Congratulations, you survived the craziness that is May 1st in the City of Guelph! Whether this is the first time you are operating a student rental home or you are a veteran by now, it is always important to prepare for the tenancy ahead and any challenges you may face.
Student tenants tend to have specific expectations about the condition of the property and their experience with the landlord as well as common issues that present themselves during their tenancy. We have compiled a list of the 7 most common problems that student tenants will complain about in order to help you prepare and provide some insight on how to effectively handle these issues or challenges going forward.
NUMBER ONE: The unit hasn’t been cleaned upon possession.
Some landlords simply rely on their previous tenants to clean the property upon vacating and will allow the new tenants to move in immediately afterwards taking the unit “as is”. Although some students may be okay with this and plan for 4-5 hours of cleaning of their own prior to moving in, most student tenants are expecting the unit to be perfectly cleaned prior to getting possession of the unit and do not plan for additional time or do not believe they should have to clean the unit themselves.
The most common complaint that a landlord can expect to receive from student renters is that the previous renters left furniture/items at the property that needs to be removed or that the cleanliness of the unit is not in line with their expectations for move in.
In order to avoid this, we would suggest landlords to keep communication open with their vacating tenants — especially during the last month of tenancy — to remind them to clean the unit prior to vacating and to remove all their belongings from the unit on or before their last date of tenancy. We would highly recommend as a landlord to stop by the property the day of move out to ensure that they are removing all garbage, furniture, etc. from the unit and that nothing is left at the unit unless otherwise agreed upon. You can then also monitor the cleanliness that the unit has been left in and either clean the unit yourself, or even better, hire a professional cleaning company to go through the unit. If your unit has carpet and if the previous occupants had any pets, we always recommend to steam-clean the carpets prior to the new tenants taking possession.
Although it is true that everyone has different standards when it comes to cleanliness and some students may complain even after a professional cleaner has been through the unit, this is the best option to ensure that your new tenants begin their tenancy on the right foot and to leave a lasting, positive first impression about your standards for the property. When a tenant takes possession of a unit that has been cleaned, this will set the bar for how they are to leave the property upon vacating as well.
As an investor of a rental unit, specifically a student rental unit, you should expect to spend money each turnover you have on cleaning costs. Ensuring that the unit is cleaned between each tenancy helps preserve/protect your investment and will pay off in the long run for you.
NUMBER TWO: The landlord takes too long to address maintenance items.
Let’s face it, student renters are part of a generation that expect instant results and satisfaction. This holds true when it comes to maintenance at a rental property, which should come as no surprise. One of the most common complaints from student renters is the length of time that it takes for maintenance items to be addressed at a rental property by their landlord or maintenance team. \
The majority of student renters expect items to be addressed within the same day of providing notice. Although this may be impossible to achieve completing the repair this quickly, we suggest for landlords to respond to their tenants within 6-8 hours of receiving the notice. Ensure you have provided your student tenants with the best email address and phone number in order to reach you, that is checked daily to ensure your tenants are able to successfully reach you and inform you if something does go wrong at the property in regards to maintenance.
In some cases, a complaint that an item is taking too long to repair will come in when the landlord has already planned for the items to be addressed but has not communicated this back to the tenant. The solution to this is very simple, keep communication open with the student renters and always be honest. Ensure the tenants are informed of the dates and times you or your maintenance person plan to enter the property to conduct repairs and if there is a delay with a maintenance item, be honest with the tenants and keep them updated as you receive additional information on when they can expect work to be done. For example, if you or your contractor had to order a part to address the repair of an appliance that may take 1-2 weeks to come in, ensure to relay this to the tenants so they know to expect this delay and can plan accordingly.
NUMBER THREE: I’m having issues with my roommates.
Let’s face it, students will not always get along with their roommates. For many students, this may be the first time living away from home and the adjustment to living away from their parents and with roommates is difficult for some tenants. Personalities may begin to clash or living habits may become intolerable for some roommates. This is a fairly common complaint that can often times negatively impact the tenancy. If student tenants are experiencing conflict, they often times will not renew their tenancy and this can also impact their experience with you as the landlord or your rental company. As much as landlord may not care to get involved, it can sometimes pay off if you try to mediate the situation.
