Ultimately, the rights and responsibilities of the tenants are contained in the lease they signed. Unless occupancy of the unit is tied specifically to the school calendar and in-person attendance at the school, the signatories of the lease are obligated to pay rent to the landlord for 12 months.

QUESTION: In June, my son and one of his friends rented an apartment near their college. At that time, it looked like the college was going to reopen for in-person classes for the fall semester and they wanted to get an apartment near the campus. My son signed his part of the lease, co-signed by us, and his roommate did the same, co-signed by his parents. Each of them put up two months of rent.

Since then, the school has announced it is going to all virtual classes, the same as it did last spring. My son, who was living on campus then, came home to finish out the semester here.

Now that the school is going all virtual again, we want to save some money and have him do the semester at home.

My son and his roommate both asked about breaking the lease considering the changed circumstances, but the landlord refuses. Do you have any suggestions for us? It’s a big outlay of money for the same experience that my son can have at home.

ANSWER: I sympathize with your plight. Many colleges and universities are having to change plans on the fly, which is making it very hard for parents and students to plan. With the exorbitant cost of a college education, families are understandably upset at any changes that affect the college experience.

Having said that, however, the landlord assumes he has rented the unit for 12 months and took the unit off the market, costing him other potential tenants. Breaking the lease would cost the landlord money.

On the other hand, your son and his roommate have the ability to live in the apartment, pandemic or not, and do their classes virtually just as they would at your home.

Ultimately, the rights and responsibilities of the tenants are contained in the lease they signed. Unless occupancy of the unit is tied specifically to the school calendar and in-person attendance at the school, the signatories of the lease are obligated to pay rent to the landlord for 12 months.

On the bright side, your son has an individual lease with the landlord, making him (and you) responsible for only his half of the rent.

Oftentimes, students co-sign with their roommates, leaving each set of parents responsible for the entire lease payment if someone doesn’t pay.

Linda Goodspeed is a longtime real estate writer and author of “In and out of Darkness.” Email her at: lrgoodspeed@comcast.net.