Housing Policies-Housing Services - Carnegie Mellon University

Housing Policies

Adherence to the following policies is vital to a safe, fair and enjoyable community within the residence halls. Any violation of the policies listed here and in the Housing License Agreement may result in administrative or disciplinary actions of varying severity up to and including removal from university housing.

Air Conditioning

Students are not permitted to bring air conditioners without permission from Housing Services. A student may obtain permission to install an air conditioner for medical reasons only. A student will need to provide documentation of a medical need from a personal physician to University Health Services. Health Services staff will then verify and provide recommendation to Housing Services. Once the need is documented and approved, the student should contact Housing Services for further instructions. Housing Services will then initiate a work order to install an air conditioner in the appropriate location. All installations and removals must be completed by Housing Services.

Housing Services offers the opportunity for the student to select into a room with air conditioning during the Room Selection and First-Year Assignment processes. If a student is not successful with selecting into a room with air conditioning at their designated time of selection or assignment, please contact the Housing Services Assignments Team to initiate a room change.  In the event of a room change, roommate requests or hall preferences may not be guaranteed during the placement process.


Bicycle racks are provided in residential areas where appropriate. No bicycles shall be parked or stored in such a manner as to block entrance/exit from any building, to impede the normal movement of wheelchair users or others with special mobility needs, and/or to any interior or exterior stairway or railing. Storage of bicycles should not violate fire safety regulations. Such violations in residential buildings will result in removal and storage of the bicycle. Students may be charged a fine and storage costs. While every attempt will be made to not damage a bicycle while in the process of removal or storage, the university is not liable for damage to a bicycle removed because of a violation. To claim a bicycle removed from a residential building, contact Campus Police. Bicycles are to be "walked" inside any residential building. This information is in addition to the university policy on bikes.

Bulletin Boards and Posting Notices

The posting of notices, announcements or posters on bulletin boards in residence halls is restricted to recognized student organizations or to individual Carnegie Mellon students. Bulletin boards in the living areas of residence halls are regulated by the Residential Life staff, while bulletin boards in other public areas are regulated by Student Government. Bulletin boards in individual living units are under the direct control of the Resident Assistant (RA) and the members of that living unit. Students or recognized student organizations wishing to disseminate information through these bulletin boards should make a request to the Residential Life staff to distribute notices to RAs for posting.

Cancellation of Housing & Refund Policy

In general, housing cancellations and refunds are not issued unless a student is leaving the university, due to leave a leave of absence, suspension, withdrawal from the university or studying abroad. Any student who is released from their housing contract will not receive a refund of the $400 housing reservation fee, which is a non-refundable fee, unless the cancellation request is made during the Open Cancellation period in the spring semester immediately following Room Selection (see below.)  It is the student’s responsibility to contact Housing Services if they will not be returning to the university, or if they are a current resident taking a leave or withdrawing mid-semester.

Students who participated in Room Selection have an opportunity immediately following Room Selection to cancel their housing assignments within the timeline of the Open Cancellation Period. Depending on when the cancellation request is made, some students may receive a refund of their housing reservation fee. Please visit  Room Selection - Housing Cancellations Web page for more information.

Christmas Trees and Decorations

Natural Christmas trees and greens are not permitted in university housing because of the significant fire hazard they create. Holiday decorations are permitted, but they may not use electrical lights or other devices that have not been approved by Underwriters Laboratories.

Common Area Painting

In recent years, student mural projects in residential facilities are making a return. Students desire to paint a common area (lounge/study/recreation room/hallway) of a residential building must receive permission from Housing Services. Students will work to coordinate any project through their housefellow. All proposed projects will be reviewed and approved/denied by their housefellow and Housing Services. Students must receive, review and complete the Common Area Painting Guidelines and Registration Form available in the Housing Services office. This information is to be completed and presented to residential life staff and Housing Services along with a detailed drawing of the proposed design. Once approved, the painting may begin. Appropriate creativity is encouraged and some communities have sponsored contests to identify designs. Contact a Housing Services or residential life staff member for details and support.

