FAQ | Columbia Residential Housing & COVID-19

Editor's note:

Please note, students in Columbia Residential are not required to leave housing.

Review the FAQ below for some important information about next steps and your options. As events continue to unfold, this FAQ will be updated with information about changes to policy or procedures.

August 04, 2020


The University will follow the protocols put in place by New York state as well as University requirements at the time of move-in. As of today, travel from 36 states/territories now requires a 14-day precautionary quarantine when individuals arrive in New York. Columbia also requires all students arriving from outside the US to quarantine for 14 days on arrival. If a student is arriving from a restricted state/territory or from outside the US, they will be asked to quarantine for 14 days in advance of arriving to campus or in their assigned room once they have completed the required move-in process.

New York state guidance is subject to change; visit New York state’s travel advisory page for the updates and to see the list of restricted states.

Incoming residents can choose to arrive in New York State (or another state not on the New York State Travel Advisory) at least 14 days prior to their move-in date, and quarantine in an alternate (non-campus) location. They can also choose to quarantine in their Columbia Residential unit on their move-in date.

If you are required to quarantine, we ask that you please consider notifying your superintendent of the following matters immediately so they can provide assistance and implement precautionary and preventive measures:

  • If you have any need to leave the building (and in advance of returning)
  • Schedule garbage pick-up
  • Any expected deliveries

Additionally, please maintain physical distancing and do not congregate or otherwise loiter in the building’s lobby or other common areas.

Students who are required to quarantine will receive medical support through Columbia Health, as needed:

  • Medical check-ins
  • Psychological support (access to individual counseling and virtual support spaces)
  • Communication with point of contact in school (Dean of Students) to provide academic materials and study support for students in isolation
  • Coordination of other services for students

During this time, students are not permitted to:

  • Leave their room, unless to use the restroom or for medical reasons
  • Enter another resident’s room
  • Use building amenities like laundry facilities or lounges

Find more information on the University's COVID-19 website.

The safety of our residents, staff and community-members is of utmost importance. That said, we respect the privacy of our residents as well as the privacy of staff members. Accordingly, to comply with federal, state and local privacy laws, we cannot disclose a resident’s medical condition, nor can we disclose an employee’s medical condition or any other information which would potentially identify any individual who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Since all students will live in single rooms, in many cases, quarantine (when a student has potentially been exposed, but is not ill) can occur in their current residential unit. Learn more about the protocols in place for isolation, quarantine and care for student residents.

Columbia Residential and Columbia Health have identified single occupancy spaces that will be used for isolation of any student resident who becomes ill or otherwise requires isolation. Residents with symptoms or illness concerns should contact Columbia Health for individualized guidance. Non-students who need to quarantine may choose to do so in their apartments.

Incoming residents traveling from states not on the restricted list will not be required to quarantine. However, they may have neighbors and roommates who are required to quarantine in their private rooms or apartments. As such, they are still expected to follow all University public health guidance, including wearing face coverings and maintaining 6 feet of physical distance from their roommates and neighbors.

Incoming Students in Fall 2020

If you have already selected and accepted housing, you may move in on your selected move-in date, as long as you have signed the housing agreement. Please review Prepare for Move-in for more information.

Incoming students in Fall 2020 must move in by October 15; if you have accepted a housing offer but are not able to move in by that date, you must contact residential@columbia.edu. Kindly note your offer cannot be held for you beyond October 15, and you may reapply for housing when your arrival plans are finalized. Also keep in mind that the application for Spring 2020 housing will open October 1.

If you accepted a housing offer but won't be on campus in Fall 2020 -- whether because you deferred admission, will be remote learning, or any other reason -- you must contact residential@columbia.edu.by August 15 to be eligible to receive a refund of the reservation fee. If you notify us of your cancellation after August 15, please keep in mind that the reservation fee will not be refunded unless the reason for your cancellation is a delay with your student visa. If you are experiencing a visa delay, you must provide documentation of the delay to be considered for a fee waiver. Only waiver requests with supporting documentation can be approved.

New residents are expected to follow all city, state and CDC-recommended guidelines while living in Columbia housing. All Columbia community members -- staff, faculty and students -- will be required to review and sign the Columbia Community Health Compact prior to arriving on campus. Community members and all visitors must agree to follow the University's Enhanced Health & Safety Policy, and those who do not will be asked to leave campus facilities.

The University's COVID-19 site outlines the required protocol for returning to campus, in accordance with the Enhanced Health & Safety Policy:

Beginning August 17, any student moving into University housing must complete a COVID-19 test prior to their move-in appointment. Incoming residents will receive communication from Columbia Health outlining any additional necessary guidelines for moving into housing. For more information about the University's response to COVID-19, please review the COVID-19 Resource Guide for the Columbia Community.

