Student House Needs New Tricks
July 31, 2011 5:23 AM   Subscribe

I bought a house to rent out to students. What should I buy? Cliche/common examples include a pool table, foosball table and a dartboard, but I'd like more varied and unique ideas.

The house is in Waterloo, Ontario and is going to be rented to University of Waterloo students. The university is known for it's engineering, maths and computer science programs.

In the house, I want to furnish the basement's rec room and extra small room, and the upstairs living room with more than a standard/generic student housing.

I got a 27" floor model for the basement (it 'fits the mood') and currently looking to get a 50" rear-projection TV for the living room (for hockey). I'm also going to get darts for the dartboard that came with the house.

That's great, but I want something different - something that makes this house stand out. Please share your ideas!

P.S - I'm primarily looking for ideas involving recreation/etc. rather than basic home furnishings.
posted by Ragingmelon to Human Relations (72 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Kudos to you for trying to make your student housing more fun! As a data point, I went to college in upstate/central NY and a house coming with a pool table or foosball table would make it stand out. Heck, I was excited to have a house that came with a sofa.

Having a full-size grill to use would been truly spectacular.
posted by thewestinggame at 5:29 AM on July 31, 2011


Best answer: I don't recall anyone I knew living off-campus that had anything more than the bare necessities supplied by their landlords, so kudos to you.

I would suggest free high speed internet included in the rent, and install a good wifi router in the house. If you've got a house full of engineering students, they're probably going to want to be tinkering, so maybe turn the extra small room into a workshop? No heavy tools, but a workbench/soldering station or something like that would be useful and fun.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:34 AM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Everyone loves pinball!
posted by Scram at 5:38 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Best answer: It's a simple thing, but I'd be happy to see a nice, big dinner table and chairs, for dining or gaming purposes.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:40 AM on July 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Best answer: You seem like a super-nice person. If I were you, I would steer away from the pool table, unless you can find a cover that won't be ripped. A ping pong table is cheaper, more durable, and can be put away if they don't like it. Foosball is nice. A pinball machine will likely break. A mini bowling alley would be nice.

When I see TVs, I think breakage; when I see internet, I see illegal downloading; and when I see grill I think flames and firetrucks. But that's just my experience with college students.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 5:41 AM on July 31, 2011 [16 favorites]


Response by poster: I considered a pool table, but there's no space. Same thing for the ping pong, but a pinball machine would definitely fit.

Thanks for the suggestions so far!
posted by Ragingmelon at 5:44 AM on July 31, 2011


Just out of curiousity, do you have experience land-lording?

You are planning to put a 50in TV in a rental property? It only takes one jerk one minute to destroy something like that. And renters are faced with the tragedy of commons - no one is responsible for the TV, so none of your renters are going to take care of it.

Anything I put into such a house, I plan for it to not survive the year.
posted by Flood at 5:50 AM on July 31, 2011 [14 favorites]


Response by poster: @Flood: I'm a first-time landlord. It's most definitely not going to be an LCD - It's going to be a big and strong rear-projection. And the floor model one is even more durable... but do you think it is still likely for them to get ruined/broken?
posted by Ragingmelon at 5:58 AM on July 31, 2011


Best answer: Seconding ruination, per my comment above.

Also please bear in mind that this kind of technology ages quickly, and students are surprisingly likely to have access to their own TVs and whatnot.

Consider installing a foosball table, an extra fridge, etc. Otherwise, cut the rent and respond quickly when the plumbing backs up, and you will be way ahead of the curve.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 6:09 AM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Best answer: I think you may want to reconsider having that level of amenities in a rental unit if you are a first time landlord. Unless there is an insane shortage of renters you do not need to provide such level of breakable amenities. It is not that the students intend to damage property or be irresponsible but things do happen. Here is the thing, you should not provide opportunities that may cause you and them dismay. As a landlord you provide a good, safe, well maintained place that allows the renter to choose how to be comfortable. Things I have provided at my rental:

* broadband (this was very important)
* air conditioning window units (it occasionally gets hot and muggy)
* the opportunity to paint interiors with MY approval of color selection
*space for gardening
* small patio space for grilling or just relaxing

I focused on more permanent improvements on the property such as, a remodeled bathroom and modern windows.

The amenities you suggest do not add permanent value to the property and become disposable.

If you feel it is necessary to have disposable amenities then consider gradually scaling up after some time as a landlord and you become comfortable with your tenants. The reason why landlords love long term tenants is that there is a level of trust between the parties besides a steady cash-flow.

Kudos though on trying to be a good landlord. Just remember that this is a business arrangement. Don't be a slumlord but then again don't be a sucker either.
posted by jadepearl at 6:11 AM on July 31, 2011 [21 favorites]


Best answer: It is hard to tell what will be ruined and what will not be ruined - and a big part of whether it is ruined is in your hands.

First thing you need to do is protect yourself. Get security deposits, get co-signers on the lease if they do not show enough income. Back-ground check each potential renter to the fullest extent allowable by law. You have to make the effort to weed out the bad eggs.

But even that alone will not do it. You need to regularly visit the common areas of the property. Make it clear in the lease what area you as the land-lord can access any time, and what is their individual private rental area.

But, that still will not total cover it. I have been land-lording for twenty plus years, and heart-breaks happen. Installed a $15,000 new bathroom just a year ago, evicted a tennant from it 6 months later, and the new bathroom was utterly destroyed.

I would act as if you fully expect them to maintain all the common areas in the property. But if no one renter is specifically responsible for an item (with security deposit), than do not be surprised if it gets damaged.
posted by Flood at 6:14 AM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


If there were ever a college house that came with a ping pong table (or most of the other amenities you described) it would be assumed that the landlord WANTED us to ply beer pong and have parties there.

So, do you want them to have parties?
posted by raccoon409 at 6:16 AM on July 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Best answer: I recommend stocking the house with lots of cleaning supplies, including many many trash bags. It's expensive to purchase full bottles of everything each year, and not exactly the top priority for most students. This will likely save you money and effort in the long run.

