Tenant screening when renting to a group of students

7 Replies

My rental property is just being rehabbed and will be ready for tenants in the new year.
I've had investment properties for a number of years now, but always rented to family and friends, so this part is new to me.

The area is near a university so there are a lot of students looking for accommodations.  There are many houses being used as rooming houses (renting each room separately),  but I'm not interested in that approach.  First off these are illegal in my neighbourhood, and secondly, even if I tried to get away with it, the city is aggressively trying to get rid of these and it's simply not a risk I'm willing to take.

Therefore, I need to rent the house as a single unit, and I will likely end up with a number of student applicants, and I'm not sure what the best way to screen them is.  It's a 5BR 2.5bath unit for what it's worth.

I've reviewed the ultimate guide to tenant screening, but that is focused on renting to a single person / family.  Does the process change when you have a group of unrelated people like students renting a place?

Some specific questions I have:

  1. How many people are actually on the rental agreement?  One, or all of the tenants?  Assuming everyone who is living there to be on the agreement, but that leads to the next question.
  2. How do you verify income? Is it an aggregate from all the people on the agreement, or do you get one party (possibly with a co-signer) that has 3 times the rent as income?


I currently live in a house with 5 other roommates.  We are all on the lease.  I think the landlord did that so she could come after any of us if the rent is not paid. I would put everyone on the lease.  Also stipulate how long someone can have a guest stay without notifying you.  In TX I think the law states if someone stays a certain length of time they can be considered a tenant.

I was at a seminar a while ago and the speaker spoke about renting houses to students.  He said he never rents to students.  He will rent to the students parents but not the student.  That seemed like good advice to me.  

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All of them on the lease, jointly and severly liable i think is what you need to say.Make sure youare within any local guidelines on unrelated people.

I have six SF homes that are rented to students (all 3 or 4 bedrooms). I've come to this as my standard practice:

1)  Pull all students on the lease jointly and severally liable for to TOTAL amount. 

2)  Include a co-signer/financial responsibility form for parents of each student.  My document does NOT allow parents have any rights to the property, though.  [I always try to work directly with the kids rather than the parents...the kids are in college to learn life mgmt, too, right? ]

3)  If the city has any "rules" about multiple unrelated people as mine does,  I print out the city's website page and make all sign this as part of the lease.  [Our city enforces only with complaint...so I make friends with the neighbors so they call me first to handle any issue!]

4) Screening:  In general, screen the kids for background check and parents for financial.  

(Tip: In the lease for multiple roommates, I do break down how much each roommate pays with a different "cents" which helps identify in my accounting who is paying.  ie:  500.01;  500.02; 500.03 and so on.) I use erentpayment.com for online rent payment and in my set-up, I have the payment breakdown in the rent reminder email notification that goes to all.  If anyone is late, the rent is late for all "in common".  

I've never had problems with "my" students, with paying!  Upperclassmen are ideal, whereas, sophomores coming from required dorm living take more education on this whole home responsibility thing.

Sorry, if I may have gone a little off track. :-)

Thanks @Bobby Eastman , @Colleen F. for your replies.

I didn't know about the unrelated people thing, so I'll have to check into that.

@Patricia Hinojos , sounds like you have a good system in place and lots of great points in there.  I especially like point #4, screen the kids for background and parents for financial.  The 1 cent trick is hilarious too and a great way to differentiate similar payments.


You’ll want to have each person on the lease. Since you’re dealing with a younger population that doesn’t have higher incomes or credit you will want a co-signer for each person.

You’ll want to verify income of the co-signed and run a light background check on them as well.

Easy thing you can do is if there are any apartment buildings designed for student housing in your area go and ask them for an application and what their process is. You can model your screening process against theirs.

@Patricia Hinojos on your "#3" do you have them all sign the city ordinance for unrelated parties because you are violating it? Then if you get a complaint and the city cracks down you kick people out?

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