The American college experience has often been satirized by popular media. From Revenge of the Nerds (1984) to Old School (2003), American college students are depicted as crazed and tribalistic, frequently throwing sprawling parties that leave the type of mess property managers have nightmares about.
So why would anyone in their right mind want to rent to college students? Well, aside from the obvious necessity, and the many tempting reasons illustrated in our previous installment [Link], many of the major issues surrounding renting to college students can be overcome through good planning and communication. Let’s have a look at five major issues renting to students entails, and then go over strategies to account for them in your property management planning.
- No rental history, credit history, or employment history. Because they are young and likely don’t have any experience with rentals, debt, or employment, screening them may be more of a challenge. You can call references to get an idea of their character or check with the school to see if they have been expelled from student housing (the equivalent of an eviction), but there really isn’t a reliable way to vet every student.
Solution: It is common for property managers to require a co-signer on the lease, a parent or guardian, who is willing to financially secure the property. Some managers do this on all properties rented to students, while others only require it if they cannot provide a rental history.
- No experience maintaining property. Students who are first time renters are probably inexperienced with basic property upkeep. If they are not used to keeping a clean home, you could end up with rodents or other pest infestations. They also might not notice or report small issues that can escalate over time, such as a leaky roof or faulty stove.
Solution: You can protect yourself financially by requiring a larger security deposit or enforcing strict rental insurance rules, but accidents do happen, and sometimes the best way to prevent them is to plan for them. Frequent and predictable communication is essential to protecting your property from this predictable shortfall of student renters. It is best to have printed materials that outline common maintenance procedures and schedules, common problems to be alert for, and the contact and emergency contact information of the property manager or maintenance team.
- No experience balancing a budget. Making a budget and sticking too it may not always be the top of a student’s priorities. They are still learning the art of money management and allocating the right amount of money per month for rent might not always happen.
Solution: Requiring a co-signer is a good way to secure yourself financially, but it is better to be proactive and avoid miscalculation or forgetfulness by encouraging (or requiring as necessary) by implementing an automatic payment system, payment reminders, and by enforcing reasonable late fees.
- Noise. I bet nobody saw this one coming. College students can be energetic and noisy, but, despite Hollywood’s depiction (think Animal House), the vast majority of students are not throwing wild parties every weekend. None the less, it does happen, and you will need a strategy.
Solution: Add a noise curfew clause to your lease and enforce a guest policy that limits the number of guests a tenant can have at any given time.
- Yearly turnover and summer vacancies. Many students, despite enrolling in a 4-year program, will change housing many times during their schooling. Many students also go home during the summer to save money and may not want to or be able to sign a 12-month lease. This also exposes you to the issue of students wanting to sublet the unit during the summer months, meaning the property could be opened to individuals you didn’t screen.
Solution: Offering persuasive programs like perks for repeat tenants or discounts on summer months are good ways to encourage longer lease terms. Also, it is advisable to impose strict rules on subletting to minimize the inconvenience of vetting new tenants.
If you have experience renting to college student’s we would love to hear any stories or advice you want to share. As always, if you need property management assistance, or would like to rent to college students but avoid the hassle, Sellstate Alliance would be more than happy to help.