Please remember, everyone on Columbia’s campuses must:

  • Wear a face covering over one’s nose and mouth at all times, except when alone in a private office or in an enclosed room with the door closed.
  • Keep at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) distance between oneself and other people whenever possible. 
  • Follow signage and guidance on use of campus spaces.
  • Stay home if not feeling well.
  • Follow workplace and shared-space hygiene (wipe workplace surfaces used frequently, including desk surfaces, keyboards, light switches, and shared equipment such as copiers, printers, A/V, etc.) with disinfectant sprays or wipes that the University will provide.  Columbia staff will do frequent specialized cleaning of high-touch surfaces throughout campus.

All Students in Housing

For most continuing students who are billed to their student account, summer rent will appear on the first summer billing statement in late May and will be due mid-June. 

Student Financial Services (SFS) offers a payment plan, which allows you to split your semester housing charge into monthly payments. This way you don’t have to pay it all at once. While there is a $25 enrollment fee for the payment plan, we will reimburse the enrollment fee toward the middle of the summer. 


Residents will continue to be billed until all their belongings are officially moved out and keys are returned. Cancellation fees will be waived and rent prorated for students who move out before August 15. 

While a rent discount cannot be accommodated, students who renew their housing agreement can sign up for a payment plan through Student Financial Services so that they can make monthly payments for their summer housing. Students with concerns regarding their stipend are advised to contact their school directly. 

Spring 2020 transfers have been suspended as of March 17. We will keep track of students who request for emergency exceptions related to COVID-19 and do our best to accommodate them pending availability.

Students who wish to transfer in Fall 2020 should apply when the transfer season reopens on August 16. Please review Transferring for information about eligibility and the transfer process. 

You’re welcome to stay until the end of your current housing agreement, or longer if you are eligible to renew your agreement. You’re responsible for rent until you officially move out and return keys.

We understand that these recent developments may cause anxiety and concern. Columbia Residential has consulted with Columbia Health regarding our guest policy to make sure that we are in line with their guidance. As of March 17, 2020, guests are restricted in University housing. Please review the guest policy for complete guidelines.

All Residents Remaining in Housing

Recent Resident Communications:

Columbia Residential’s custodial team is taking preventive measures by sanitizing frequently-touched surfaces in building common areas, and will continue to provide routine cleaning of those spaces. Building staff continue to be on-duty to respond to essential maintenance requests and issues, but changes to building operations have been made:

  • Per the guidance of health officials, building amenities have been shut down until further notice (gyms, playrooms, recreation rooms, etc.). Garages, laundry rooms and bicycle and storage areas will remain open unless we are advised otherwise.
  • Move-ins and large deliveries are prohibited until further notice, unless pre-approved by Columbia Residential.
  • Move-outs may continue as long as residents follow the move-out guidelines.
  • Viewing appointments will be discontinued.

We encourage residents to submit all non-emergency maintenance requests online; the reduced phone and email traffic will allow us to allocate staff more efficiently to essential tasks. Emergency maintenance concerns can continue to be reported to (212) 854-2222.

All visitors to campus, including subtenants, must abide by the University's Enhanced Health and Safety Policy. For more information, review the Columbia Community Health Compact

Students who wish to sublet in an apartment share or dormitory space are advised to speak with their roommates/suitemates to make sure all are aware of their subletting plans.

Beginning July 31, students who have been approved for remote learning for the Fall 2020 semester may now apply to sublet with Housing Liaison approval. 

Additionally, beginning July 24, all subtenants moving into shared apartments or dorms who are arriving from a state listed on the COVID-19 New York State Travel Advisory MUST quarantine outside of the Columbia Residential apartment/dorm for at least 14 days prior to moving into the sublet. 

For more information on listing your unit and applying to sublet, review Subletting

We are continuing to monitor this situation and hope that things return to normal soon. Until then, please reference the University’s COVID-19 site, where updates will be posted as they become available. Additionally, Columbia Residential will send email announcements if/when the need arises. 

Many Columbia retail tenants near the Morningside, Manhattanville, and Irving Medical Center campuses remain open for takeout and delivery orders. Our team has compiled a list of those businesses for your convenience, and we encourage you to support them if you are able!

Spring 2020 Student Move-out Information & Options

Keep your unit and continue paying rent:

If you want to store your belongings in your current housing and return to the same housing when this is all over, you may do so as long as you're eligible for more time in your current unit. You'd continue to be responsible for rent while you're away. If you are eligible for renewal beyond May 31, you can renew your rental agreement.

