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Don’t Be Surprised – Read the Fine Print

By Patti McKenna

This article was written for by Patti McKenna who is a college parent from Illinois. She has four daughters, one of which is a college senior, and another will be a freshman next year.

The freshman year is a year of adapting and learning – for students and their parents. It’s also a year of financial adjustments. While we try, parents often can’t plan for every extra expense. All we can do is be prepared for unexpected costs, fees, and, yes, even fines.

When our daughter was a freshman, we signed the contract for her co-ed dorm, agreeing to pay her monthly room, board, and any damages she might cause. She took care of her space and hung all of her posters and photos with sticky putty so there would be no holes in the wall. So, we were surprised in February when she called and told us that she’d received a bill for $108.00 for damages to her floor.

It seems that one night some anonymous person(s) had stuffed the men’s restroom toilets and sinks with towels and paper. Then, they turned the water on and walked away. The water damaged the floor, carpet and trim. There was also damage to area rugs and belongings in the rooms close to the bathroom.

Our daughter was upset, and so were we. Why should we pay for damages that she did not cause? After reviewing the contract, we noted there was a clause that stated any damage which could not be attributed to a specific party would be divided equally among all persons on the floor. Legally, we were obligated to pay the fine.

We can teach our own children how to behave and respect each other’s property, but we have no control over the actions of their fellow dorm residents. We purchased renters insurance to protect her clothes and belongings, and the next year, we encouraged her move to more private housing. Then, we read the contract – twice!

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