FAQ: Housing and Dining

Below are answers to frequently asked questions related to university housing and dining and non-university housing. For health-related information, view the Health and Safety FAQs.

If you have questions that are not answered in our FAQs, please email covid19@usc.edu. Our response team will help find an answer.

2020-2021: General USC Housing Questions

With the recent decline in COVID-19 cases in the Los Angeles area, the county has entered the orange tier of California’s reopening framework.
If conditions continue to improve, we expect to reopen residence halls at reduced occupancy.

In the Fall 2021, we expect typical occupancy for USC Housing.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health asked us to limit housing exceptions to students experiencing significant hardships such as housing insecurity. We also recognize that there may be other forms of hardship expressed by applicants. We will work with each student to find a solution that ensures their health, safety and well-being.

For questions regarding the USC Housing exception process, please email ResEd@usc.edu. For all other USC Housing questions, please email Housing@usc.edu

Last December, we communicated our hopes to open our USC Housing Application Portal in January and potentially have students return to USC Housing this spring. Unfortunately, we have been unable to gain permission from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to house additional students this semester

2020-2021: General Dining Questions

Please visit the USC Hospitality website to view available dining options on campus.

We encourage all guests to pre-order meals using the Grubhub app or the Grubhub website. Please note that guests who are not able to use Grubhub can walk into the dining hall or retail venue to place an order, but they may experience a wait time.

If you’ve never used Grubhub before, be sure to check out the Grubhub ordering instructions. Link your USCard to your Grubhub account to use your meal plan, dining dollars or discretionary dollars. Sign up with your USC email for exclusive offers.

Yes, many USC Village restaurants, services and stores are open.

2020-2021: Non-University Housing

Due to the large number of calls that our Student Affairs team has received from students who live in off-campus non-university housing, we developed responses to some frequently asked questions (see below) regarding students’ rights and responsibilities in light of the current COVID-19 situation. As a reminder, nothing in this notice constitutes legal advice and it should not be taken as such.

The Student Affairs team strongly encourages students who live in off-campus non-university housing to discuss their individual situation with their current landlord and/or hire an attorney before taking any action related to off-campus housing because of the COVID-19 situation.

Note: The ordinance discussed in many of these FAQs only applies to tenants whose off-campus housing is located within the limits of the City of Los Angeles. If you live outside the City of Los Angeles (e.g., West Hollywood, Inglewood, Santa Monica, etc.), please check to see whether your local leaders have issued similar orders or ordinances.

Many of you have questions about off-campus student housing and leases you have signed with third party providers. We understand this is an area of great concern, and that it’s been extraordinarily difficult to plan for the fall semester and finalize your housing decisions. We truly wish things were different, and we appreciate your flexibility and understanding.

Please know we’ve been advocating for your best interests at every turn. Our real estate and housing administrators have already spoken to landlords who own or manage properties totaling more than 16,000 beds around our campuses. Your safety remains our top priority, and these conversations have given us a chance to share important information with landlords, including recommendations for cleaning and touchless move-in/move-out; resources for procuring deep cleaning services, cleaning supplies, and PPE; and templates for signage.

We will continue these conversations in the coming weeks. But in the meantime, we want to provide an update on what we know, and answer some general questions you may have.

Many landlords seem to understand the difficult situation that students and families are in, and their reasons for wanting to terminate leases. There is a general desire to be helpful, but many landlords also point out that they have notes to pay on properties and staff they are trying to keep employed.

In our conversations with landlords, we have specifically asked how they are handling requests to terminate agreements, and any changes they are making in their property management as a result of COVID-19. Their responses have varied, but some general trends have emerged:

  • Terminations are not being allowed, although a couple of landlords indicated they allowed terminations in certain limited instances (e.g., documented proof of compromised health resulting in higher risk; and international students unable to travel to the United States).
  • Most landlords are waiving relet fees and/or application fees when a student (or the landlord) finds a replacement tenant.
  • There is an even mix of landlords assisting tenants to backfill space versus requiring students to find a backfill tenant on their own.
  • Most landlords have enhanced cleaning of common areas.
  • Most landlords have restricted access to common amenities to allow for social distancing.
  • Most landlords are not setting aside beds for quarantine, although those who still have vacancy have usually indicated they will allow students to relocate and quarantine in a vacant unit, if it is a furnished apartment.
  • Most landlords are not requiring students to sign an addendum relating to COVID-19 (e.g., requiring students to do health assessments, agree to quarantine before/after moving in or if they test positive).
  • Most landlords are filling their beds in the same occupancy type that they usually use (i.e, if their rooms are double occupancy, they are leasing them out as double occupancy). Only a couple landlords have indicated they will limit remaining occupancy to single occupancy, or that they have had increased requests for single occupancy.

