Getting locked out of residence can cost students up to $300 in fees thanks to a new Pitman Hall lockout policy.
Until this year, Pitman charged locked-out students a flat rate of $5 to unlock their rooms. But this semester, students get one free lockout and have to pay a fee that starts at $5 and grows by increments of five for the next five times they lock themselves out. If it happens six to 10 times, students must pay a flat rate of $50 each time.
After the tenth time — at which point the total fines would amount to approximately $300 — the student is documented in the residence disciplinary system and the fee goes up to $100.
Chad Nuttall, manager of student housing services, said the policy was implemented when housing noticed the maintenance staff was spending a significant amount of time unlocking students’ doors.
“Often there’s some sort of sense of urgency associated with lockouts. They would be doing a job and pack up and go and do a lockout and then have to come back,” Nuttall said. “We started looking at the numbers and there had been people who had 30 lockouts and, in some ways, we were thinking that some people were taking advantage of the $5 fee for doing lockouts.”
The escalating fee was put in place in order to discourage students from taking lockouts lightly and to reduce the number of instances in Pitman. So far, the policy has been highly effective and reduced September lockout rates by 30 per cent compared to numbers from last year, according to Nuttall. Although October is not over yet, those figures are also down by 37 per cent.
Nuttall also noted that the new policy doesn’t affect most students negatively because the majority only lock themselves out about once a year.
“With the ramp up, our hope was to cut off the folks who were abusing the system and give the overwhelming majority of students that just lock themselves out a freebie,” he said.
But, eager to avoid steep charges, some Pitman residents have started fabricating their own backup keys. A gift card punched with patterns matching the desired key creates a functional duplicate, according to students.
Part of the reason is that Pitman’s automated locks close each time a student steps out, which can make it easy to get locked out. Radio and television arts student Sydney Neilson said she has been locked out at least 24 times. Each time, Neilson avoided charges by playing video games with her friend across the hall, Salar Shoaiby, until her roommates returned.
“I’ve only called the [residence advisers] twice,” Neilson said.
Getting locked out of an apartment can be as simple as using the washroom, said first-year nutrition student Shoaiby.
“Most people lock themselves out because they’re used to closing doors behind them in their own home,” she said.
Accidental lockout charges can mount up under the new policy but Nuttal maintains it is a deterrent and not a profit-generating system.
“There is the misconception that we’re using this to generate revenue,” he said. “Even if it only takes 10-15 minutes that’s several dollars in labour. This is never going to cover our costs even with the increased charges.”