Frustration of Purpose: Student Sues for Refund of Rent

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The mother of a student attending Tallahassee Community College has filed suit against her son’s landlord requesting a return of private apartment fees paid for the Spring semester.  She argues that because in-person classes were cancelled for the spring semester, she should receive a refund of the rent.

When I read the news story on this issue, I thought this would make for an interesting frustration of purpose argument.  If the landlord knew that the student was renting the apartment only to attend college, and college was cancelled through no fault of either party, should the student get his money back?  

On the other hand, the landlord could argue that the purpose of the lease was to provide the student somewhere to live and that the student still has that ability.  The student could attend online classes from the apartment.  The landlord is not forcing him to move out of the apartment.  If he chooses not to live there, is the burden on him?

I reviewed the records of the lawsuit online and I was disappointed there was not much discussion about the frustration of purpose doctrine.  It is mentioned in one sentence in the complaint, “The purpose of the parties contract was to provide housing and services while on-campus schooling is in session.  This purpose was frustrated when the campus closed and students no longer attended on-campus classes.”

I will periodically monitor this case going forward to see if the Court considers frustration of purpose arguments regarding COVID-19.


May 1, 2020

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