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Dorm room damages in a private college

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  • Dorm room damages in a private college

    I attend a private college in New Hampshire. Back in November somebody discharged a fire extinguisher in the basement of my dorm and there was a white powder left everywhere. The carpet in the basement also needed to be replaced. The housing office told us that the cost of the damages would be prorated to the residents of my building if nobody stepped forward and claimed responsibility. I was looking at my student account online today and saw that the charged was prorated to us on Jan. 19.

    This is interesting for a few reasons. One is that my dorm (like all dorms at my school) is open to the whole campus. Anybody with an ID card can come in. Nobody in my dorm (which includes only about 50 people) has claimed responsibility, and none of the fire extinguishers in our building were out of place or discharged. So, it appears that it was not a resident of my building. I don't know the legality of this, but it seems to me that if we are paying for housing and our landlord (the school) is letting anybody on campus into our buildings, we can't be held responsible if someone else does something stupid.

    Also, I find it a little slimy that we were not told informed of the charge. I just happened to notice it when I was looking at my student account.

    Are we legally liable for damages caused by other people?

  • #2
    re: Dorm room damages in a private college

    You cannot be held liable for damages done by others unless they were your guests or invitees. However, student housing is a little different than other LL-Tenant laws. How is it that you access the building? Do you have to insert student ID into a machine to gain access? Is there a dorm monitor who is in charge of allowing access? How do they monitor who enters? If only students from that building can enter, they *MIGHT* have a case. (In essence, they are holding all tenants jointly and severally liable for the building they rent rooms in.) However, if others can enter, it would be hard to assert this claim.

    I suggest you write to the student housing office and dispute these charges. State that you did not do the damage. State that no fire extinguisher on your level (or in the building) was discharged. Argue that the cost for carpet replacement must be depreciated according tot he age of the carpet at the time of the incident. State that you are not responsible for the damage and refuse to take responsibility for the charges. Send this to them by certified mail, return receipt requested, and keep a copy of the letter and the postcard. See how they respond.

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