Rental Tips

COLLEGE STUDENTS AS RENTERS

Narragansett Properties specializes in renting to college students.  With The University of Rhode Island, a campus of 18,000 students near by and hundreds of summer vacation homes available during the off season, it is the perfect setting for high end student rentals.  Over the years we have rented hundreds of homes to thousands of college students.  Most of our renters have not had any experience taking care of a house, thus calling on our innovative skills to keep both students and owners happy.  We have assembled a list of some of the things we have learned, often painfully, over the years.  The suggestions are in no particular order and feel free to revisit the site as the list continues to grow longer.

  1. Renters forget to drag containers to the curb on garbage collection day.  Have in yard pick-up for trash and recyclables. 
  2. Use trash cans with attached tops. Walmart sells Hyper Tough trash cans made from recycled plastic for $19.74/can.
  3. Wood beds will break over time and box springs are easily damaged.  Use metal platform beds with foam mattresses. Amazon and Walmart sell a Zinus queen bed for $75 and a Zinus 8-inch foam mattress for about $200.
  4. Use semigloss paint throughout the house.  Not the prettiest, but it’s easier to clean marks and scuffs, and usually won’t be pulled off with tape.
  5. This will sound counter intuitive, but, if it’s not too difficult, remove storm doors for the winter.  Blustery winds will tear the doors off, ruining door frames and nearby sconces.  Consider installing a retractable screen door.
  6. When painting bathrooms or dampness prone rooms use mildewcide paint or mix a mildewcide additive with the paint.  We offer free bottles of additive to our clients who need them.
  7. Make sure the bathroom fan goes on when the light is switched on as opposed to a separate fan only switch which might not be used every time.  An electrician can make this modification for you.
  8. If water is leaking into the room below the bathroom, check the caulking around the tub or shower before looking for a leaking pipe.  More often than not, we have found that water on the floor is seeping through old caulking rather than there being a plumbing problem.
  9. Do not leave repairs uncorrected.  We have found that it sends a message to renters that damage is acceptable and tends to lead to the need for more repairs.
  10. Leave a healthy supply of cleaners, soaps, brooms, sponges, shovels sidewalk salt, and a vacuum.  You can only hope they will use them, but you can almost certainly be assured they won’t go out and buy them.
  11. If your renters or neighbors are driving or parking on the lawn, install corral fencing to stop them.  They are cheap, easy to install and improve the looks of the place because they delineate the lines of your property.
  12. If you replace a refrigerator, do not buy one with an ice maker.  They always break and when it does it will be expensive to replace it with one that will also break shortly.
  13. Leave signs around the house informing renters of how to deal with particular problems.  For example, “The water shut off is under the stairs behind the small door.” “If the toilet fills with water, do not flush a second time.”  “Don’t turn off the thermostat if you are leaving the house for more than a few hours.”
  14. Post a “dos and don’ts” list next to the active door. 
  15. Attach a permanent sign to the deck, “No more than xx people on the deck.  Use at your own risk.”
  16. Do not use lawn furniture that is made with any glass.
  17. Do not use patio umbrellas.
  18. Communicate frequently with student renters.  Email the same messages to the parents.   You will be amazed at how this will reinforce your instructions.
  19. During the last three years, Rhode Island has experienced several periods of single digit freezes resulting in frozen and burst pipes.  Make sure your renters know where the main water shut off is in case of an emergency.
  20. If a plumber must be called for a frozen pipe repair, make sure they insulate or get heat to the site of the repair before the next freeze.
  21. Stay away from pedestal tables.  Someone will sit on the edge of the table and one or more of the feet will break.
  22. Do not put nonconforming handles on sliding glass doors.  They are designed to shatter if undo pressure is put on a side or corner.
  23. Hang televisions on walls rather than placing them on tables where they can be knocked over.
  24. Attach a lock box outside with an extra house key for when they lock themselves out.  Make sure they put it back after use.
  25. Keep an extra set of room keys in the house for all those times they lock themselves out of their rooms.  Keep them in the kitchen or perhaps on the sill above the door.
  26. Do enable them to lock their bedrooms.  A very disappointing number of things are stolen by guests.  
  27. Replace smoke and CO alarm batteries every year.  Don’t expect renters to replace them.  They will disable them if they hear the “low battery” beep.
  28. Replace smoke and CO alarms every five years.  You can remember by doing it every year devisable by five.
  29. Have a clause in the lease stating that if, upon inspection you find the house in need of a cleaning, you can have it cleaned at the renter’s expense.
  30. Also, in the lease, no party rentals!  There’s nothing like finding a bouncy house in your side yard for someone’s birthday.
  31. When students move out, inventory the kitchen.  More likely than not you will need to replace sets of pots and pans, glasses, dishes, etc.  See attached for cost effective recommendations.
  32. Pump up toilets.  If you have a lower level toilet that uses a pump to expel the wastewater, be sure the pump has a one horsepower motor.  Anything less has no chance of handling things they drop in such as feminine products.
  33. Decks are extremely popular with students and summer vacationers and are valuable additions to a house.  Make sure handrails are solid, steps are wide enough, balusters are less than 4 inches apart and the deck is attached to the building with long lag bolts.
  34. If you have a disposal, tell the students to shoot some liquid dish detergent in it, turn it on, and run the water for ten seconds.  This will eliminate the grease buildup that causes the sink and the dishwasher to back up.
  35. Schedule a heating system inspection every Fall.
  36. If you have hot water piping for heating, have antifreeze put in the pipes every few years.
  37. Make sure controls such as circuit breaker boxes and water shutoffs are not behind locked doors like an owner’s closet, unused bedroom or the garage.