Is Waterloo, Ontario such a renter's market that you're willing to buy a new TV and a pinball machine knowing that they may be used primarily as A Place To Put My Beer? Or is it a completely dry town? Typically it's the student's responsibility to furnish the house, especially with electronics.

Even if your renters are really nice, you can't trust them and you especially can't trust the people who show up to their parties. I can still remember going to a party where the ceiling of an entire room collapsed due to people dancing on the top floor. People either thought a) that the fog machine had finally tuned on, or b) that the ceiling had collapsed, and it was fine to keep dancing.
posted by acidic at 6:20 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: I think I gave the wrong impression. I'm looking to put a few nice things into the house, not to pimp it out and fill it with luxuries. But so far, this thread has been quite an eye-opener for me.

I think it would be appropriate to ask another question:
What are/were/would be your necessities as a student? So far in this thread, there's been high-speed internet, a good router and a dining table.
posted by Ragingmelon at 6:27 AM on July 31, 2011


Best answer: What are/were/would be your necessities as a student? So far in this thread, there's been high-speed internet, a good router and a dining table.

Sturdy desks would have been sweet.

I am dating myself, but how (if at all) do landlords protect themselves against illegal downloading?
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 6:31 AM on July 31, 2011


Best answer: Are you planning on renting rooms individually or the house as a whole? That's presumably going to dictate whether you need to furnish common areas at all. (It sounds like you're renting the rooms, though.)

I lived in a house of ten or eleven and probably the most useful thing that might have been put there by the landlord were cubbies in the kitchen, so each person had somewhere to put their food. Shelving or other storage areas in the basement would almost certainly be appreciated.

We did have a gas grill, though I have no idea where it came from. (I suppose someone may have dragged it from their parents; or bought it off Craigslist.)

If there's a porch, patio or balcony, some seating outside would be pretty awesome.

Responding quickly when your tenants phone is always a plus. You want to be clear on who pays what utilities and come round and collect your mail (because you will get mail at the house). No one paid our garbage bill for a year--apparently we were supposed to, but the bills were addressed to the landlord, so we didn't open them. Eventually, we opened them and they said "We're sure you just forgot..." which I find endlessly amusing.

Some racks/cubbies to sort mail by the front door. We had one each and one for the landlord's mail.

The previous tenants had apparently been growing pot in the house and left the yard a mess. You might want to insert some stuff into the lease about keeping the house/yard in decent condition. (And not take a weedwacker to the flowers if the tenants take up gardening!)
posted by hoyland at 6:34 AM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: @hoyland - I'm renting out individual rooms; there are 4: three are single, and and the last can potentially have two people.
posted by Ragingmelon at 6:39 AM on July 31, 2011


Best answer: A full-sized fridge, maybe two fridges. Tons of cupboard space. Bookcases.
posted by arcticwoman at 6:45 AM on July 31, 2011


Comfortable armchairs with footrests, reading lights, and end tables. Five narrow Ikea style shelves in or near the kitchen -- there's a lot of misc cereals, chips, sodas and canned goods that will need to be stored. A bank of five lockable school lockers. Shelving, mats, stools, and coat racks for a mud room near the entrance.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:48 AM on July 31, 2011


Best answer: Things I wanted when I was renting in college:
A stove that was not from the 1950's, ditto on the fridge.
Storm windows
--Barring the two items above, utility bills covered by the landlord

*Keys to all the doors (landlords commonly wanted us to only come and go by the backdoor, while leaving the more convenient front door fire dept legal...just not unlockable from the outside)
*Storage besides the closets in living space (i.e. a dry basement or hospitable attic)
*Being allowed to hang pictures, etc. with NAILS (I've lived in some good places that have mandated a certain kind of hanger, and then given some to me....this will prevent ginormous halls in your walls)
*Instructions as to how to be a resident of the town/city, like what you would give to a completely new-to-town resident. THings like who deals with the garbage bill (see Hoyland's comment above). I guess relevant to where I was, it was nice that the landlord acquired us a tote for recycling and explained what the rules were. But other things to explain might be how to get a parking permit, if req'd.

Your potential tenants are not a homogenous bunch and not all of them are going to be thrilled to find a huge tv in the living room, or a ping pong table in the basement, that their potential roomies can keep them up late with. If I were you, I would just concentrate on being a good landlord, as applicable to any tenants, and let the tenants customize the space as they like and work out among themselves...
posted by Tandem Affinity at 6:52 AM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Since you are renting out individual rooms, how about a small refrigerator in each room? in addition to the main one?
posted by murrey at 6:55 AM on July 31, 2011


Best answer: Furnish for the renters you want, not for what you think college students or renters in general want. Do you want the kind of renter who would decide to rent there because it has a communal foosball table?

I'd put a big whiteboard in the common area. They can use it for inter-renter communication, group studies, whatever. It'll get used.

Individual fridges, single beds, and head/footboards. Maybe a dresser each.

exterior grade locks on the individual bedroom doors, followed by
posted by Orb2069 at 7:02 AM on July 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


Best answer: Four wee fridges, with locks; four wee pantries, ditto. Maybe a chest freezer somewhere for storing OSAP Costco binge shopping? Definitely good locks on the bedroom doors if you are renting out the rooms instead of renting it as a house.

Decent outdoor furniture would save your tenants from finding a discarded ripped-up sofa for use in the yard; the neighbouring homeowners would appreciate any efforts you make to avoid outdoor ugliness -- maybe provide trash cans and recycling bins and make sure there is a convenient spot to stow them, so they don't permanently live on the front lawn.
posted by kmennie at 7:11 AM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Best answer: What are/were/would be your necessities as a student?

  • A landlord who responds quickly and responsibly to problems (eg, gets repairs done by properly licensed professionals as quickly as possible, not three weeks later with his flakey son-in-law)
  • doesn't try to illegally keep deposits or evict us, come over without giving notice or other intrusive activity
  • Does all the right paperwork to protect us and him/her (insurance, proper inventory WITH PHOTOS, any necessary property taxes or licences).

