If your rental is located in a college town, then you know that there are a lot of students looking for housing. Many schools struggle to meet the housing demands, which means that students are seeking off-campus alternatives. Are you interested in filling your rental vacancies with students for the first time? Here’s what you need to know about the risks, rewards, and how to work with student renters.
Remember, these are possible drawbacks that you may experience with your student tenants (P.S. We’ll also show you how to minimize these risks later in the article).
- Inconsistent rent payments from tenants who may be living on their own for the first time and haven’t had to pay rent before
- Shorter lease terms when students don’t want to be locked in
- Lack of credit history, which will come up when running a credit check
- Inexperience with handling household responsibilities
- Student lifestyle may have a potential for parties
- Consistent rent payments if parents contribute financially or if the student receives financial aid
- Fewer vacancies in college towns where student housing is limited
- Property upgrade expenses can be lower as many students value location and affordability over expensive upgrades
- Predictable length of leases, which correlate with the school year
Going through the rental process with students step-by-step
Step 1: Choose your rental criteria.
We recommend thinking about this before you start advertising. Remember, it’s important to use the same criteria for all of your applicants to avoid unintentional discrimination. Read up on Fair Housing laws before you set your criteria so that you know which classes are protected under federal law. Be sure to check with local rental laws in your area to see if additional protections apply.
Financial criteria can be modified for students, for instance, requiring a co-signor on the lease. While you can change the requirements a little to accommodate a student’s unique financial situation or lack of credit history, it’s a good idea to go through the bigger steps.
Don’t skip having an interview with your prospective tenants. There is a lot of great information that you can gather from meeting face-to-face. Was the applicant late for the interview? Are they respectful and engaged? Are they comfortable with having a background check done? These factors can help you narrow down your applicants.
Screening any applicant over the age of 18 years old is also best practice for filling vacancies, so don’t skip credit and criminal background reports. While a young renter may not have a long credit history, a background check could provide criminal and other important background information.
Take a look at our article for more tips on choosing rental criteria: How to Accept or Reject Rental Applicants
Step 2: Advertise your rental
Get the word out by creating a dynamic property listing. Play up features that will appeal to younger renters, such as wi-fi and proximity to the university. Point out nearby bike trails, and public transportation options, as well as other landmarks. Many apartment-seekers will be coming from out-of-state, so providing a sense of location in your listing will go a long way. Be sure to include rent amount, lease terms, the approximate amount of utilities, and other property stats.
Once you’ve got a listing, you can start advertising. For students, you can increase your leads by marketing online. Sites like Craigslist, CollegeRentals, and CampusCribz are useful for reaching students in your area. You can also contact the local university’s student housing department to see if they will advertise your listing. Most student housing departments have off-campus resources, and many of them are integrated with a searchable listing site.
Always include contact information so that your leads can get in touch.
Looking for more tips on online advertising? Click here to download our free guide.
Step 3: Accept applications and screen applicants
The next step is to gather information about your prospective tenant through an application and screening report. Find an online application that asks all right questions and gathers contact information for the applicant, as well as their references. If you are receiving sensitive information from your applicants, like social security numbers, make sure that you are handling that information correctly.
Applicants can be screened through tenant screening reports (credit, criminal background, and evictions reports), the interview, and contacting references. Be sure to get contact information for personal and/or professional references and try to contact them all to get a better idea of the suitability of your prospective tenant or to spot inaccuracies in the information they provided. Social media could also provide some insight if used appropriately.
Step 4: Choose a tenant
After you’ve reviewed the rental applicants, it’s time to make a decision. Once you’ve made your decision, reach out to your chosen tenant. Don’t reject the runner-up until you have confirmed that your first choice is still interested in the property. Students may be looking around at other rentals, so you don’t want to turn away other leads until you know you’ve filled your vacancy.
If the other leads requested that you notify them when you fill your vacancy, or if you told them that you would, be sure to inform them that you have filled the vacancy. It’s bad etiquette to keep someone on the hook, and it’s important to be polite and prompt with every lead.
Step 5: Review the lease and take care of move-in costs
Congratulations! You’ve found a great renter, and now it’s time to get them moved in. Review the contents of the lease, including the lease terms and the consequences for breaking the lease. Make sure that they understand that a lease is a contract and that it is to be followed, by both the landlords and the tenant. If they have a co-signer and/or co-applicant (roommate), make sure that they are present, as well. Don’t forget to complete a walkthrough inspection and show them the location of smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, the water shut off, etc.
Discuss how rent will be paid in the future and collect the security deposit and first month’s rent. Online rent payments may appeal to your tenant, or their parents if they are the ones who will be making payments.
We want to know about your experiences. Have you rented to students before? What advice would you give to landlords doing it for the first time?