Common Area Responsibility

As stated in the Housing License Agreement, each resident is responsible for any damages or losses that occur in the assigned living areas or to any of the furnishings therein and the residents may be charged the cost of any repairs, replacement or reasonable custodial service. Each student is, with the other residents, jointly responsible for whatever damage may occur, for any cause, to public and semi-public areas in the residence halls. All residents may be charged a prorated share of the cost of repairing public areas.


Cooking in residence hall rooms is strictly prohibited for health and safety reasons. It is permitted only in areas specifically provided as kitchen areas, such as apartment kitchens and common area kitchens properly equipped by the university. (Exception: "compact" microwave ovens under 700 watts are permitted in residence hall rooms.)

Electrical Appliances

No electrical appliances that incorporate unshielded heating elements or draw more than 700 watts may be used in student rooms. Hot plates or toaster ovens of any kind are prohibited in the residence halls. Electric irons may be used only in areas where utility outlets are provided, such as in designated utility or laundry rooms.

Fire Safety

Residents incur a penalty fee of $200 for violating fire-safety guidelines. Furniture left in corridors that cannot be identified will be returned to storage by Housing Services facilities crew to avoid fire hazards.

In Case of Fire...

  • Close all windows within your area to prevent cross drafts from entering the building.
  • Keep all interior and exterior fire doors closed to prevent cross drafts from entering the building; this will help retard the spread of fire.
  • Avoid any unnecessary running. Any action that might cause others to panic must be carefully avoided.
  • Avoid using elevators for evacuation. Power failures can cause the elevator to stick between floors; smoke and fire can travel up through the elevator shaft.
  • Travel downward on stairwells unless your area offers no other means of exit.
  • Approach stairwell entrances with caution; you may be merging with evacuees from other floors.
  • Familiarize yourself with the locations of all available exits. Should an exit be blocked by smoke or fire, you will need to go to the next available exit.  
  • Look back at your building after you’ve cleared the exits; someone may be signaling for assistance from a window. Don’t interfere with rescue efforts, but do alert firefighters to the person’s presence; you will help speed the rescue.
If Trapped by Smoke or Fire...
Large concentrations of smoke can be produced during even small fires, depending upon the type of material that is burning. The smoke and toxic gases developed by fires cause more fatalities than the actual flames.

Although the probability of becoming trapped by flames before an evacuation can be made from an area might be low, the possibility of having an exit route rendered impassable by heavy smoke and toxic gases can be greater.

These instructions should help anyone who finds his/her ability to safely evacuate an area suddenly cut off by smoke or flames. If you suspect a fire is located outside of your immediate area (smoke creeping under the door or a sudden increase in room temperature), do the following:
  • Do not touch any part of the door with your bare hand. Instead, use your coat, shirt, skirt or some other material to protect your hand on the door and only partially open the door while standing behind it for protection. Quickly survey the conditions existing within the corridor or outer area. If flames are close by, or if the area is filled with dense smoke, you may not be able to safely evacuate.
  • Close the door and use any available material (towels, shirt, blouse, etc.) to seal threshold openings in an attempt to prevent smoke from entering the room. If a water source is available, soak the materials before packing them into place.
  • Contact Campus Police at 412-268-2323. Tell the dispatcher your name, telephone number from which you are calling, your exact location and that you are confined in that area by smoke or fire. Firefighters and Campus Police will be immediately notified in order that a rescue attempt may begin.
  • Open a window partially and stay near it, keeping low and breathing the fresher air from outside. If you are in an area in which the windows cannot be opened, carefully break the glass near the bottom of the pane by standing off to one side of the window and striking the glass with a heavy object.
  • Signal your location using a coat, shirt, sheets of paper taped together or other available material by holding onto and waving the item outside of the window. (At night make certain that room lights are on so that you are clearly visible from outside.) People evacuating the building will quite naturally look back and see your signal, then alert rescue teams.
  • Remain as calm as you can, breathing normally only the fresher air supplied by the open window. Once your location has been determined, rescue efforts will begin.

Guests and Visitors

Visitors and guests are allowed in residence halls. This permits students to conveniently meet for academic, personal and social reasons. At all times, residents are personally responsible for the actions of their guests. As a result, residents are responsible for any damage, physical or otherwise, to the community caused by their visitors. If the guests are Carnegie Mellon students, then they also accept responsibility for their actions.

