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Dorm rental agreements may alter your rights

You get to college and you're just excited. This is such a big step in your life. You sign that dorm rental agreement without even reading it, just wanting to meet your roommates and start exploring the campus.

There's a risk here. That rental agreement probably spells out your rights to privacy. They could be far less than you'd enjoy with a traditional lease on a home or apartment, so don't assume anything.

For example, the agreement may state that the college can carry out random room inspections whenever they want. If you sign it, they can come in and scope things out without warning. The agreement may even say that this can be done when you're not home.

It could also give the Resident Assistant (RA) the right to come into your room or report certain activities to the school. If you own your own home, you have an expectation of privacy. This is not always granted at school, and some experts note that privacy violations are common.

This doesn't change all of your legal rights. If the police knock on the door, for instance, you may still have the right to tell them they can't come in without a warrant. However, if your rental agreement gives campus officials the right to enter, they may come in and report their findings, such as illegal drugs or other banned substances.

Again, the key is to read that agreement. Never assume anything. Be sure you really know your rights and what you may be signing away. This could be critical if you wind up facing drug charges and you're looking into your legal options.

Source: Flex Your Rights, "What Are My Rights in a College Dorm?," accessed Dec. 07, 2017

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