    In terms of the furnishings, buying or blagging cheap or second-hand furniture is a useful skill to learn in college, and quite fun if you're a student with time on your hands. Don't stuff the place with furniture. Half the joy of finally having your own place is that you can choose what goes into it.

  • Vacuum cleaner, broom, dustpan and brush, toilet brush. If you're feeling VERY nice, leave them some general cleaning supplies, but this is NOT standard. One of the ways that students bond in a new house and get onto the 'Do it yourself' train is realising that (1) there is no washing up liquid and (2) someone's got to buy it. Big moment of awakening for some people.
  • Oven, washingmashine/tumbedrier, fridge (larger is much appreciated). Plenty of cupboard space for everyone to keep their stuff separate. Kettle, toaster if you're generous. Big kitchen bin. Largish table, chairs. DON'T include crockery, cutlery or cooking implements unless you're prepared to lose the lot to accidents, burns, forgetting that it's not theirs at the end of the lease because it's muddled up with everyone else's stuff, etc.
  • Beds and mattresses and wardrobes are highly appreciated. Not sure about desks – sometimes landlords include stuff that's far too big for the space, or I did all my work in the library and didn't need a desk.
  • If there's a lounge or common room, some CHEAP sofas, a couple of small tables and some shelves for DVDs/games, stuff. These will through no malice get beer, pizza, and horrible dirt on them. It just happens. If they're cheap you won't feel too hard done by.

    One last thing! Students will almost certainly want to put up posters or pictures. Are you OK with them using blu-tack or sellotape on the walls? Have you used fairly resilient paint?

    Luxuries:
  • An inexpensive TV is a kind thought. A super-swish plasma is way OTT for the reasons given above.
  • Fresh paint, very very clean upon moving in. If it all looks new that's a huge boost to the renters.
  • Consider a second bathroom, if there will be more than a couple of people living there. It will be highly appreciated. If Mad Meg is throwing up in the loo after drinking too much Jaegermeister the night before and I need to take a shower before class, well, a second bathroom would save my life.
  • Broadaband is a nice thought. But I've always, always had to arrange such things myself. It's useful for the students to get used to flying solo, and it means you're not getting huge bills or legal action if they decide to download the entire Warner Bros. movie output of 2011.

    It sounds like you want to make the experience positive. Trust me, just by fixing problems promptly and not being an evil dickface, you will already be WAY ahead of most other landlords out there.

    Talk to other landlords and to the university's accommodation office if they have one to get a feel for the market and what can go wrong, how you can protect yourself, etc.

    Good luck!

  • posted by NoiselessPenguin at 7:11 AM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


    Best answer: I live in a small (5-unit duplex/triplex) University-area complex, I really wish:
    a.) it had been properly cleaned before moving in and
    b.) the cabinets and fixtures weren't the cheapest crap from Home Depot.

    But I understand the owner's perspective: that 'nice' things are wasted on undergrads.

    Also, I don't know what your town's like, but maybe you could give your tenants a printout about recycling/trash protocol.. I'm in charge of this, and most of my neighbors don't understand what can't be recycled, and one doesn't seem to know there's a separate trash bin in the alley. Actually, if you've got a recycling system, providing recycling bins (along with a list of what can be recycled) would be pretty cool.
    posted by unmake at 7:17 AM on July 31, 2011


    Nthing info about what day recycling/trash pickup is and what can be recycled.

    Please get your tenants a snow shovel, or 2, or 3.
    posted by thewestinggame at 7:42 AM on July 31, 2011


    Best answer: Floors are important to means a renter. If you can spring to tear out carpet, even just one room at a time, and replace with wood (or under heated tile), that would beba big bonus for me as I'm allergic to nearly everything. Also, carpet is a pain to keep clean.

    Another bonus point would be a cleaning service every week or two for common areas, with an option for tenants to sign up in advance to jace their rooms cleaned for $x. This serves two purposes. An extra pair of eyes on your property, and also things that are cleaned regularly last longer. And a third thing - college students will dodge washing the dishes, get petty with each other over it, and that creates tension in the house which you don't want.
    posted by bilabial at 7:51 AM on July 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


    Response by poster: @StickyCarpet - I like the idea, but it may show that I don't trust the students.

    @murrey - I think it's a bit excessive for me to buy the small fridges. If someone wants one, they likely own one or can get one.

    @NoiselessPenguin - Could you elaborate on this?

    Does all the right paperwork to protect us and him/her (insurance, proper inventory WITH PHOTOS, any necessary property taxes or licences).
    posted by Ragingmelon at 7:55 AM on July 31, 2011


    Response by poster: @bilabial - And a third thing - college students will dodge washing the dishes, get petty with each other over it, and that creates tension in the house which you don't want.

    What do you suggest is done?
    posted by Ragingmelon at 7:57 AM on July 31, 2011


    Best answer: In terms of rental fees, call up your power company and ask them for averages for heat, electricity, etc. monthly. Add it all together and divide by twelve, and add that amount to your base rent. Include all utilities in the rent. If you can count on a steady stream of income each month, it's better than having the tenants, who may not be responsible yet, billed for actuals.

    But - this is a big bonus to a potential renter - be transparent about this process. Tell them that if they beat the "average" in kilowatt hours or whatever, you will give them a bonus at the end of their tenancy equal to the difference in power usage, and lower the rent for the following year with the understanding that they will maintain the power levels. This encourages multi-year renters and adds transparency to the often-shady practice of "utilities included" which is often just a way for landlords to make unfair profit.

    This requires you to be fairly organized (e.g. keeping the bills, using a calculator) but if you only have the one building it shouldn't be too terrible.
    posted by juniperesque at 7:58 AM on July 31, 2011


    I agree with the individual locks on each room. My roomates and I used to do this ourselves and I believe it had more to do with renters insurance requirements than not trusting each other.

    Broadband would be a plus, but in this day and age I'm not sure it's necessary. Most would likely have their own wireless broadband cards that they can use anywhere, and as others have said you probably don't want the liability for their downloads. I would visit the local home and wireless providers in your area and see what options are available. They may have services where you pay for the hardware and subscription, but your renters require individual access accounts like at some airports.