All visitors or guests to a room are subject to the approval of all room residents. Over­night guests are not permitted for more than two consecutive nights. Overnight guests who are not university residents should register with the residential life staff to ensure knowledge of their presence in case emergency situations arise.

Henderson Wellness House

Henderson House is designated as a wellness community promoting holistic health and well-being within a traditional residence hall setting. House residents are expected to maintain a substance free (no alcohol, tobacco or other drugs) lifestyle and environment for themselves and guests.

Hoverboards (temporary ban)

In consultation with Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S), Housing Services has decided to immediately issue a temporary ban on hoverboards from being present in all university-operated housing (including all residence halls, apartments, fraternities and sororities).  This ban will remain in effect until further notice while we await governmental review regarding the safety of these devices.  At that juncture, if a permanent policy on hoverboards is deemed advisable, we will certainly involve the student body in its development and implementation.

Students found in violation of this policy may be subject to community standards review.   If you currently possess a hoverboard, we recognize that you may need assistance making shipping arrangements (due to postal regulations) or storing it until a later date.  Should you find yourself in this situation, please contact your Housing Services Facility Coordinator (FC) as soon as possible.  Your FC will work with EH&S to assist you toward ensuring that your device is safely shipped or stored.

Illegal Possession of Keys

Students are responsible for access gained through the use of their keys. Swapping keys is not permitted as your name data is embedded in each key card. Students found using or having in their possession keys to any university doors or facilities that they are unauthorized to use or possess will be subject to disciplinary action.

Improper Use of University Facilities

Improper use of facilities will be construed as the occupation, alteration or use of university facilities that would create a potential fire hazard, safety hazard to any person or property, or potential danger to any person or property.

Inspection and Privacy

Authorized representatives of the university may enter resident accommodations at any time to inspect facilities or to carry out repairs and maintenance. The inspection of facilities will be conducted with at least 24 hours prior notice in writing whenever that notice can be reasonably given. If any Housing Services or residential life staff member enters a student room without a prior request or written notice, the student will receive a report documenting the time and purpose of entry. The university may authorize entrance to an accommodation if convinced that a clear and present danger or a violation of the university's regulations requires such entrance. (This regulation applies to campus housing as well as other university space).

Microwave Ovens

Residents may bring their own compact microwaves to campus as long as they are under 700 watts.

Open Flames and Burning

Open flames or burning materials of any kind, including candles, incense and other combustibles, are absolutely prohibited in university housing.

Outdoor Poster Policy for Residential Areas

No signs, posters or banners of any size shall be hung outside or around any residential building, except upon special request. This applies to all residence halls, apartment buildings and houses as well as fraternities and sororities. Special consideration may be given, on request, for groups to use outdoor postings during university-wide special events. Requests for exceptions to this policy should be made to the Director of Housing Services.

Animals and Pets

Except as set forth below, pets and other animals are not permitted in any university housing facilities, including fraternities and sororities.  

  • Fish in an aquarium no larger than twenty (20) gallons are permitted in university housing facilities.
  • Service animals are permitted inside university housing facilities but may be prohibited from accessing certain environments where the presence of an animal presents a health or safety risk (e.g. kitchens, laboratories, sterile facilities, etc.).  Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.  Student residents who wish to maintain a service animal in their dormitory should notify the Office of Disability Resources.
  • Emotional support animals may be permitted within a student’s personal living space in a university housing facility, with prior written approval from the Office of Disability Resources.  An emotional support animal is an animal that is necessary to afford a person with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling when there is an identifiable relationship or nexus between the person’s disability and the assistance the animal provides.   Requests for accommodations regarding emotional support animals should be submitted to the Office of Disability Resources.

In addition, the following standards apply to service animals and/or emotional support animals maintained in university residence facilities:

