REXBURG, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Amid this full-blown pandemic, Brigham Young University Idaho is letting each landlord find their own solution. Some, let students out of their contracts immediately. Others are charging hundreds of dollars to end the agreements. But a few landlords are holding the students to their obligations.
"I guarantee you if you take this fact scenario to an attorney anywhere in the U.S., you don't tell them you know this is BYU-Idaho or this is, whatever university or whatever, just give the basic fact pattern, they're going to answer it that the students get to get out of their contracts," said attorney, Evan Nelson.
Nelson is an Idaho Falls native and practicing attorney in California. To help the students out, he began offering advice and drafting legal letters for students pro-bono.
"So I decided to kind of put the law out there so the students felt like there was somewhere to turn and that they had some way to voice their rights and their frustrations," Nelson said.
Some of those 'open letters' went to the law firm of Parsons, Behle and Latimer, they represent University View Apartments. The firm's response letter said quote, "the lease is still a valid and enforceable contract, and each tenant remains bound to pay rent as agreed in the lease."
The firm had no comment when we reached out to them.
"The problem is if you go and hire an attorney and say 'hey I want this, I want you to find this way, well, they're gonna do whatever they can to make an argument for you. That's their job," Nelson said.
More than 200 students are rallying together through a Facebook group called 'BYU-I Housing Assistance.'
Nelson has one more piece of advice for anyone caught in a similar situation.
"The law will never require you to put your life or health at risk for an economic purpose. They have a legal right to cancel the contract that the landlord, quite frankly, doesn't really have a say in it, they don't get to say no you have to pay your rent," Nelson said.
Nelson isn’t legally representing the students, he is just helping them out with advice and draft letters.
For more information on the student support group, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.