A University of Washington sorority has agreed to pay more than $250,000 in refunds after unlawfully charging students housing fees during the pandemic.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Wednesday that Alpha Omicron Pi (AOII) would provide $500,000, including $253,600 in student reimbursements, in relief for continuing to charge at least 68 students housing fees despite them having no access to the rooms.
“Thanks to the students who spoke up and brought this to our attention, the sorority must cancel or refund these unlawful fees,” Ferguson noted.
The Seattle Times reported that Ferguson’s office previously sued AOII for these actions, a clear violation of an eviction moratorium signed by Washington Governor Jay Inslee. The notice prohibits landlords from charging residents unable to use a property.
“This sorority took advantage of students, charging them thousands of dollars for housing they could not access or use,” Ferguson continued. “Alpha Omicron Pi’s actions were clear violations of the protections put in place to protect Washingtonians from the spread of COVID-19.”
The sorority also charged members with late fees each month, with one student charged $200 during the first semester of the academic year 2020-21.
AOII’s lawyer did not comment after the attorney general’s announcement, but the group has denied any wrongdoing in the consent decree.
The sorority has also disputed the description of events in court filings, claiming that students made “false and misleading” statements, according to the Seattle Times. It said that members “voluntarily moved out” and that it “had every right to charge the fees … on account of validly entered contracts.”
But one student testified to Ferguson that she had raised concerns over the housing requirements but was told to “focus on sisterhood.”