Ah, college. For most people, the years spent in college can only be described as “interesting” times. Of course, not everyone gets caught up in the fast and frenzied college life, but it’s likely you had some sort of run-in with “that” guy on campus. Well, for some landlords, encounters with “that guy” is an everyday occurrence. Plenty of investors own rental property in college towns, and their long-term rental strategies are earning impressive profit margins. But, I wanted to know at what cost?
I contacted some New Western investors and asked them to share their most interesting stories about renting to college kids. Simply put, I feel these stories need no further introduction.
Instead, the situations faced by these landlords need only be prefaced by one, resounding takeaway: in my opinion, renter’s insurance is worth its weight in gold.
Paintball guns and pet racoons? College kids make the most interesting tenants.
1) With friends like that, who needs enemies?
“This was about 2006 or so. I owned property (let’s refer to it as #224) in a city that still felt like a small town, but was home to two decently-sized colleges. For the first few years, it all went smoothly. Small rental homes were in huge demand among young professionals, and I never had trouble finding a tenant. After a few years, I decided to invest in one more rental home on the same street (#246).
The girl who was renting #224 mentioned some of her school friends we looking to rent a house together and she asked if I had any other rentals available. What luck! #246 wasn’t on the market yet, but I figured, alright! This would save me time looking for new tenants. Plus, I diskliked reading credit reports and picking through applications for the screening process.
In hindsight, I should have sucked it up and screened them anyway. Shortly after the moved into 246, I guess they all had a falling out. From the vandalism that was done to one house, and then the other in retaliation, I saw enough evidence to venture a guess that one of the girls in #246 had stolen the boyfriend of tenant #224.
You’d think it was over at that point, but no. Soon, all three girls were calling me on my cell phone to cry about mean text messages and the problems they had with each other. I guess they thought I could help them patch their relationship or something, but I wasn’t having it. Before I could even figure out how to approach the situation, I guess they decided to show how displeased my “relationship counseling” had left them. All three tenants broke their lease and moved out without notice. They left the houses a wreck, but I’d rather clean up a mess like that than have to deal with schoolgirl drama.”
2) An excuse that went down the toilet.
One time, a college-age tenant of mine threw a lit firecracker in the toilet. The fuse didn’t go out like he’d thought, so he flushed it. It exploded and the toilet was ruined. What’s funny was how he tried to glue it back together and act like nothing happened. When I confronted him about it, he said the toilet was like that when he moved in. Okay.”
3) Party animals with paintball guns.
“A big party was thrown by the tenant in my property, and trash ended up everywhere. Sometime during the night, a couple of fraternity brothers decided to have a friendly competition against each other. Beer bottles and cans, regardless if they were empty or full, were situated around the house. Then they took turns shooting them with their paintball gun. Just imagine the damage that five drunken, rowdy college boys can accomplish with a paintball gun, indoors. Yes, it was that bad.”
4) The legacy of a tenant named “Tom”.
“I wish this wasn’t the same tenant in every instance, but it is. I managed a property that was rented to one college kid who was reliably unreliable. I’ll refer to him as “Tom” instead of his real name.
The fire department had to be called four times because of Tom. You see, he had this knack for putting food in the oven to cook before promptly falling asleep. Luckily there was never anything damaged much more than minor smoke damage, but I’ve never seen a kid so talented at burning various frozen foods to a crisp.
Another time, Tom started to run some water in the bathroom sink, for reasons that were never explained. I guess that was the moment Tom remembered he had to run a very important errand, so he left. Tom was gone for five hours. That water was overflowing onto the floor, down the hallway, and into the bedroom before finally getting soaked into the bedroom carpet.
Tom didn’t stay much longer.”
5) A girl who wanted to get back to nature.
“I would go for maintenance checkups now and then, and I kept having to call animal control because I’d find wild animals had found their way into different areas of the house. I was pretty sure everything was sealed, and I thought it was strange that so many different kinds of animals kept sneaking in and getting comfortable. I never expected that it was my tenant who was leading them into the house and letting them stay! She wanted them to be her pets, I thought she was crazy.”
6) Next time, just use the refrigerator.
“I guess there was an episode of MythBusters where they chilled a six pack of beer using a fire extinguisher. This kid decided to try it, but he used the wrong type of extinguisher. Instead of the kind that uses CO2, he used a dry chemical extinguisher that got away from him and made a huge mess.”
7) The pool party on the second floor.
“I rented out a two-story house that had a pretty big game room on the second floor. I guess they had what they assumed was a stroke of “genius” and put one of those big, blow up swimming pools up there. They apparently hadn’t formed a plan past the installation and use, considering they had no idea how they were going to remove all the water to take it down.”
8) She just really wanted a creative space.
“I rented to an art student who decided to paint the walls. Normally, that’s not such a big deal, but this girl had painted an entire room the blackest shade of black you can imagine. Every wall was painted, and so was the ceiling. Then, while the paint was still wet, she had thrown handfuls of glitter onto the walls and let it dry there.
When I tried everything I could to paint over the glitter, it showed through. Every surface had to be painstakingly scraped to get rid of the glitter before I could paint it back.”
9) The worst way to solve those “broke college student” problems.
“Most college kids are broke at some point, but I had a tenant steal my property’s fixtures, cabinet doors, and even the linoleum floors. I’m guessing they thought there was some monetary value in selling these things, and maybe there was to some extent. But, really? Linoleum floors?”
10) The grass is greener in the parking lot.
“A typical college party was thrown by a tenant of mine, and it looked like every guest decided to use the front yard as a parking lot. Practically all the landscaping was torn up, and a majority of the grass in the lawn had to be re-sodded.”
11) The pizza collector.
“One kid complained there were bugs, so I went to check out the place before I called an exterminator. Sure enough, there were bugs everywhere. He seemed oblivious as to why there was such a problem, but the answer was obvious. This guy was an accomplished pizza collector.
Pizza was everywhere. In boxes, on plates, there were old, half-eaten pizzas just laying around the whole house. There were stacks of pizza boxes in the pantry, under his bed, in the bathroom, and anywhere else he found space. Whole, half, and mostly-eaten slices were even laying on their own. No wonder the house had become a paradise for bugs.
Needless to say, that situation was taken care of immediately. But, even as stunned as I was, I still couldn’t help but wonder why he didn’t ever seem to finish a whole pizza.”
Don’t end up with nightmare stories of your own.
Granted, sometimes renting to college kids can be a pain. But, there seems to be a silver lining. The landlords who shared these stories admitted that, yes, they’ve had their fair share of troublesome tenants in a college town, but the good stories still outweigh the bad. The demand for affordable housing is always high in college towns, and I’ve overwhelmingly heard how it’s very little trouble to find tenants.
“There are always a few bad apples,” one landlord wrote. “But, really, that’s always the case no matter what age your tenants are. If you screen tenants beforehand and require renter’s insurance before they sign the lease, you can deal with most situations without any loss at all. I’ve actually had great returns off investing in a college town.”
If an all-night rager was thrown at your rental property, it doesn’t mean this is the end. Stay tuned. Next week, I’m going to update this story with ways to come back from a college-kid-worst-case-scenario.
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