    If you are supplying cable it would be nice to have an outlet into each bedroom/office/social area, even the kitchen. Also, if you are party friendly it may be a nice touch to run speaker leads to the common areas and bedrooms, especially if they are on different floors. That way there can be an even volume of music throughout the house at a lower level rather than huge speakers in the living room.

    One of the houses we lived in was condemned and torn down a year after we moved out. We cleaned it like it hadn't been cleaned in years and fixed a lot of stuff to make it more livable. We always had people over and the big draws were two large fridges, a BBQ, and a chest freezer. The freezer was nice because we would buy the store out of steaks and chicken breasts when they were 80% off and fill that chest up every semester. Every once and a while someone would put their head through the wall playing studfinder (I was never sure if that meant they won or lost) and we would patch the hole, paint the wall and let the landlord know the next time he came buy. We found out later he thought we were the best tenants we ever had because most of his other tenants would call him at 2am to change a lightbulb and expect him to come over then.

    One other caveat about supplying the TVs/internet is that if you offer them as part of the amenities you are likely responsible to fix them in a timely manner if they break
    posted by Yorrick at 8:02 AM on July 31, 2011


    Best answer: A perfect college rental, for both students and landlord alike, would tend to include the following in my opinion:

    - Nothing is easily breakable. If you are going to put furniture in there, make sure it can be sat on without breaking.

    - Nothing is easily ruined/dirtied. Tile all the floors, or use carpet squares when carpet is desired. The squares can be removed and replaced. Make the house easy to maintain.

    - Good doors and locks. Every college house I've ever been in had shitty $20 doors, and they never seemed to close or lock correctly. It isn't that expensive to buy a setup with re-keyable commercial locks, and will probably save tons of money in the long run. Done correctly, you can maintain security and have convenience. Each renter can have a key that works in the common areas that also only unlocks their personal areas. You can change the common locks when one tenant moves out without having to re-key everyone else's.

    - Give them projects to do in exchange for rent reductions. "Hey guys, I'll refund $500 extra in your security deposit if you can remove those ugly bushes in front of the house." Or "the basement is dirty and gross, clean it and paint it, and I'll give you $1000."

    - I love the idea of providing desks in the rooms!

    - Sturdy cabinets are a must.

    - Built in broadband seems like a must these days. Same for cable tv.
    posted by gjc at 8:04 AM on July 31, 2011


    You need to get landlord's insurance; to do a walk-through of each area the renter can access with a checklist, taking digital photos along the way (give the renter a copy of both list & photos); register the property as a rental (my part of the world requires this; yours may not) and get a certificate of occupancy (also if required); and keep up on the property taxes.

    You may actually want to have the tenants pay for water separately, although the account should remain in your name--insert language in the lease about billing them & when it's due. The local landlords who deal w/students have told me that this cuts down on rampant water usage.

    Many college students will destroy all available surfaces: they've got no investment in cleaning anything. Gutting an apartment down to the studs and starting over is a not-uncommon occurrence around here, so be prepared.
    posted by thomas j wise at 8:05 AM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Oh, and you never mentioned laundry, but I would rather have had a cheap washer and dryer on site than a cheap projection TV.
    posted by Yorrick at 8:05 AM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Washing machine/drier (our current landlord put a coin-operated set in the big house we share with four other families . . . it's AWESOME. So much better than going to a laundromat), dishwasher, air conditioning. If you're providing basic furnishings, then twin bed, desk, bookshelf. Free Internet would be choice, too, and would have me choose one landlord over another, easily.
    posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:11 AM on July 31, 2011


    Lots of good advice here. If you put in a washer and dryer, do consider coin-operated models. My father-in-law is a landlord, and he puts them in the common areas of his houses/apartment buildings. He prices them much lower than the area laundromats, since he's not trying to make a profit on them; his goal is to make enough money to cover the water and electricity (since tenants aren't billed for those in the common areas) and to repair or replace the machines as they age.

    The machines have the added advantage that tenants pay a fixed price per load, regardless of its size. That encourages them to do a few large loads rather than many small loads, which in turn keeps the machines available more often for other tenants.

    Appliance stores that serve the commercial and industrial trade can sell you a couple of coin-operated machines.
    posted by brianogilvie at 8:22 AM on July 31, 2011


    Washer/dryer. Yes.

    Also, show them how to turn off the water supply to the toilet via the little dial under the tank. It's an incredibly simple thing, and it will come in useful, possibly saving you thousands in water damage repairs.
    posted by Sys Rq at 8:29 AM on July 31, 2011


    Response by poster: @Yorrick, PhoBWanKenobi, brianogilvie & Sys Rq - The house comes with a big dryer and washer (dishwasher too). Perhaps I could trade them for coin-operated ones...?

    And again, a big thanks to all the responses!
    posted by Ragingmelon at 8:35 AM on July 31, 2011


    Best answer: Ragingmelon, the requirements for insurance and you legal obligations will vary widely depending on your jurisdiction. I'd think about going through a reputable property management company if you're uncertain about what to do (try to get recommendations, since such companies can be useless, evil, money-grubbing and a liability).

    An inventory is an extremely in-depth list of everything that makes up the property and its condition. Eg:

    OUTSIDE: Three steps up to front door, second step cracked on left side (photo No. X)
    Door: Solid wood door, painted black. Silver door knocker.
    Silver house number, XX. Screw missing from second number (photo No. X)

    ENTRANCE HALL:
    Ceiling painted white
    Light fitting with cream-coloured light shade
    Walls painted white
    etc.

    I'm not sure if this is a legal requirement anywhere, but it's HIGHLY recommended so that at the end of the tenancy, you can point at the wall and say "There wasn't a hole there when you moved in. I'm keeping $500 of your deposit." or similar. (Equally, the tenants can say "Mate, the step was cracked when we got here. Not paying to have it fixed.".)

    There are companies that will do the survey for you.

