are charged a specific amount and what they are paying to fix.
Zohar Suslovich, a junior computer science major, experienced dorm charges firsthand. When he was a freshman living in Xavier Hall he said he was charged $200 “for allegedly causing damage to the walls” in his dorm.
The report against Suslovich said that a wall had a hole and the letters “B O O” were carved in it, however, he said no damages existed. “There wasn’t really a damage so I didn’t try to fix anything, it was completely made up,” he said via email.
“I asked for photo proof of damage because I didn’t do it, they couldn’t provide it because they said that they already fixed it, and so I just kept appealing,” Suslovich said.
He appealed the charges, speaking with three different people from Housing and Residence Life. The last person he spoke with, Tara Hart, director of Housing and Residence Life, approved his appeal after three attempts, he said.
Daniela Rios, a senior broadcasting major, also faced charges when she dormed in Cabrini Hall her sophomore year.
Upon checking into her dorm she noticed a paint chip on the bathroom wall in her suite and she told her resident assistant (RA) who said she wrote down that the damage was there before Rios moved in. However, when Rios went to check out at the end of the year, she was told by the RA who checked her out that the paint chip had not been noted when she had checked in.
Since they could not take her word that the damage was there before she moved in and she could not find her copy of the form from when she checked into Cabrini, Rios said she and her suitemates were charged $200. At the beginning of the following school year, Rios found the original form from the previous year and it noted that the paint chip was there before she moved in. She said she reported this to Housing and was told they would look into the matter.
Rios said she went to the Housing office every day for a month but was told that too much time had lapsed for them to do anything about the charge. “We were unfairly charged for something we didn’t do, and I even had proof, but they still charged us and won’t even look into it,” she said via email.
“Housing needs to find a way to deal with issues like this,” Rios said. “It was unfair and a lot of money for a college student to shell out of their own pocket.”
Hart said via email that the money that students are charged for damages goes toward covering the cost of both materials and labor for the Facilities Engineering trade persons that make the needed repairs.
When students move out of their dorms, Hart said a professional Housing staff member and a member from Facilities Engineering walk through the rooms to check for damages. As a guide, they use the room condition report that residents sign when they move in, and if they find that the “resident has created damage beyond normal wear and tear,” then the Facilities Engineering member estimates what work is required, she said.
According to Hart, an example of “damage beyond normal wear and tear” is that if in summer 2016 the student’s room was freshly painted and upon moving out in May 2017 the wall shows signs of “significant damage.” This requires the patching, sanding and painting of the wall, she said.
Since the Department of Facilities Engineering makes the repairs, they set the rate for damages, Hart said. “We have endeavored to be transparent about the rates for commonly occurring damages. We have shared the information on social media with parents groups,” Hart said.
John Signorello, associate vice president of Facilities Engineering and Business Affairs, said in an email interview that students should note dorm damages to the Resident Hall Director when they move in.
“The Resident Hall Director walks through each room with one of the building mechanics and they jointly agree upon the amount and type of damage that each room has sustained,” he said.
Charges for damages depend on the specific incident, Signorello said. Repairing a dent around the size of a dinner plate costs $80 and repainting the wall costs an additional $160, but this can be higher if the wall is “severely damaged,” he said.
“Wall damage, electrical, [and] plumbing can all have different charges based on what needs to be repaired,” he said. “Charges range from $24 to replace room numbers to $675 to replace a front door.”
Samantha Todd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.