We have urged landlords to be as flexible and as lenient as possible, particularly in waiving fees and in assisting students in the relet process. The landlords, though, have binding leases in place, so these decisions ultimately rest with them.

We will continue to keep our lines of communication open with landlords, and update you as appropriate. We understand this is a challenging time, and we are working hard to support you as best we can.

USC's Graduate Student Government (GSG) and Undergraduate Student Government (USG) provide free legal counseling for students. Legal counseling is every Monday from 4-9 p.m. PST, and each appointment is 30 minutes. Appointments are on a first-come, first-served basis and conducted over the phone. You can make an appointment online. A representative from Campus Activities will monitor and confirm appointments via email; filling out the appointment request form does not confirm your appointment. If you have any questions, please contact stuacts@usc.edu.

That depends on the specific language of your lease, where you live, and whether you or a household member is ill, in isolation, or under quarantine due to COVID-19. On May 7, 2020, Mayor Garcetti signed an ordinance prohibiting “no-fault evictions” of residential tenants until he declares that the local emergency period necessitated by COVID-19 is over.

That means that if you or a household member has an illness, is in isolation, or under quarantine due to COVID-19 and the term of your lease ends, or you have followed the terms of your lease and your landlord gives you a notice that the lease is ending anyway, you are likely protected from being evicted until the emergency period ends. The ordinance also likely protects you if your landlord tries to evict you for not paying rent, assuming that you were unable to pay rent for certain reasons related to COVID-19 (see the FAQ below).

It depends on your personal situation, the language of your lease, and where you live. The ordinance that Mayor Garcetti signed on May 7, 2020 temporarily prohibits landlords from evicting tenants who can show that they are unable to pay rent due to circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including (a) loss of income due to a COVID-19 related workplace closure, (b) child care expenses due to school closures, (c) health care expenses related to being ill with COVID-19 or caring for a household member who is ill with COVID-19; and (d) reasonable expenses stemming from government-ordered emergency measures.

Note that the ordinance only protects people who are unable to pay rent—if you are financially able to pay rent, you likely still have to do so! And if you think you qualify for protection, you may one day have to show that in court, so it is a good idea to keep thorough records (expense receipts, copies of letters, emails, and text messages, etc.) demonstrating how the COVID-19 epidemic is preventing you from being able to pay rent.

Remember that under the ordinance, you will still have to pay the rent back. Tenants who qualify for protection under the ordinance have twelve months after the emergency period ends to pay back any rent they owe. The ordinance prohibits landlords from charging interest or late fees on that rent. It is unclear, however, whether landlords will be allowed to impose any other penalties because rent was not paid on time.

It depends on the language of your lease. Some leases contain a force majeure clause, which allows the lease to be terminated due to natural disasters or other “acts of God.” If your lease has this type of clause, especially if it specifically mentions an epidemic, pestilence, or other disease outbreak, you may be able to terminate the lease.

California courts also recognize an equitable “doctrine of frustration,” which may provide another basis for you to terminate your lease — especially if the lease shows that you and your landlord knew you were renting the residence to serve as student housing.

We strongly recommend contacting an attorney before taking steps to terminate any lease.

We do not recommend doing this, especially before trying to reach an agreement with your landlord. If you stop paying rent, your lease may entitle your landlord to keep your security deposit. Your landlord may also be entitled to collect the total amount of rent you still owe under the lease.

Accordingly, unless you stop paying because you are temporarily protected under the ordinance discussed above (or another similar ordinance if you live in a different city), failing to pay rent as required could lead to your landlord filing a lawsuit against you to get the money they are owed. While your landlord likely has an obligation to mitigate their damages (e., to try and find a new tenant to take your place), it may be hard for them to do so in light of the COVID-19 situation.

Hiring a lawyer to defend you could also be expensive, providing even more incentive to come to an agreement with your landlord.

Visit the Los Angeles Housing + Community Investment Department's website for details about tenant protections on evictions and rent increases in the City of Los Angeles. The City of Los Angeles also has a hotline (866-557-7368) for renters requesting assistance and/or information regarding their legal rights.