About Student Rentals in Ontario
This post is an overview of the student rental market and how to get student rental house insurance in Ontario. Year after year thousands of students across Ontario attend post-secondary education at universities and colleges. These students making the transition from high school to university face many decisions as the start a new chapter in their lives. One of those decisions is where they will live. This decision is usually made based on the proximity they live from the school they have chosen to study at. Three typical options include:
- Move into residence
- Stay at home & commute
- Rent a room in a student house
Now, although there are more options that can be available to students, the top three are amongst the most typical. Option one involves living on a university or college provided dorm room. The dorms are usually on campus or within a short distance walk and close to many classes. By selecting option 1 most students will also have to purchase a meal plan based on what they estimate they will need for food during the school year. Although most residences have kitchens to use, using the school’s eatery is usually more popular.
Option two is when a student continues to live at home and commutes to school. In most cases the new school they choose to attend is further away than where they attended high school making commuting more difficult. Probably the most popular commuting option would be taking Go Transit. By taking GO Transit, the student would need to travel to the nearest bus stop locations, with many universities and colleges having a daily route to or near their campus. This option is only very viable the closer the school is, schools which take more than 45 minutes commuting time will result in students leaning towards more option one and option three.
Option three is to find a student rental house close to their campus. These are standard homes which have been converted to be rented out by room to students attending nearby schools. Whether or not these students are on one lease or several leases, for bylaw and insurance purposes, the house is still viewed as student rooming house. This could also include dwellings and condos specifically built for student living.
When choosing a student rental property for investment purposes it is important to consider the above factors. Such as is college or university I plan to purchase my property a commuter school? Or do most students choose to live within residence or nearby.
Choosing the Location
When choosing a location to purchase your student rental property the distance from the location on campus is a huge factor. Depending on how big the campus is even certain areas attract certain students. For instance if a university’s engineering departments are all on the south side of campus, more engineering students may look for accommodation just south of campus. This is also important factor when advertising your property, because if the rental property is only a 5 minute walk to campus, this is a very important feature of the property worth mentioning in your listing. Other helpful location factors include how far the property is to grocery stores, malls and bus stops.
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Choosing the Property
When choosing the property some important things to consider are the current state of the property. For instance if it is an older home you are purchasing are there any important renovations needed to the plumbing, electrical, heating or roof, if this is the case it is important to notify your insurance company as well as estimate the costs to complete by a qualified contractor. A great service in finding a qualified contractor in your area is Home Stars. This website allows visitors to find contractors based on city and service and lets them view reviews by real customers. Other factors include whether the property needs to be painted, new appliances purchased or other renovations to bathrooms, rooms, kitchens and common areas. If you are purchasing a former student rental property the property may be in a condition to rent straight away. If the home was formerly a family home retrofits such as putting locks on each room door, hardwired smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors as well as fire extinguishers may be necessary. In some cases students themselves may want to paint or wallpaper their room, this could be a great opportunity for the landlord as long as the choice of color and wallpaper is modern and in style. By having an updated property which is visually appealing and safe will increase your chances of mutual respect and care by your tenants.
Setting Rent – What is included and what is not
Setting rent is an important decision and is ultimately what will be the difference of your investment being cash flow positive or negative. This decision as to what to set your rent is heavily dependent on the two factors above: location and the property. Properties which are closer to the school and which have been updated to be more visually appealing and safe may attract higher rents. This is because of the convenience and initial investment put in them must be recouped. Whereas, properties which are further away cannot demand as high of rent because there may be less demand the further the property is away from the school. By checking what other properties in the area are renting for is a good benchmark to see what you should charge. You should also consider how many rooms will be rented within the home, if all rooms are the same size it is appropriate to charge the same rent but if a room is considerably smaller the rent should be adjusted accordingly. In the case you believe your property is worth more because of upgraded features it is important to price that in to your monthly rent.
