Off-Campus Housing COVID-19 Resources

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

UF Student Legal Services (SLS) offers free and confidential assistance to eligible UF students and is open Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm. SLS offers consultations via phone or video conference, and an attorney can generally meet with you within 48 hours of applying for services. Rather than a one-size fits all approach, issues related to how COVID-19 affects students’ off-campus leases should be considered on a case-by-case basis, with circumstances surrounding safety, available leasing options, and student and family financial circumstances examined. The four licensed attorneys at UF SLS collectively have over 100 years of experience and deal with landlord-tenant issues regularly. You can apply for help with your case today at www.studentlegalservices.ufl.edu, and we can also be reached at 352-392-5297 during regular office hours.

If you need assistance with on-campus housing, please contact UF Housing and Residence Education via website by phone at 352-392-2161.

Generally speaking, a lease is a legally binding contract which can be modified only by mutual agreement between the parties. However, the answer to this question will often depend upon the circumstances particular to your case. It is possible that the lease agreement contains a provision which you may be able to use in your favor. It is also possible that the circumstances in your particular case may provide a legal justification for terminating your lease agreement. To be sure that you are taking advantage of any potential legal remedies available, you should consult with an SLS attorney about your circumstances as soon as possible.
Simply put, paying your rent is a legal obligation which you agreed to when you signed the rental contract. Unless some legal action is taken that overrides that obligation, the landlord can take action against you (and your guarantor if you have one) for failure to meet your financial obligation. That can include a lawsuit (which could result in a judgment against you) and/or turning the matter over to a debt-collection agency. This will have a negative effect upon your credit score and could possibly result in other collection actions, such as garnishment of your wages, in the future.

There is currently an Executive Order in place, signed by Governor DeSantis on April, 2nd, 2020, which suspends any eviction actions for a period of 45 days from the date of the Order.

However, a few things should be noted about failing to pay rent:

  • Rent is often still owed and will continue to accumulate during the 45-day period, including late fees and other costs. The Governor’s Order specifically says that it does NOT relieve any tenant from paying rent.
  • A landlord still has available remedies for failure to pay rent- e.g., sending your account to a collections agent and/or reporting the amount owed against your credit report.
  • The landlord can still file an eviction case against you. Unless an extension is signed by the Governor, at the end of the 45-day period, the landlords will again be able to move forward with eviction. If you have not paid any rent during that time, and you have continued to live in the unit, then you will have to deposit the entire amount owed into the registry of the court within a very short time period in order to avoid an eviction judgment.
  • Some local landlords are offering payment plans for qualifying students.

Not paying rent can have serious consequences on your credit reports and credit checks. Before you decide to stop paying rent, you should consult with one of your free attorneys at UF SLS.

If you move out prior to the expiration of your lease agreement and you inform the landlord that you are returning possession of the apartment back to them, the landlord should not file an eviction action because you have already given over possession to the landlord. However, rent will likely still be owed for the unpaid duration of the lease and the landlord may still be able to pursue the other remedies mentioned in paragraph three above.
Before you move out, contact SLS for guidance. Some landlords are willing to offer plans with smaller monthly payments to qualifying students. You should at least explore whether this might be a better option than moving out and SLS attorneys can advise you on that.

If you do move out, you should make sure the entire unit is carefully cleaned and left in the same condition it was in when you moved in minus normal wear and tear. SLS recommends that you document the condition of the unit at the time you move out with photographs. Also, make sure to turn your key and notify the landlord in writing that you have moved out. Again, we urge you to contact SLS for guidance on this issue.

It depends upon the type of lease you have. If it is an individual lease, then you are only responsible for the monthly payment specified in your lease agreement. One caveat: if a roommate causes damage to a common area of the unit and fails to pay for that damage, then the landlord can often look to the other roommates for payment.

If you have a joint lease, then the landlord can look to any tenant for full payment of the monthly lease obligation. If this happens to you, contact your SLS attorneys for help.

