Owning real estate long term is one of the easiest ways to create long term wealth. Kingston is lucky to have three post-secondary education institutions within close proximity of each other: Queen’s University, St. Lawrence College and the Royal Military College. While the hard-partying, property-damaging image of frosh doesn’t necessarily apply to all tenants, you’ll need to be prepared for the worst case scenario. If you’re looking to own a rental property within the city, or you already have one, here are some helpful guidelines when renting to students.
- Being a landlord can be stressful, time-consuming and nerve breaking. You will need to be emotionally ready to deal with all worst-case scenarios: dead beat tenants, chasing down late payments, dealing with evictions, as well as repair and maintenance issues. Be prepared to schedule extra time to repair, repaint and clean your unit after each student moves out.
- Know your rights as a landlord, as well as your tenants’ rights according to the Residential Tenancies Act (2007). Have a copy for yourself for review and make sure your lease abides by the rules, such as those involving discrimination (i.e. age, sex, familial status, race, religion, sexual orientation…etc.), and that you know what you are and are not allowed to ask from your potential tenants (i.e. security deposits, key money, requiring post-dated cheques…etc.). You might also want to consider providing your new tenants with information regarding the Act, or providing a ‘hotlist’ of phone numbers and websites where they can go to get more information.
- Being a landlord is a business. Treat it as such and do not let emotions get in the way of reason. Your tenants rent payment is what pays your mortgage – if they cannot pay then they need to either leave voluntarily or you will have to evict them. Be kind and courteous, but also fair and firm when issues arise. Make sure you do your job as a landlord (i.e. fix repairs, maintain the property…etc.) but also try and return calls promptly and have patience when answering questions. Most times maintaining or increasing communication can subdue tempers and solve most problems before they escalate.
- If you’re looking to purchase a student rental keep in mind what a typical student would want from a property. Those without cars will want to be within walking distance to their school, close to transit and grocery stores or fast food. Including utilities is usually considered an added bonus, and unless you’re close to a coin laundry facility you will definitely want to consider installing laundry in the unit. These things will make your unit more convenient, and therefore more appealing, to potential tenants.
- Keep in mind how you’re going to handle sub-letting. Most landlord require tenants to sign a one-year lease – so students are either forced to continue paying rent over the summer when they’re usually back in their hometown, or sublet out their room to someone else. There’s always risk: often times a landlord has done their due diligence on their initial tenant, but the sub-tenant you’re now dealing with has been screened by someone else.
When investing in property near universities, chances are students will be its inhabitants. While there are some pros to this kind of investment (such as high demand, for example), there can be some drawbacks and other things to consider. But if you do your research, and know the risks, it can be a worthy financial investment.