    Regardless, you should also go through it with the tenants, ask them to sign that they agree with that it's accurate and give them a copy. The law on this will of course vary.

    tl;dr: legal minefield, get proper advice on property management.
    posted by NoiselessPenguin at 8:55 AM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Some cheap patio furniture and an old cheap BBQ in the backyard for parties. Make them provide their own propane.
    posted by blue_beetle at 9:16 AM on July 31, 2011


    Best answer: A passive thing, sure, but how about a 3-ring binder with a few packages of plastic sleeves, and some to-go menus from local places? Think local pizza places, Subway, where the best local ice cream place is, and some ethnic cuisine, if your town has such things. Leave some sleeves empty so they can put their own menus in there.

    I promise this will be used quite often. Place it in the kitchen on the counter or in an open shelf.
    posted by DisreputableDog at 9:27 AM on July 31, 2011


    As a student, my ideal house would have had...

    double beds in every room!!
    washing machine
    a living area/room with sofa and some armchairs
    some space we could use for parties (the cellar/basement was fine) - basically, unfinished space

    Everything else is a bonus. One house had a completely unfinished cellar area which we hung sheets up in and used for parties - BRILLIANT. Another house had a spare single bed in the kitchen, which made an impromptu sofa for us housemates, and a place for friends to crash in without having to sleep on the floor. Other posters have already nailed it regarding electronics &c - they'll have their own, and they'd only break them.

    As a landlord, I went for paint everything white once a year. That way it just didn't matter what they got up to, and if they really messed it up I could get them to re-paint themselves before moving out. Ultra cheap carpets or laminate. If it's OK for them to put up posters, say so (and if it isn't they will anyway, so make it OK:).
    posted by handee at 9:35 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Best answer: A friend of mine sent me this comment to post here:

    "One of you should point out to this guy that though he's getting a lot of security-deposit-related suggestions, security deposits are illegal in Ontario. He can take last month's rent and must use that to cover the last month's rent (not for anything else) and pay interest on it: http://www.ontariotenants.ca/law/act07.phtml#RTA105"
    posted by Dreadnought at 9:38 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


    One thing that makes student housing much, much better is the presence of a working washer and dryer. Not having to go out to do laundry is a huge improvement in quality of life.
    posted by number9dream at 9:47 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


    As far as dealing with the (nearly inevitable) pileup of dishes in the kitchen? I'd say, hire the cleaning service so that you know the kitchen is super clean at least every other week, and also, contract an exterminator to come by once a month. Ounce of prevention/pound of cure. Tenants are not going to want to alert you that there are cockroaches, and finding out at the end of a year will be gnarly.

    Not a psychologist, so I don't know how well this would work, but maybe allow the cleaning service to comment to anyone who is home that their job sure would be easier if the dishes were cleaned before cleaning day.
    posted by bilabial at 9:48 AM on July 31, 2011


    Best answer: As a college student/young renter, my requirements were:
    - sturdy (sturdy sturdy STURDY) doors, locks, bathroom fixtures,
    - good (not overly sensitive) fire and CO detectors,
    - the ability to get a security service,
    - being allowed to change out my window curtains,
    - protection from roommate shenanigans (locks on mini fridges = BRILLIANT.)
    - good air conditioning, heat, and water (I've lived in places with rusty water.)
    - dishwasher, clothes washer, and clothes dryer, and
    - a good outdoor trash receptacle.

    Hassles included:
    - the aforementioned cleaning arguments (I like the idea of a cleaning service - when I was in the dorms, we had that, and it reduced the stress to just whoever you shared an actual room with,)
    - not knowing how to answer the questions on the rental insurance forms (what percentage of your house's exterior is covered with each of the following substances, how far are you from the nearest fire station,) and
    - not knowing stuff like whether it was safe to put a fire pit on the back patio, whether it's illegal to put a couch on the front lawn, who to call if someone keeps leaving a shopping cart on the corner of your street, what to do if a neighbor is making a ton of noise, etc. I suggest you give them a copy of the PDF located on this page, and that the lease includes a "yes, I totally got a copy of that" line. The rest of the site has good info, too.

    As a word of caution, I worked a summer on the dorm restoration crew at my university. People would "paint" the walls with detergent (it would glow in the dark.) A few times kids tackled each other (practicing football while drunk) so hard they'd go through walls. The furniture, which was sturdy summer camp stuff, would be in pieces. Just... be ready for disasters. These are young people who have probably been isolated from the consequences of their actions their whole lives, and they've got a lot of time and energy to dispose of with a corresponding dearth of good judgement.
    posted by SMPA at 9:51 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Best answer: It was mentioned in passing upthread, but when I attended university my roommates and I were all science/engineering students. We put a 8x4-foot blackboard up in the dining room and it was used extensively for everything from notes to each other to working physics problems. We made it from a sheet of hardboard and some blackboard paint, so it was cheap.
    posted by Daddio at 9:52 AM on July 31, 2011


    Best answer: Oh, and if you have lighting pre-installed (ceiling lamps, etc.) give everyone a copy of the list of bulb types that go into each one, and where you can get them. Maybe even just tell them to let you know what needs to be replaced and charge them the cost of the bulb when you get there.

    Otherwise all the bulbs will be burned out by the end of the first or second year.
    posted by SMPA at 9:53 AM on July 31, 2011


    Having spent way too long in UG/grad student housing, I would say:

    + Good insulation, solid doors, and good windows. Rather than any recreation items, these make life in close quarters and cold climates bearable.
    + Nthing A/C units. Older ones are heavy, hard to move, and energy-hogging, so a room with an A/C already in the window would be great.
    + Nthing washer and dryer. Coin op is fine. And a little extra $$$ for you.
    + Flexibility on move-ins. The student housing shuffle is a nightmare parking-wise, truck-rental-wise, and friend-helping-wise, so a landlord who lets you start bringing stuff over early or even move in as soon as the last tenant is out (and the room is cleaned and painted) is nothing short of an angel.
    + Storage for bikes, etc.
    + Some concessions for paint, decor. Maybe even a few picture hooks in the walls already. I once had a landlord who was having the room professionally painted before I moved in, and gave me a choice of 3 colors. It was a nice gesture.