Advertising your Rental
When looking to advertise your rental property there are a few online options. Of course there are traditional options such as for rent signs in the window or porch, as well as newspaper listings. But posting your property online can attract much more exposure to your listing. Online options include:
- Free public directory listing services
- Free & Paid directories
- University/College provided listing service
Free directories services such as Craigslist and Kijiji allow people to post online anything from used lawn mowers they wish to sell to rental vacancies. These websites can provide great exposure for your listing as they attract thousands of visitors a day to their websites. Option two, free & paid directories include directories such as Kijiji which allow you to post your rental listing but enhance it for a fee which can include home page exposure to your listing. This means that when entering the main page of the website your listing is given exposure to all visitors. This option can also include websites specifically geared to advertising student rentals or rentals within your city for a paid fee. The third and final option is to use the university or college’s listing service. This listing service is perhaps the best option for student rentals as it provides targeted traffic of students. These listing services are usually for a fee but usually allow landlords to post their listing on the schools actual website listing service. These listing services are advertised to students usually by email as well as pamphlets to first year students who then have to look for living accommodation for the remaining years in school. A good way to check whether the school you will be targeting is to do an online search for “<schools name> off campus housing” this will usually bring you to the school’s directory listing service.
Timing is everything – 8 month vs. 12 month leases
When is the best time to post your student rental property for advertising? January 1st. Why? A typical post-secondary school has two terms, each 4 months in length for a total of an 8 month school year. When a student goes to university for the first year it takes about 4 months to get accustomed to their surroundings, meet cool friends that they feel comfortable with, and begin thinking about their next year’s plans including where they will live.
After the 4 months term students go away on vacation for two weeks usually back home and the discussion will start on where they should live for the next year. When they return to residence or school they begin talking with their friends, counting who would like to join them, where they want to live and the search begins. By making a mandatory 12 month lease early on and posting your property at the right time this allows you to collect rents even during the summer months whether or not the students are actually there. Remember; if the house is vacant during the summer please notify your insurance company!
By posting your rental property later on, most houses in the area are already signed up for new tenants in which case you may have to settle for an 8month lease starting in September ending in April.
Getting student rental insurance
Getting your property insured is easy enough. You should know some basic details about your house including the year built, square footage, the type of: heating, plumbing, electrical and roof. As well as when each was updated or replaced. If the house was every totally renovated or gutted to include up to standard utilities this should be mentioned. You should also know approximately how many students will be occupying your property, and the annual revenue generated. To get a quotation & find out more information click here.
After, you’ve purchased your property, made renovations, advertised it and acquired tenants it is now important to consider how often you as a landlord will be looking after the property. As a landlord efforts should be made to visit it as much as possible or at least once every month. This will emphasize to your tenants that you are an involved landlord that cares about the property, and allows you to monitor your property’s housekeeping. Providing your email and a phone number you can always be reached at will also allow you to respond to your tenants needs if something were to need repair. If you live far from your rental property, such as over 100 km away you should designate an individual such as a friend, family member or property Management Company that is closer to the property to look after maintenance. This can also include having a readily available contractor in the area should a serious repair be needed.
It is important to note that many insurance companies will request an inspection of your property; you as the landlord do not have to be present as long as someone is there to show them the property. You should also inquire as to whether or not the insurance company charges an additional fee for inspection. Furthermore, if the inspection reveals any recommendations these should be complied with in a timely manner. Denying an inspection, not completing a recommendation or if your inspection reveals serious problems or facts not disclosed to the insurance company, this could result in a cancellation of your policy. A cancellation of your policy can affect your ability to get insurance in the future. Granting an inspection by the insurance company is also a benefit as it allows a second opinion and may provide insight on your property.
This was written as a general guide based on the experiences of landlords and students, it should not be taken as a set in stone guide and when purchasing and operating a student rental it is important to take the advice of realtors, lawyers, contractors, insurance brokers and other professionals before making any decision. We hope you found some information useful.
In addition to offering landlord insurance for student rental houses, we also provide personal car and home insurance. Feel free to contact us for a quotation.