  1. Any emotional support animal or service animal must be healthy and free of communicable disease.  If appropriate for the animal, documentation of all veterinarian recommended vaccination must be provided to the Office of Disability Resources.  New proof of vaccination must be provided before the previous proof of vaccination expires.
  2. Dogs must be properly registered with the City of Pittsburgh: http://www.pittsburghpa.gov/animalcontrol/dog_licenses.htm.  Registration documentation must be submitted annually to the Office of Disability Resources.
  3. Emotional support animals are only permitted in the approved student’s private living space.  Animals are not permitted in any public or common spaces within the residence facility, except as necessary to bring the animal into and out of the building as needed.  Housing Services or the Office of Student Life may establish reasonable restrictions on how an emotional support animal is transported into and out of the building.
  4. Emotional support animals approved by the Office of Disability Resources for university residence facilities are not permitted inside other campus buildings.  See The Word.
  5. Emotional support animals are not permitted in the private living spaces of other residents of the facility.
  6. The student is responsible for any damages caused by the service animal or emotional support animal in the student’s private living space or elsewhere.
  7. The student is responsible for the behavior of the service animal or emotional support animals, even when the student is not present in the living space.
  8. The student is responsible for providing appropriate care for the service animal or emotional support animal at all times, including the clean-up and disposal of any waste.  Animal waste or bags containing animal waste cannot be placed in garbage chutes or common area trash cans.
  9. The service animal or emotional support animal may not be disruptive to the community.  Disruptive animals may be removed.
  10. Emotional support animals must wear collars and identification tags at all times.
  11. Carnegie Mellon reserves the right to remove any animal that is not appropriately cared for.  To ensure that appropriate care is available at all times, students are encouraged to establish a plan to care for the animal in the event the student is unable to do so (e.g. due to illness or emergency).   
  12. Carnegie Mellon reserves the right to establish other reasonable expectations or restrictions at any time to ensure the health or safety of the community.

Individuals with concerns or complaints regarding animals in residence facilities should contact a Resident Assistant or University Police.

Privacy and Behavior Standards

All residents have the right to determine the private activity that takes place in their assigned rooms. Members of the floor also have the right to determine community standards for the floor. Roommates have equal voice in determining the private activities of the room, and one roommate's rights must not infringe upon another roommate's rights.

Public Lounge Facilities

At the beginning of each academic year, a layout of each lounge area and its contents will be inventoried and may be posted in the lounge. The furniture and contents of the lounge facilities should not be removed from the lounges under any circumstances without the expressed authorization of the building's Facility Coordinator. In addition to disciplinary action, student(s) found with common area furniture will be charged the standard hourly labor rate to return each piece to its proper location.

Quiet Hours

Quiet hours for all residential areas are 8 pm - 8 am on Sunday through Thursday nights, and Midnight - 9 am on Friday and Saturday nights. During finals week or reading days, 24-hour quiet hours will be in effect. For long vacation weekends, weekend hours will be in effect until the night before classes resume. Courtesy hours exist at all other times, during which the right of residents to live in an environment free from bothersome noise should be respected.

"Quiet" is defined as being unable to hear any noise at a distance of 10 feet from a room with a closed door. During "courtesy" hours, noise can be considered bothersome if it can be heard at a distance of 50 feet.

Keep in mind, though, that the notion of "courtesy" more broadly involves structuring your activities, so that other people in your living unit are not adversely affected by noise. In particular, all residents are encouraged to carefully plan their use of sound equipment (such as stereos and TVs) or their social gatherings so that the noise produced by them does not infringe upon the rights of others.

The established quiet hours stated above are the minimums for every residential area. If you or anyone in your living unit believes that quiet hours should be extended, contact your Resident Assistant (RA) or Student Dormitory Council representative. That person has the authority to conduct a vote of the people living in your area and, pending unanimous approval, extended quiet hours will be implemented.

If you have concerns in relation to quiet hours or courtesy hours in your living area, please feel free to consult your RA. The RA is your primary advocate in situations involving noise violations and can assist you by addressing any questions or concerns you may have.

Quiet Living Areas

Designated university operated apartments in the Oakland Community and other designated residence hall buildings or floors offer quiet living, a particularly desirable alternative to traditional on-campus housing for undergraduate students. One of the greatest advantages of these apartments and residence hall rooms is the quiet, mature environment they provide.

This designation provides an assurance to all residents in these buildings, and to all residents in the surrounding area, that resident students will act with the highest degree of common courtesy and respect for others in maintaining a particularly quiet and unobtrusive environment.

This designation includes a provision for an extension of the university’s current quiet hours policy to 24 hours. As such, residents will be responsible for ensuring that the noise generated within their apartments or residence hall room is not audible at a distance of ten feet from their apartment or residence hall room. Common courtesy will be expected; residents should respond to any request from a fellow resident to reduce the noise level from their apartment or residence hall room, even if already within this guideline.