    A word of caution about installing locks on everything: students inevitably lose keys, and will probably try to pry things open/break in rather than call you. And do you really want to maintain copies of every key? Maybe giving them a space to put their own combination locks on things like fridges could work, I don't know for sure. Also, if you get those "do not duplicate" keys for front doors and rooms, they will find someone to duplicate them anyway.
    posted by lily_bart at 10:15 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


    You might consider restricting your renters to graduate students. In my experience, they tend to stay in one place more so they have a more long term approach to the quality of the property, and they tend to be more mature and less dickheadish.
    posted by biffa at 10:32 AM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Best answer: Bike racks, preferably in a garage or covered porch, especially in that weather. They should have space for multiple bikes and allow different kinds of locks.

    Enough cupboard space to store all the dishes, pots, and utensils, and still leave a cupboard per tenant. If you're renting separate rooms, folks are probably going to want to keep much of their food separate. This makes it easy.

    Decent counter space - imagine all of the appliances (coffee maker, toaster, maybe a kettle) and imagine two people trying to cook separately. Having enough space in the kitchen is a godsend.

    Dishwasher = excellent.

    Garbage disposal = excellent.

    Your cellphone number.

    A clear indication of what to do in the case of a pipe bursting, toilet clog, faucet leak, faulty window. If you'd rather fix those things ASAP, make it known, and take care of it as soon as it's reported. Those things will save utilities and aggravation, and some tenants might just ignore some of the less obvious nuisances.

    Locks on bedroom doors. Proper garbage and recycling cans outside, and a clear list of recyclables inside.

    Decent blinds on all of the windows. Ikea makes some inexpensive wood slats that seem to hold up. Don't get the gross $4 plastic roll-up shades.

    Double paned windows that lock well.

    Good lighting. Every ceiling light on a dimmer. Good fans in the bathrooms - for humidity and smells.

    Multiple electrical outlets per room, especially in the bedroom and common spaces. You do NOT want renters stringing together extension cords.

    Fire extinguisher.

    Propane BBQ outside would be amazing, but that might depend on the kind of tenants you are expecting.

    Nice white or very light grey walls. Not "linen white" which usually reads as sickly yellow. If tenants are allowed to paint walls, that would be great - but make sure to ask the new tenants if they'd rather you paint it back to white for them. Tenant paint-jobs are usually very sloppy and can drop onto baseboards, floors, ceilings, electrical outlets. I've known some landlords who ask the tenant what color they'd like their bedroom (sometimes out of 10 options or so - nothing too dark), and they do the painting for them. This prevents painting mishaps, which are otherwise a given with most college renters.

    Hardwood floors in all rooms. Tile or other flooring in the bathrooms, kitchen and laundry area.

    Are you requiring them to do lawn mowing? If so, provide a push lawn mower. If not, include it in the rent and have someone come do it every few weeks.

    In the winter, I would gather snow removal might be necessary. Provide a snow shovel and a list of the government regulations regarding speed of removing snow from sidewalks and house entrance.

    Dry storage in the basement or attic.

    You could price out the cost of a monthly cleaning service (e.g. two people for 4 hours). Ask the tenants if they would like to split the cost of this service. You might even subsidize it. Make it clear that they cannot leave all messes to the cleaners, but they will do a more thorough job than most college students living on their own for the first time. This will save long-term wear and tear on your house.

    Any combination of the above would be 900% better than a one-time investment in a flat screen LCD or projector system or foosball table.
    posted by barnone at 10:35 AM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


    For more than three people, I'd strongly suggest two fridges. I'm a grad student and moving out of my current place partly because of the fridge situation. If you really want to make the place great, good soundproofing between rooms is a worthy investment too.
    posted by peppermind at 10:50 AM on July 31, 2011


    Air hockey. That is all.

    The big blackboard (or whiteboard) idea is great, though.

    Whatever you put in, expect it to be destroyed. I worked on staff for university housing as my work-study, and my parents have been landlords to college students. I don't know what gets in to 18-22-year-olds to make them complete violent sociopaths, but it happens. I guess a lot of them have never had to clean up after themselves or take responsibility for their own actions and it shows. If I had to build student housing, I'd make it bomb-proof with a drain in the middle of the floor so you could just hose everything down with bleach in-between tenants. But maybe I'm just jaded.
    posted by Green Eyed Monster at 10:53 AM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Best answer: So far the assumption seems to be that all residents in this house are going to be male.

    That's kind of dickish, so here's what I would want as a female resident.

    Big, working fridge
    Properly maintained oven
    Locks on all doors (preferably even with special keys)
    Showers WITHOUT water restriction devices in the showerhead.
    Sound proofed windows that can lock.
    A washer and dryer unit.
    A landlord who has my safety in mind.
    Windows and doors that have been appropriately sealed so it's not drafty in the wintertime and expensive as hell to cool in the summer.
    Well lit bathrooms and bedrooms.
    A dishwasher.
    posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:58 AM on July 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


    Best answer: A double basin sink is a godsend in shared living situations, if only for providing a designated overflow location for dirty dishes. It's the MetaTalk of kitchen cleanliness.

    Also, if you're renting to engineering students, there's a significant chance that they'll have esoteric internet connectivity needs that you won't be able to anticipate. It's probably better to just let them handle those sorts of things, though you could offer to optionally provide internet at a fair price.

    To wit, I'd want at least 12 Mb downstream, a few static IP addresses (or native IPv6), and the ability to use my own networking gear, which includes a WRT54G router running custom firmware and a headless Linux box acting as an OpenVPN and print server, amongst other things. I enjoyed a similar setup in undergrad, and let me tell you, it was pretty awesome to print something at the library and have it waiting for me in my room when I got home. I was a Geology major. Think of what the Computer Science undergrads will do!
    posted by SemiSophos at 11:13 AM on July 31, 2011


    I always desired actual wired ethernet in my household. Us nerds loved to play games and share boatloads of information. Wired > wireless networking.
    posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:21 AM on July 31, 2011


    Response by poster: @NoiselessPenguin - Ah, now I understand what you meant. I'll be sure to look at the legal aspect.