Depending on the conflict, sometimes this even exceeds what the landlord can assist with and sometimes police authorities should be involved. However, for less severe situations, often times the landlord may be able to provide a solution to quickly deflate an issue. We suggest to speak with each roommate when a conflict is brought to your attention and try to come up with a fair solution for each party.
In some cases, allowing one of the roommates to leave and approving a replacement tenant to take over (who is also approved by the remaining roommates) is the best option for everyone when the issue cannot be resolved.
NUMBER FOUR: I’m having issues with my neighbors.
This complaint could be popular if your student rental is part of a duplex, a townhome complex or a student apartment building, typically with units that share walls or floors with their neighbors.
Depending on the circumstance, the landlord may not have any control in the situation. For example, if the neighbors live in a property that you (the landlord) do not own or manage, there may be little that you can do. At the very least, the landlord can attempt to contact the neighboring owner to address the complaint or contact City Bylaw to put forth a complaint (for example a noise violation).
Sometimes if the property is part of a condominium corporation or student building, there will be a Condo Manager who handles the property. The landlord can put forward a formal complaint to the Condo Manager who can then issue a formal complaint to the neighboring residents to stop the behavior.
Best case scenario, you also own or manage the neighboring unit and can discuss the complaint directly with your tenants to dissolve the situation.
Regardless of the circumstances, it is important to list to your tenants and help them come up with a solution to this issue.
NUMBER FIVE: I need more privacy. My roommates are entering my room without permission.
Student renters will spend the majority of their time at the property in their bedrooms whether it be sleeping, studying, eating, or many other purposes. This is their sanctuary and their quiet space to accomplish what they need to throughout the day. As a result, the tenants may complain that they need more privacy from their roommates and may request having a lock installed on their bedroom to ensure none of their roommates enter this space while they are away or even while they are home.
We suggest allowing tenants to install their own locks on bedroom doors if they desire. As a landlord, you are legally entitled to be provided with a copy of each bedroom door key in case of emergencies for access so ensure that you do request this from your tenant. We also suggest having the tenant keep the old bedroom door knob at the property and to reinstall the original knob upon vacating for the next set of tenants. It should also be noted to your tenant that they are responsible for any damages to the door that this may cause when removing the old knob and installing the new locked handle. To avoid any damage, you may even request to complete this installation yourself or have your maintenance contractor complete this work.
NUMBER SIX: My unit is too hot or too cold.
Many students request to have utility costs included in their monthly rent. This provides an easier means of budgeting as they will always know their monthly rental for duration of their tenancy.
If you can avoid having utilities included in the rent, this is the best option for you as a landlord to have your tenants pay for their own utility bills. However, in some cases this is a deal breaker for student renters and if you want to secure a good group of students, you may have to be flexible and allow utilities to be included in the monthly rent.
Some landlords try to control the temperature settings in their student units by installing a lock on the thermostat to prevent tenants from tampering with the controls and ensuring utility costs stay low. Although this may be a good idea in theory, this will almost always lead to complaints about the temperate inside a unit.
We suggest allowing student tenants to control their thermostat at the property to ensure the tenants are comfortable with the temperate inside and to minimize any complaints. An alternative you may wish to explore is to have a clause written into the lease agreement providing the group with a reasonable monthly cap that the landlord will pay for utility usage. This clause can state that any usage above this cap can be collected back by the landlord. This will ensure the tenants are not taking advantage of the inclusive rents and stay cautious about their utility usage habits.
NUMBER SEVEN: Our (insert home appliance/fixture) isn’t working.
Almost every phone call or email pertaining to maintenance that a landlord will receive from their student tenants will include the above mentioned words.
In some cases, the item will not be operating correctly. In other cases, the tenant may not understand how to properly use the item and will assume it is broken. Before you spend the money to send out a technician, we suggest for the landlord to visit the property and investigate themselves.
This may be the first time your tenant is renting a property and is responsible for using a specific appliances or fixture and may not understand how these items around the property work. It is highly recommended to walk through the property at the time of possession and explain to these students how to use a water softener, how to replace the furnace filter, how to turn on the A/C, how to operate the dishwasher, laundry machines, and the list can go on and on. Trust us, this will save you a lot of headaches down the line and will ensure that items do not break that could have been prevented if the tenants understood how the item works.
Throughout Guelph, hundreds of students have moved into their rental units this week and this is just the beginning. It is important for landlords to know what will be expected of their student tenants and to be prepared for these situations that may arise.