Tenant Retention in Off-Campus Housing

Monday, August 31, 2020

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It costs time and money for landlords to secure new tenants each year. This process often involves a full cleaning of the rental, extensive planning and marketing, responding to email and phone inquiries, screening applicants, selecting the tenants, and signing the lease.


Tenant changeover can be particularly common in the off-campus housing industry, as students tend to be more transient than the average tenant. It's recommended that these landlords focus on ways to keep students for their entire academic career. Generally speaking, most college and university programs last between two to four years.


Here are some tips on how to accomplish tenant retention in off-campus housing.


  1. Offer monetary incentives for a longer lease: 
    One method to encourage an extended lease is to offer a discounted rental rate if a longer lease is signed. For example, a 1-year lease would have a rental price of $1,000 per month, 2-year would be $950 per month, 3-year would be $900 per month and so forth. A tenant could save quite a bit of money if they were willing to commit to a longer lease.
  2. Offer discounted rent during months students aren’t occupying the rental:
    Most academic programs only last eight to nine months and typically students will be locked into a 12-month lease, where they pay for a few months when they aren’t occupying the unit. One option to help student tenants is to allow subletting. Another option is to offer a discounted rental rate over summer months when they move home.
  3. Offer bonuses or perks to students who find friends to join as roommates:
    In the event that there’s a vacancy within the rental unit, let the current tenants know that if they help fill that vacancy, they’ll be rewarded. The reward could be a small rent reduction for the month, a gift card, or something else.
  4. Offer a static monthly rent that won’t increase:
    An appealing offer to encourage longer leases is offering a static rental rate which won’t increase, if an extended lease is signed. This allows tenants to lock into a monthly rental rate that will not go up for the entire lease duration. This option can be particularly appealing in competitive student housing markets where rental rates rise frequently.
  5. Discuss lease renewals far in advance:
    Address the topic of lease renewals far in advance. Don't wait to ask about renewal until the last month, but rather be proactive by asking months ahead.
  6. Continuously improve the rental property:
    Improving the rental property or adding different amenities can entice students to stay. Keep in mind that renovations or improvements shouldn’t interfere with the tenants schedule; it’s best to do renovations when the rental is vacant. Improvements can range from cosmetic upgrades like painting to amenity upgrades like a new washer and dryer.
  7. Listen to current tenant's feedback and act upon it:
    Tenants like to have their opinions heard, and like it even more when their feedback is acted upon. If a tenant complains about something, address the issue promptly and try to resolve it. Being a responsive landlord is a great way to develop a positive relationship with tenants and increase the probability of them staying for more than just one year. 


Consider implementing some of these strategies to improve tenant retention. The hidden costs of replacing a tenant will almost always outweigh the costs of incentives to keep current tenants. 


SEE ALSO:  Important Components of Rental Property Listings

The Places4Students.com Team