    @Dreadnought - Thanks, ^

    By the way, the whiteboard/blackboard idea is brilliant!
    posted by Ragingmelon at 11:44 AM on July 31, 2011


    A fridge with an icemaker hooked up. Not necessarily the kind that gives you ice in the door, just a working icemaker in the freezer.
    If you think you will get engineering/architecture students, consider a drafting table. They will probably all be drafting on computers, but they are an excellent workspace for building models, doing the odd spot of hand drafting/rendering, etc, and if you get one with a surface that can be adjusted to vertical, it can be stored out of they way pretty easily. I would have killed for a drafting table at home while I was in college.
    posted by Adridne at 1:10 PM on July 31, 2011


    Best answer: Oh, yes, definitely, to the (as much as you can stand plus one extra) excess work surfaces in the kitchen and ethernet/power/cable/etc. connections in the rooms. There is essentially no upper limit to the necessary amount of work space in a kitchen when four adults share it. I've been in hostel kitchens with four adults where easily 10 square feet of counter were being used at once, not counting any space being used by the dishrack, toaster, mixer, coffee machine, and plug-in griddle. If you have space to put in a breakfast bar or central island, do it.

    You also want electrical outlets in common areas, for the cleaning people and such. And be sure to be very very clear on rules like "don't daisy chain your power strips" and "if you keep popping your GFCI outlet or blowing fuses call me right away." You should make sure the electric service to the house is above-average (and get a bigger water heater as soon as it comes time to replace the existing one.) And if you don't have GFCI outlets (or the equivalent, I assume this is the same in Canada) in the bathroom and kitchen, get some.

    And I found even more good printouts on that Waterloo city site. I have to say, as a city government type, they've really got a lot of great resources for you and your tenants - far better than most city governments provide. The University also has some good stuff you should look at, too.

    Come to think of it the very last thing you should invest in is a foosball table.
    posted by SMPA at 1:14 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Since I'm not finding it mentioned above, I'll bring up what seems the big issue on housing/rental related threats the last month or so around here: bed bugs. Not sure if it's become an issue in your community, but worth checking on as a new landlord, especially since college kids coming and going will likely track in whatever vermin are about. Likewise, as far as furniture/gimmicks for the rental pad, you'll want to consider the challenges that various sorts of accessories might have if an infestation of any type (bed bugs, roaches, mice, etc.) hits. Based on those other recent threads, it sounds like there's not always much that can be done with certain kinds of pests, but maybe worth consulting with a decent exterminator in the area and factoring in the appropriate amount of back-up funds for whatever arrangement of furniture, etc., you settle on in case a bug problem arises.
    posted by 5Q7 at 1:30 PM on July 31, 2011


    Mr. Beans suggested a stripper pole/fireman's pole (just imagine the tennants that would attract!)
    But in all seriousness, I would not want to live in a house where I had to pay to use the washer/dryer. Part of the appeal of a house vs apartment complex is the appliances.
    Not sure if this is an issue or possibility, but I always look to see that the bedrooms have overhead light fixtures. I don't want to try to adequetly light a room with lamps. I would also have to agree that I am always on the lookout for tons of electrical outlets.
    A double sink in the kitchen has always appealed to me and I think it makes doing dishes much easier. I also want a garbage disposal, pantry or lots of cubbord space and a extra freezer would be awesome.
    For liability reasons these ideas might not be the best but a trampoline and/or above ground pool would be so much fun. A fire pit out back would make for some awesome summer BBQs. A tetherball setup would be fairly simple and great entertainment. Badmitton/volleyball net?
    When can we move in?
    posted by Pork n Beans at 1:33 PM on July 31, 2011


    Best answer: Most of the ideas are very nice for the tenants, but not for you. A washing machine and dryer will probably break very quickly, as will a dishwasher. You do not need to paint rooms for each student.

    Really, renting to students is a nightmare. There is a reason why 'slumlords' rent to students--they don't have to deal with all of the hassles. People in college aren't trying to be selfish, but they just have no idea of how to take care of things. Give them the bare minimum. You want to have a fast turnover rate. In college, students go from one housing situation to the other. You are going to be the one cleaning out those mini fridges, ESPECIALLY if you can't legally have a deposit where you are at.

    I can tell that you really, really want to be a good landlord. If you bend over backwards to give the under-25 student renters nice things, you will become jaded very quickly. BARE MINIMUM. Fridge. Running water. Working stove/oven. Locks on doors. No pool table. This will help you maintain your sanity and keep your checking account balance where it should be.

    Have you thought about renting out the house as a whole?
    posted by 200burritos at 1:59 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Best answer: My university house would have been better if it had had the following landlord-friendly amenities:
    - more shelving in the common areas of the house
    - no carpet, just hard, cleanable floors
    - sturdy hooks on the backs of the doors to hang coats, towels, etc
    - a picnic table in the yard
    - a full-length mirror, near the bathroom or front door, very firmly attached (screwed into all four corners)
    - extra-large outdoor garbage cans / recycling containers
    - free cleaning supplies (mop, bucket, mop squeezer, mr. clean, windex, trash bags, toilet brush for every toilet, sponges, comet, maybe even a vacuum cleaner w/ lots of bags)
    - a hair trap in the drain
    posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:48 PM on July 31, 2011


    Oh, and put in a shower curtain that magnetically sticks to the inside of the tub. College kids are notorious for leaving the curtain outside the tub and flooding the floor.
    posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:49 PM on July 31, 2011


    Response by poster: Have you thought about renting out the house as a whole?

    In Waterloo, many houses are built for students, like mine; they aren't very suitable for a family to rent out.
    posted by Ragingmelon at 2:58 PM on July 31, 2011


    Best answer: A lot of good advice here. I am going to suggest that in all seriousness you heavily advertise to the graduate school and if there is a medical school contingent. Grad students are usually more responsible due to their age and being more focused on their graduate program. Graduate or professional students are also inclined to be long term renters as well so the madhouse of undergraduate move outs will be very reduced. Also a consideration, but graduate students get more funding than undergraduates or at least they do in the US so graduate cash-flow.

