5 Challenges of Managing a College Student Housing Property
Managing a student housing property differs from managing a traditional multifamily property in a number of ways. College students tend to be younger, often much younger, and they are in a very particular stage of their lives. As a result, the needs of a student housing resident can be different than those of the average apartment resident.
Here are five not-so-obvious challenges of managing a college student housing property, and some suggestions for meeting them.
#1 College Age Residents Require More Interaction
College students are younger than most adult tenants in a traditional multifamily unit, and many are living away from home for the very first time. Maintaining a larger,1 more specialized staff is vital for ensuring customer satisfaction.
The concept of a landlord is likely to be somewhat novel to a college student as well. Students may contact the support staff for concerns,2 such as a messy roommate, rather than taking care of the issue themselves. Rather than allow undue demands on support staff time, it is a good idea to ensure that students are encouraged and (when necessary) shown how to resolve smaller issues.
Both students and their parents are likely to expect a contact to be available at all times. One common strategy operators often employ is to hire students who can do double duty as contacts and residents. This strategy has also been correlated with a reduction in behavior issues.
#2 Students’ Parents Require Interaction, Too
In a sense, renting to college students is also renting to their parents. Parental involvement in the lives of college-aged adults is often quite considerable, and parents tend to have high expectations of student housing providers and operators.
The best strategy for dealing with parents is to plan on interacting with them proactively,3 keeping them informed and responding to all requests in a prompt and professional manner. Retaining the services of experienced management, and establishing clear policies and procedures for communication with parents is therefore of the utmost importance.
#3 Behavioral Issues
A longstanding aspect of college culture is partying4 over the weekend, which may start as early as Thursday for some. The result can be disorderly conduct, noise, and disorder aplenty.
Loud misbehavior poses two main sets of issues: problems for students who are not engaging in this behavior, and problems for any neighbors5 in the area.
Students who refrain from disruptive behavior because they need to study or simply don’t care for the “party scene” have a right to some measure of peace and quiet in their homes. Similarly, any neighbors are not likely to appreciate the presence of large numbers of students partying near their residences.
The best way to deal with this issue is to set firm policies and maintain them, while allowing some flexibility for students who don’t get too out of hand. After all, policies that are too harsh are likely to provoke a backlash,6 not only from students but also from parents.
For example, quiet hours during the week can provide much-needed time for productive studying. A more lenient weekend policy with some clear expectations for good behavior7 can provide much-needed opportunities for socializing, while also maintaining some guidelines for acceptable behavior.
#4 College Students Can Get Behind on Rent
Budgeting is likely to be relatively new to many college students. While some may rely on their parents or on financial aid, lateness8 on rent can be a common issue in student housing.
It is always a good idea to ensure the staff is clear with students, on move-in, about when the rent9 is due and what the penalties for lateness are. Having each student be responsible for their share of the rent in a unit, rather than all of them being responsible collectively for the whole thing, is also a good way to avoid penalizing responsible students for the actions of irresponsible roommates.
Requiring a cosigner or two for rent is another excellent strategy, one that is likely to result in more rent being paid on time.
#5 Cleanliness and Damage Issues
For many, college is a time for experimentation, for living a relatively carefree existence away from home for the first time.
One of the things that many young adults tend to let go during this period is a commitment to cleanliness10 and responsible use of facilities and unit appliances.
Control of the deposit11 is one of the more effective tools at the disposal of management. Setting a high deposit and carefully spelling out the conditions for its return may encourage students to clean up the property, at least in time for move-out.
Using an appliance repair service12 may also be helpful. Many student tenants are likely to prefer to contact one of these services rather than management.