A signature is almost everything in contract law. Generally, if you did not sign any documents, then you are probably not obligated to sign now. However, there are circumstances where you may still be obligated. To make sure you understand your rights and obligations, contact your SLS attorneys.
As we await determination on classes, we encourage you to check your emails and the UF website for current class status updates in order to determine whether to sign a lease for the fall term.
Gainesville has more units for rent than there are people to rent them, so there is no need to be in a hurry to sign a lease for the upcoming school year now. Having said that, if you know that you are definitely going to rent an apartment for the 2020-2021 school year, then there are good deals on rental rates right now AND you have more leverage to negotiate those rates and other terms than you have ever had before. Just remember that once you sign a lease, you generally cannot get out of it- EVEN IF UF CANCELS THE WHOLE SCHOOL YEAR.

For assistance with finding off-campus housing visit the UF Off Campus Life website and connect with OCL staff. OCL staff are here to assist students with finding off-campus housing and with your transition to living in Gainesville. Additional resources include:

  • Housing Locator where you can search for apartments, post or find sublease and connect with roommates.
  • Gator Guide to Off Campus Life which is OCL’s annual publication and has everything you need to know about finding off-campus housing and living in Gainesville.
  • Off Campus Life also provides one on one appointments with students to help with their housing search and anything else they need to related to living off-campus.
  • Off Campus Life also provides a monthly e-newsletter to help you stay informed and social media pages with tips and fun things to do in Gainesville. To subscribe to the OCL e-newslettter email OCL at OCLContacts@ufsa.ufl.edu to connect through social media follow us @UFOffCampusLife on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Before you sign any documents, let your free attorneys at SLS review it with you and answer your questions. We want to make sure you understand both your leasing rights and your leasing obligations.

Just as the provisions of the lease agreement apply to the tenant, they likewise apply to the landlord. If your landlord is obligated to provide maintenance services pursuant to the provisions of your lease, then that obligation would generally remain during the COVID-19 outbreak period. If you have concerns about whether your landlord is providing required maintenance services, then you should immediately contact your free attorneys at SLS to help you.

Whether the landlord can continue to access your unit during the COVID-19 outbreak period for other reasons, e.g., to show the unit, or to do general cleaning, etc., is less clear. Again, contact SLS to discuss your situation.

Remember that while you are a qualifying UF student, you have free, confidential attorneys to help you with any legal issues you may encounter. If you find that you need help with other issues, the following sections below contain information regarding other available UF services and resources.

Your safety is always the paramount concern. If you are under an immediate safety threat, please contact 911 or the authorities as soon as it is safely possible to do so. The Housing Code Violations are investigated by the City of Gainesville Code Enforcement (Phone: 352-334-5030). In regard to health-related issues, please contact the Alachua County Department of Health (Phone 352-334-7900). A COVID-19 call center is also available at 1-866-779-6121.

Additional Resources

If you cannot pay expenses, there may be help available. Student Financial Affairs can be reached by email at sfa-help@mail.ufl.edu or by telephone at (352) 392-1275 from 8:00am to 5:00pm Monday-Friday (excluding holidays and university closings).

Additionally, because there are students and families who have a reduction in work hours or loss of jobs, students can submit a revision petition for consideration of having their income reevaluated. At this point we are encouraging these students to complete the 2019-20 Financial Aid Revision Petition and the 2020-2021 Revision Petition. CARES (Coronovirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act) grant applications can be accessed at the UF Federal Cares Act Website.

Also, the Aid-a-Gator Program may be able to assist students experiencing unanticipated expenses.

Legal Disclaimer

The information contained in this FAQ is NOT intended to constitute legal advice and is NOT a substitute for consulting an SLS attorney regarding one’s particular case or situation.

The information and opinions contained herein are those of UF Student Legal Services only and are not necessarily those of the University of Florida, the UF Board of Trustees, the Board of Governors for the State University System of Florida, or the State of Florida.

In attempting to provide general guidance about landlords, leases, and COVID-19, it cannot be emphasized enough that each situation is UNIQUE and we recommend that you speak with a Student Legal Services attorney about your specific situation. You can apply for services on our website to make an appointment.



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