    Protect yourself as a landlord. Seriously, consider the rules carefully and have CLEAR rules on the lease. Things I have in my lease:

    * no subletting;
    * no guests over a certain amount of time due to possible code occupancy violations;
    * pet rules i.e., limited pets and pet lease stating that I can rescue animals due to neglect. In your situation I would say NO pets;
    * clear dates rent is due and a penalty structure for lateness (this may be different because of your location/municipality rules);
    * very clear roles and responsibilities e.g., who is responsible for maintenance and what is timely. People point out that you need to be on the speed dial and my addition to that is that the tenants need to inform YOU in a timely manner about things needing to be fixed or concerns

    Amenities that are important to consider:
    * parking conditions in the neighborhood. You do not need to build a garage but be able to answer what about parking questions;
    * washer dryer;
    * dishwasher though I will admit that this can be an invitation to breakdown;

    Any amenity you offer has this caveat - YOU will be held responsible for its maintenance and care if it breaks down. Yes, your tenants used it but it is now considered part of the contract you have engaged in so it is now on your list of things.

    If you decide to do wooden floors, make sure you have a real nice, durable poly coat. No expensive oil rubbed Brazilian cherry but DURABLE wooden floors.

    There is a lot more, of course, and I read this thread with interest.
    posted by jadepearl at 2:59 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


    The other units in the 6-plex where I live tend to be rented to groups of students, and I've rarely seen the premises respected. From the girls who left a year's worth of garbage rotting on the balcony (the wood had to be replaced), to the guys who did so much damage I saw the landlord carting in a few room's worth of drywall... it's always interesting to watch the repair phase between groups of student renters. Real eye-opener - I NEVER want to be a landlord.
    posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 4:00 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


    Having experience with the Waterloo rental market (as a student renter) and having graduated from Laurier: rent to UW students. They are very likely to be quiet and focused on studying. If you can help it, don't rent to Laurier students. They will get drunk and punch holes in your wall.

    You can put a no-pets clause in your lease, but Ontario's landlord-tenant law holds such clauses to be unenforceable.
    posted by ewiar at 4:39 PM on July 31, 2011


    Best answer: You're building a rooming house, rather than a shared house, which has its issues.

    In shared houses, the occupants are responsible for finding roommates and normally furnish/share the common spaces themselves -- and, yes, argue mightily over cleaning rosters, fridge allocation and all the rest. But you rent the place to one or two people, who sign a lease, and let them be responsible for collecting the rent from everyone else. This means they choose their own roommates, which makes people marginally more responsible.

    Rooming houses (like dorms) need much more intervention: you'll have a lot of people living only in their bedrooms (because they're living with strangers whom they may not like or trust -- or even share a common language with) keeping their food in their rooms, cooking on hotplates in their rooms, etc. You will also have a great many people who've never cooked before trying to use the kitchen, people who don't like to flush using the bathroom, hoarders who keep garbage stacked in the closets. There's a reason that most dorms have an RA around: you need someone to keep an eye on things. I lived in a graduate dorm with roommates who diversely: 1) set a pot on the stove on high, then fell asleep, setting off the fire alarm and evacuating the whole building 2) left the kitchen filthy and expected me to clean up, because I was female and 3) ate off of the same paper plate for weeks: he kept it (dirty) in the cupboard between uses.

    If you really want to have a rooming house full of students, why not build a one-bedroom suite in the basement and find a reliable couple (grad students?) who will be willing to be super/landlord surrogates in exchange for much-reduced rent? Such people could cut the lawn, clean the public areas, stop stupid parties, mediate quarrels and enforce house rules.

    Hire a gardening service to cut the lawn, look after the plants, rake the leaves et al. Hire a cleaning service to scrub the public areas (kitchen/bathroom) replace light bulbs/remove trash every two weeks. Build the cost of both of these into the rent.

    Yes to washer/dryer service (just old top-loaders are fine: they will be demolished but they're cheap; keep them in the basement and be prepared for floods, because someone will indeed put three cups of detergent in one load) and to dishwashers. Make the utilities all-inclusive.

    Provide showers with doors, not curtains, and make sure the water pressure is good. Get a tankless water heater, so that one idiot will not be able to use all the hot water for their 5:20 AM shower. Make things simple but not fancy, and keep them in good repair.

    Make it non-smoking, and provide an outdoor smoking area. Cuts down on damage and fire danger.

    Hover. Show up every week or so: you're not invading their space, but you'll know if they've got a dead couch on the lawn. Keep an eye on things. Bad tenants will drive the good ones away, and bring in more bad ones -- I once lived in a nightmarish party house for three days (but it was a month before I could find someplace else to go: I actually abandoned all my stuff and went to sleep on a friend's couch) and I think it was actually torn down shortly after that group of 'tenants' left.

    In your position I would divide the house into three or four individual units (bathroom/kitchen for each unit, however small and sketchy) and rent them out as apartments. It would cost more up front but you'll get couples, older and more responsible people, and higher rents.
    posted by jrochest at 4:45 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


    Best answer: I strongly recommend printing out the emergency contact details for you and for the plumber/handyman and posting it up somewhere obvious. You're much more likely to get a prompt call to fix something if they don't have to hunt through their paper work for the phone numbers.
    posted by kjs4 at 6:10 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


    @Ragingmelon,: we always had everybody sign the lease, but the house was rented out as a whole. Rooms were almost never rented out individually. The landlord meets everybody who moves in, but doesn't need to find each tenant her/himself. If you would like more information on my experiences, feel free to mail me!
    posted by 200burritos at 6:36 PM on July 31, 2011


    Not just "somewhere obvious" but put a copy of that contact info sheet on a wall in every room. Maybe inside the closet door?

    You've seen the "Help, I'm locked in my bedroom and can't get out!" thread, right?
    posted by bilabial at 12:39 PM on August 6, 2011


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