Canadian post-secondary students eager to get back to their university or college campuses to resume their studies in person instead of virtually may be struggling to find suitable digs to rent. For example, Georgian College in Owen Sound, Ontario, recently appealed to that community to help provide student rental housing to address what it sees as a shortage of adequate rental units in the near and long term.

The challenge isn’t exclusive to Georgian College’s students in Owen Sound. With an estimated 1.5 million full-time students enrolled in Canadian universities and colleges, there’s a significant demand for student housing, particularly in large urban centres where the cost of rent tends to be higher than in smaller cities. The demand for student rental housing is expected to rise nationwide.

That presents an opportunity for property owners across Canada who are looking to supplement their income by renting apartments, condos, or other types of single residential dwellings to post-secondary students. However, risks for property owners accompany that opportunity, which highlights the need for landlords, private property owners, and property management companies to protect their properties and themselves from losses, damages, and third-party lawsuits with student rental housing insurance.

college students

Why Student Rental Housing Insurance Matters

Renting a property, apartment, or room to a student has its perks. For instance, wherever there’s a university or college campus in Canada, there’s always a need for off-campus student rental housing. In addition, student renters tend to be less picky about the property’s finishings and more concerned with the cost of rent and the location of the property to their schools. Post-secondary students also tend to have financial support from their families or a student loan, meaning there’s a lower likelihood you’ll get stiffed since many students may pay their entire leases in full from the get-go.

Nevertheless, a lot can go wrong. You might have visions of the film “Animal House” and tenants like Bluto Blutarsky wreaking havoc, but you can allay those fears by getting insured and adequately screening your student tenants.

Property owners, after all, face a higher risk of property damage due to negligence since moving away from home might be a first-time experience for many of your student renters. There also tends to be a high turnover rate year-over-year and extended absences since students often travel or head home during their reading weeks and holiday breaks. That leaves your property more vulnerable to vandalism and break-ins.

A student rental housing insurance policy can help protect your property and its contents, as well as provide you with financial support if you are named in a third-party bodily injury or property damage lawsuit. Without insurance, you’re on your own if you’re named in a lawsuit or if your dwelling is damaged by severe weather, fire, or a flood. Those costs can easily run into thousands of dollars and put you in financial peril.

How to Reduce Your Student Housing Liability Risks

Even with a landlord insurance policy in hand, you need to take steps to mitigate the liability risks you face. Keep in mind a contract between you and an insurance company is not a maintenance contract. Taking proactive steps to reduce the threats you face serves two purposes: it lowers the chances of small issues becoming large, expensive ones, and it can help keep your annual premium low.

Here are a few ways you can reduce your student rental housing liability risks:

  • Get a security deposit. Asking your student tenants for a security or damage deposit upfront is common. It can help offset the risk of interior damages to your property caused by the student or their guests. In general, asking for the equivalent of one month’s rent as a security deposit is reasonable. When the student’s lease is up, and they are moving out, you can return the funds to them if there are no damages to your property.
  • Have the student’s parents co-sign the lease. Most young adults don’t have a stellar credit history (or one at all) and may not have a rental housing payment history to share. So protect your investment by insisting their parents or a legal guardian co-signs the lease and run the same checks on them as you would for a student tenant, including credit history, criminal record checks, and income verification.
  • Do necessary maintenance regularly. Whether inside or outside the property, be proactive in making necessary repairs to the dwelling. Leaving a minor issue unaddressed can quickly escalate into a major one that may result in significant damages to your building. Most insurers won’t pay a claim for property damages that could have been averted by regular maintenance.
  • Inspect the property semi-annually. Include in the lease that you will conduct exterior inspections quarterly (every three months) and interior inspections twice annually. That allows you to discover unreported maintenance issues and any lease violations by the tenant.
  • Include clauses in the lease. It’s your property. Therefore, you get to set the ground rules. Include clauses in your lease for things such as establishing quiet times to thwart the risk of noise complaints from neighbours, the maximum number of guests your tenants may have at a time, and outline what your student tenants’ responsibilities are. Don’t leave it to guesswork; put it in writing and have them sign it.
  • Get a snow removal contractor. Slips and falls account for most hospitalizations in Canada. As the property owner or manager, it’s your responsibility to ensure the driveway, entrance to the property, and nearby walkways or sidewalks are clear of snow and ice. Unless you’re keen to consistently shovel and salt your property’s asphalt throughout the winter months, hire a snow removal contractor to take care of it for you.
  • Insist student renters have tenant insurance. Your property’s insurance policy does not include coverage for your student renters’ possessions. Require your renters to provide proof of a valid tenant insurance policy, which will cover any loss or damage to their possessions, as well as provide them with liability coverage.

Err on the side of caution and protect yourself and your finances. Get a free student rental housing insurance quote, have a conversation with one of our licensed brokers about your concerns, and avoid the possibility of suffering expensive damages to your property or being saddled with a lawsuit.

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About the Author: Liam Lahey

Liam is the Content Marketing Manager at Zensurance. A writer and editor for more than 20 years, he has been published in several newspapers and magazines, including Yahoo! Canada Finance, Metroland Media, IT World Canada and others.