What Are My Rights in a College Dorm?

Searches of Dorm Rooms

Student rights in dorms can be considered a huge legal issue. A college dorm is unlike many other residences. A unique relationship exists between the university as a landlord and the student as a tenant. A tenant and landlord tend to have a special relationship where a tenant can expect to retain certain privacy rights and the landlord is expected to respect those privacy rights. However, when it comes to a university and a student relationship in the dorm, a university tends to be able to flex more muscle in the things it can require or do in regards to its student tenants including but not limited to the number of guests a student may have in their room, quiet hours, restriction of the opposite sex in a room, restriction on alcohol or other products, how a student can be evicted, how a student’s actions in the dorm can be tied to their standing at the university. Check this link for additional legal dorm information after reading this post.

Student Rights In Dorms: Your Rights as a College Student

What does protect a student from a universities seemingly unlimited powers in dorms is the United States Constitution. For instance, the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prevents the government from unreasonable searches and seizures. Yet, be warned, a resident assistant, community advisor, may have cause to enter your dorm in cases of emergency, or if they believe you are violating a school policy or federal law if they have cause. A police officer however, can only enter your room without your consent under certain circumstances. We have had a number of young readers who are entering college and will be residing in a residential hall, dorm room, or Greek housing ask us what some of their rights are. We have listed some of the most common FAQ’s below:

Student Rights In Dorms :Entering A Students Room

  • When campus police or an administrator requires to enter your room without your consent they must obtain a search warrant, have probable cause, be in hot pursuit of a suspect, believe a student is about to destroy evidence, or in cases of an emergency.
  • If a campus police officer or administrator comes to your room, its best not to obstruct them from entering your room, but to exit your dorm room, close the door behind you. HOWEVER, no number of wet towels, drying sheets, fans, or secret compartments will protect you if you have any illegal drugs or alcohol in your possession.

Student Rights In Dorms: Searching Your Room

  • Student rights in dorms extend to administrators and police as well. For instance, for campus police or an administrator to search your room without your consent, they must obtain a warrant. Simply because you refused consent does not allow them enough evidence to obtain a warrant. HOWEVER, when consent is refused prepare to suffer any consequences that might come about, including academic probation, eviction from the dorm, or even expulsion from the school. We would advise you not to have any illegal items or do any illegal activity within the dorm.

Living Rights

  • Residence life must prove essential living services (heat, water, electricity, etc.)
  • Maintenance must give 12-24 hour notice before entering a student’s room
  • Any violations that tenant has conducted must be given to them in writing.