The following specific guidelines will also exist:  
  • Stereos, televisions and radios will be permitted but must be used only in accordance with the general policy.  
  • Use of musical instruments will not be permitted.
  • Social events and private gatherings will be permitted; however, they must be very small and are subject to the above standards.

It is hoped that this designation of a quiet living area will allow students choosing this area to maintain a residential environment which will enhance the academic atmosphere and support the important goal of maintaining these special off-campus housing options in the Oakland Community and the special living environments offered on-campus.


Residents may bring their own mini-refrigerators to campus as long as they are smaller than 4.5 cubic feet and operate on 110/120 VAC. Residents who do not remove personal mini-refrigerators upon checking out will have their student accounts charged $40 per hour for removal and $160 for refrigerator disposal.

Right to Housing Privileges

In signing a Housing License Agreement, each resident agrees to abide by whatever regulations may be established by the university, Housing Services, the Residential Life staff, the Student Dormitory Council or the individual living units. Any resident student whose conduct does not meet the standards established for the university community may be denied the privilege of campus residency.

Room Condition Responsibility

All residents of a room or apartment are equally responsible for the accommodation and its furnishings. At the end of each academic year, any damages to a student's room will be charged to the occupants of that room.

Room Painting or Alterations

Students are not permitted to paint rooms or other residential areas. Housing Services maintains a rotation schedule that allows for all residential areas to be painted on a regular basis. Students who paint their room without authorization will be charged the cost of having the room professionally painted.


All residential areas within the university housing system except for Fairfax Apartments and Webster Hall are smoke-free living environments. This policy prohibits the smoking of tobacco or any other substance in residential areas. In accordance with Housing Services policies, residents must also abide by policies prohibiting the use of any open flame for any reason, including but not limited to the burning of candles, incense, etc. This designation not only includes the actual residents of the area, but also extends to their guests. As such residents will be responsible for ensuring that any violation of this policy will be reported to the proper authorities and any violations of this policy will be appropriately enforced. The Smoke-free Living Policy was developed through the efforts of students, faculty and staff to assist residents and their guests to maintain a residential environment, which minimizes their exposure to second hand smoke and its impact on the health of others. Smoking is permitted in Fairfax Apartments and Webster Hall as long as all the residents of the room agree.

Solicitation and Sales

Unauthorized door-to-door sales and/or solicitation are expressly prohibited in any residence area. "Solicitation" is defined to mean any effort to ask for donations or contributions of money, goods or services. "Sales" are defined to mean any activity of offering a product or service in exchange for money, goods or other services. In exceptional cases, an individual or group seeking permission to be in the residential areas for the purpose of soliciting or selling must receive an expressed, written authorization from the Director of Housing Services or his/her designee. In most cases, those recognized groups or individuals that receive permission to be in the residence halls will be restricted to tables reserved for such purposes in public areas or lobbies.

Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs

Swimming pools and hot tubs are prohibited because of the hazards associated with drowning, electrocution and the weight of large volumes of water. Because we cannot guarantee that all necessary safety precautions will be taken, students are not permitted to have or use swimming pools and/or hot tubs. Reducing the size of the pool or tank does not remove the hazard. 

University Furniture

Unwanted room furniture cannot be stored during the academic year. Closet doors in rooms and apartments also may not be removed. Do not, under any circumstances, leave furniture in the hallway corridors. Rooms with missing furniture at the end of the academic year will be charged the full replacement cost for each missing item. This also applies to summer housing residents.


Waterbeds are prohibited in university housing because of the potential for significant damage to the residence halls and to students' personal property if a waterbed breaks or is vandalized.

Window Screens

Students are not permitted to remove screens from their windows. Missing screens or screens that have been removed from windows will be reinstalled at the student's expense.

Wires and Utility Lines

No wire may be strung outside any living unit or any alterations made to any university residential building without the express permission of Housing Services. This includes satellite dishes, radio and television aerials.

In addition, no student or student organization may alter or tap into university utility lines, television antenna wires or cable lines without the express permission of Housing Services (in the case of resident facilities) or Facilities Management Services (in the case of other campus buildings).