Legislative Roundup: Student eviction process will remain the same

By and

A bill that would have allowed U Housing and Residential Education to evict students living in the Residence Halls without going to court died in literally the last minute of the Utah state legislative session.

The session ended before lawmakers could vote on the bill. Legislators may now present the bill at one of the monthly interim committee meetings that pass bills outside of the session. The measure would have made university housing exempt from state eviction laws, giving HRE the authority to evict students who don’t pay their rent, are no longer taking classes or violate the housing contract instead of waiting for the attorney general’s office to process the information.

“There’s no reason why it shouldn’t pass — there were only a few people opposed to it,” said bill sponsor Rep. Paul Neuenschwander, R-Bountiful.

Currently, U housing must go through a lengthy and expensive court process to evict students. The process can take more than two months while students continue to not pay rent and stay in housing for free.

A notice of the student’s eviction will show up on a student’s financial credit report. To get money back, a tax lien, which makes it so people cannot receive tax returns until they pay the amount owed, will be put on students’ taxes so HRE receives tax money from the state and the students receive the leftover amount from their tax returns.

“If a student was to get $1,500 back from taxes, we would get the amount they owe us, and the student would get the remainder of their taxes,” said Barb Remsburg, HRE associate director.

Most of the students who have difficulty with their finances just haven’t planned ahead to pay for everything, or they spent their refund check from financial aid instead of using it to pay off their bills, said Debra Leeflang, a financial analyst for HRE.

A U student living at Shoreline Ridge who wished to remain anonymous said he’s paid half of his rent, but can’t do anything else until he finds a job.

“They haven’t made me leave yet, but there’s a hold on my records so I can’t register for (classes in the) summer or fall,” he said.

The situation becomes more difficult because housing authorities don’t want to evict students during finals, Remsburg said.

HRE has 35 students who haven’t paid their bills and refuse to leave, but has been holding off talking with the attorney general’s office because of the timing.

“Because it takes a month or two to process the information, these students would face eviction in May during finals week,” Remsburg said. “We don’t want that to happen.”

Instead, HRE will put holds on the students’ records, making it impossible for them to register at the same time as other students.

Chelsea Jensen, a junior exercise and sports science major, said she understands why some students can’t make housing payments on time.

“My textbooks cost me about $1,000 this semester,” she said. “Two months is a long time to be stuck with students who don’t pay rent, but it can be really difficult to make payments.”

The bill also affects students who aren’t taking enough credits at the U or have dropped out of school. Students living in Benchmark Plaza must be taking at least nine credits, and students living in Shoreline Ridge are required to take a minimum of six credits.

“They’ll need to move if they’re not a student any longer,” Remsburg said. “But we won’t kick them out for not taking enough credits — they just need to move to (another building).”

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