Even as Beijing’s schools scramble to clamp down on student ID rentals, the city’s universities have a bigger security risk on their hands. Many students have started leasing their unused dorms to office workers for extra cash.
When the news first broke, real estate website 58.com included a “student dorm” filter for housing. Although it has been removed, a keyword search for “student apartment” continues to produce numerous active listings.
Colleges have sent warnings to their students that threaten “punishment” for anyone caught subletting their dorm space over the summer.
A reporter at The Mirror investigated several websites and online forums that are frequented by college students, such as college forums, 58.com and also Ganji.com. All had numerous student dorms for rent with prices ranging from 300 yuan to 1,000 yuan per month.
These “student landlords” provide tenants with perks such as a private ID card that grants access to the university library, bathhouse, gym and cafeteria.
The terms of each rental vary, and some landlords leasing only the bed and prohibiting use of the wardrobe or desk.
“There are many students who flood into Beijing during the summer to prepare for the graduate exam, attend internships or further career training,” Shen, a student landlord, told The Mirror. “I get a quick response within three days whenever I post the dorm listing online.”
When both sides are satisfied with the terms, Shen arranges a tour of the school so the tenant can decide whether or not to accept the rental agreement.
But with schools tightening their dormitory administration, student landlords are being more alert to avoid punishment. When The Mirror’s reporter tried to rent one dorm, the landlord asked to add him as WeChat friend, then browsed the reporters’ WeChat Moments before deciding whether to accept his business.
More way landlords only rent their dorms to their friends’ personal connections.
Although the subletting of dorms is expressly forbidden by university housing agreements, how to actually prevent the practice has become a problem for local schools.
Many schools do not maintain functioning dormitory gates, making campus ID cards useless in the protection of student safety.
“Students can cancel their dormitory rental if they don’t plan to stay on campus at night,” a dormitory manager at Beijing Normal University said. “But they can’t just sublet their space for their own benefits.”
Security at Beijing Normal University is limited to a guard who attempts to spot unfamiliar faces.
Beijing University of Chemical Technology conducts a thorough dormitory check over summer break. The University of International Business and Economics has a profile for each student containing their ID card number and family contacts. The school makes surprise inspections of those profiles from time to time.
When private rentals are discovered, dormitory managers will report the incident to the school. It’s up to the school administrators to decide what punishment to pursue. Punishments are typically minor, and do not affect the student’s scholarship eligibility or campus duties.
The trend is driven by the extreme gap between dorm costs and private apartment rentals. Dorms are almost never sublet in the US, where dorm costs and apartment costs have market parity.
Xiong Bingqi, vice headmaster of 21st Century Education Research Institute, said schools are to blame for being so lax in their safety measures. Xiong said student ID checks need to be enforced.
But an easier option may be to change the current housing regulations at each college, Xiong said.
“Universities must be aware of that there are always some students who don’t want to stay in the dorms. Why not let students decide for themselves whether or not they need to maintain a campus residence?” he said. “Also, the schools should consider building private forms or limiting the capacity to three students.”
A writer with penname Muxuchong suggested schools themselves should consider leasing dorm space over the holidays to meet market demand. Some Hong Kong universities lease students’ dorms in summer, giving them an extra revenue source and aiding new employees who need affordable housing.
On campus safety, Muxuchong said it is the university’s responsibility to verify a tenant’s identity and that informing dormitory managements of tenant changes would help to avoid security issues.
“It could be a win for both sides. If a common agreement on official dorm rental is established, I’m sure things will get better,” he wrote.