Move out completely and stop paying rent:

If you choose to leave now, give up your housing and stop being responsible for rent, you'll need to officially move out -- remove your belongings from the unit and return keys. If you plan to return in the summer or fall, you can apply for housing after you move out of your current housing. Review Application Process for more information. Please keep in mind that we cannot guarantee that students approved for housing will be able to select the same unit.

If you want to move out completely but you won’t be in NYC, you can arrange for a friend to move your belongings via proxy and return your keys using the Express Move-out Box. See below for more information about arranging packing, moving and storing services, and contact us at residential@columbia.edu with questions or concerns.

Any students who voluntarily move out of housing between March 12 and August 15, 2020 may do so without a cancellation fee, and rent will be prorated based on their move-out date.

Make sure to review Move-out Information to prepare for your move. 

All the information you need to prepare for your move can be found on our website: Move-out Information. Please review and contact us with any questions.

Your school determines whether you're approved for housing again, and most schools have confirmed that students who vacated due to COVID-19 will maintain their priority for housing in Fall 2020. Columbia Residential will keep track of those students who move out between March and May 2020 and share that with schools each week until the end of June, so they may consider that information when they make their housing decisions. Any student who vacated due to COVID-19 but wishes to return to housing should do their best to apply for housing by June 30 so their school might consider them for priority approval.

After you move out, please review Application Process and submit a new application for Fall 2020 housing. Students approved to return to housing will select a new unit based on availability. We cannot guarantee that the same unit will be available during housing selection, but if it is, it will appear on the list of available units and can be selected.

The rent will be prorated based on your move-out date. The credit for the prorated amount between your move-out date and the end of the semester will be updated on your account about two to three weeks after you move out.

For room packing, storage or shipping:

Columbia Vendors

Other Moving & Storage Options (not Columbia vendors)

Process to follow:

Columbia Residential can assist with providing access to your proxy as long as you move out by August 15, 2020.

  • Contact moving/storage companies directly to contract services.
  • Once you finalize details, send an email to residential@columbia.edu to notify us of your need for a proxy move.  
  • Review Prepare for Your Move 
  • Submit your move-out notice in the Housing Portal
  • Email residential@columbia.edu with the following information:
    • Move-out date
    • Proxy Full name (can be moving company)
    • Proxy Email address
    • Proxy Phone number
    • Preferred Key Return option
      • We can replace the locks at your apartment for a $150 fee. You won’t be required to return keys if you choose this option.
      • You can mail your keys to the CU Residential Office. Please provide tracking information so that we can confirm when the keys were sent and bill you appropriately
        *INCLUDE your name, CU address and apartment number inside the envelope with all of your keys. Please keep in mind you will be billed until keys are received and for any keys not returned.
        • CU Residential
          ATTN: Vacancy Coordinator
          400 West 119th Street
          New York, NY 10027

We recommend that students contract and provide payment to the moving and storage companies directly.

Updated: The application for Emergency Move-out Assistance is closed as of April 22, 2020.

Columbia Residential will consider requests for up to $500 in hardship funding for students who wish to move out of housing during the month of April. Students wishing to move out but experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 should submit the COVID-19 Emergency Move-out Assistance Request form and submit supporting documentation of financial hardship to residential@columbia.edu for review.  

If you are approved for emergency move-out assistance and you book your move using a Columbia vendor (Hudson Moving & Storage, Moving Right Along), then we can pay them directly and bill the cost of the move to your student account. You’ll receive a credit for prorated rent within two weeks of your move-out being confirmed, around the same time you’ll be charged for the move. If you prefer to contract a different moving company, you may do so, but you will have to pay them directly and provide receipts to Columbia Residential before the assistance can be disbursed.

Deadline Extended: All requests for emergency move-out assistance must be received by April 22 to be considered. Kindly note, submission of a request does not guarantee approval. 

Applicants who are not approved for up to $500 assistance may be considered for deferred payment so that the cost of the move is charged to their student account. Students approved for deferred payment of the move will be financially responsible for 100% of the moving costs, but will have additional time to pay for the move since it will be billed to them after the move occurs.

Students who move out in March or April who wish to return to housing in Fall 2020 may submit a new application for housing after moving out. Most schools have already confirmed that returning students will maintain their priority in Fall 2020, and Columbia Residential will facilitate this by keeping track of those students who move out in March or April 2020 and sharing that with schools. 

Updated May 5, 2020: Students graduating in May 2020 are eligible for a housing renewal/extension until August 15, 2020. Details about this option will be sent to all graduating students by May 8.

For more information about the move-out process, please review Move-out Information.