In many university towns, students are the landlord’s financial backbone. With more than half of all college students living in off-campus housing away from parents, this population represents an opportunity for property owners to keep their university-based rental units consistently occupied. But before you hand over the keys, prepare your properties for the upcoming student influx, and protect yourself from legal repercussions with sound lease agreements.

Taking care of renters: six ways to step up your space

Basic safety first

Renters and parents want to know if your place is safe. Assure them it is by installing adequate lighting on the perimeter of the property, in hallways and stairwells. Install new door locks and check window locks to keep trouble out. If the property is fenced, inspect it and make needed repairs.

Safety 2.0: fire alarms, smoke detectors and CO2 monitors

Install or check the batteries in existing alarms and detectors, and show prospective tenants where they are and how they work, and perform an evacuation drill, so everyone knows how to get out.

Privacy matters

Install solid doors between rooms, to guarantee tenants some personal and private space. Good storage is a necessity, whether shelving for textbooks or closets for winter gear or sports paraphernalia. Use every inch of space (under the bed pull out drawers, lift-top tables) to provide extra room and privacy.

Dude, where’s my car parked?

Student parking’s a huge plus in a college town. Provide clear instructions on where and how to park, any vehicle size restrictions and if guest parking is allowed.

Professional cleaning/pest control

Before the first renter arrives, hire a professional company to deep-clean appliances and bathrooms, and have a pest control pro check for infestation. Nothing’s worse than taking the first month’s rent, then getting the call that the tenant found dead roaches in the microwave.

Digital done right

Electrical outlets, power strips and WiFi matter to today’s college students; the live on their devices. Check the strength of your properties’ WiFi signal, have at least two outlets per room and offer tenants a power strip for a nominal monthly fee.

Six solid lease agreements and marketing tips

Advertise where the students are looking

Wall flyers and posters in the student lounge are inefficient in the digital era. Use social media and know which sites are current with college students. If the university sells advertising space on their website, invest and reach the audience wants your rentals. Include photos of your property and add a “kicker” line to attract attention, such as rent- including utilities or cable TV.

Rent by the bed, not the apartment

This makes it easier to replace a departing tenant without affecting the status of the others living in the apartment.

Invest in background checks

It’s uncomfortable to ask for anyone’s references and job history, but a collegiate background check is no different from an employment check. Weed out obvious problems before they move into your unit, and save headaches later.

Keep updated contact information on renters

If a renter is missing, ill or fails to pay on time, you may need the assistance of the next-of-kin.

Be date-specific

Know the beginning and end dates of every school semester, and include them in the lease agreement, as part of the move in-move out deadlines. This allows timely turnover of property and avoids the “deadbeat dilemma” of students overstaying their paid welcome.

Put the house rules in writing

Include expectations regarding personal conduct, visitors, pets and basic maintenance in the lease agreement, and renters initial each rule, signifying they have read, understood and will abide by them, or face specified consequences.