Proceed with an online lease signing for college students?

5 Replies

I'm getting further and further along with my first unit.  The prospective tenants signed the "Agreement to Execute Rental Agreement" this past Saturday and provided the holding deposit, and now I need to send them the actual rental agreement.  The move-in date is 8/6, however they live out of town and won't be back for college until September (I told them I couldn't push the lease out a month).

Given that they don't live in town, will it suffice to have them sign it online (currently using an online forms management software that makes online signatures quite easy)?  And considering they aren't actually moving in on the move-in date, should I do the move-in inspection and hand them the keys once they get in to town?

I plan to send out my instructions and forms tomorrow (7/31), so advice would be greatly appreciated!



@Wade Penner Everything you’ve stated sounds good. The only thing I could add would be that I use docusign and pay extra for authentication. This is basically where docusign asks personal questions from your credit report to verify your identity prior to signing. I do this to avoid a scenario where someone says they didn’t sign.

Hi Wade, 

Please see the thread I commented on,  I am an experienced investor in the college rental market. It is a different animal and I would suggest the following tips... 

______________________My post _____________________________________________

I own a 3/1 ranch house 1 block from Rowan University (Glassboro)

It is a completely different market than Northern NJ (where I live). I charge $535 per bed room and they pay all their utilities (gas electric water).

SFR, 1 water meter, they pay. I put all of their names on 1 lease, though give them the option to pay their portion separately, always take 1.5 months security because college students love banging counter tops, throwing beer bottles, and tossing each other into walls after 2 shots of gin.

Students typically get their refund check end Sept-ish, I give them an option to pay Fall semester Sept-Dec (4 months) and spring semester Jan- May (5 Months) up front, with no discount. I provide a receipt for months paid upfront. Some students find it easier to pay it all up front since they have new found loan dispersement money, then can then budget accordingly for beer, POF premium, and netflix.

I write in the lease they need to take care of snow removal and lawn care, though I provide a mower. Any citations for violations I receive I gift to them, as per the lease.

If you WIND up purchasing, please write this down somewhere and staple it. This tip will save you from financial alot of stress in which I endured and cut my teeth on. If you want to target college students only, this is the best strategy:

Always rent from JUNE 1st to May 31st, 1 year lease. I send a letter to the house via regular mail in January. Every January. In the letter, I explicitly ask, if they want to renew for the following year, then I need to know by end of Feb. Why? If you do not do it this way then you risk running your unit vacant because college students tend to start looking for a place to stay around Feb-May for the following year, actually more like Mar-May, but you want the Ad up in Feb. After May, in a predominately non-commuter, most college students go home for the summer. And your house sits. When they return in September, they already know where they are going to live and they start the semester and the house sits vacant because you didn't put in on the market from Feb-May. I learned the hard way, trust me, staple this to your t-shirt. In Glassboro at least, its incredibly ****** market to rent to families, alot like chewing on glass, it may be different for other college towns of course, but Ive had to evict 1 family, and the other, they had a drug operation (found out from neighbors) and a family of 5 plus the family of 3 I rented to living out of the house.

I manage long distance, have contractors on speed dial, and several college friends I can call to run over to the house if needed for 50 bucks a trip. 

We've been using for a couple of years now and love it for electronically collecting rent and for "showing" a property online, getting applications, doing credit and background checks.    What it is missing though is an online lease that can be electronically signed.  I've been looking at Lease Runner for their lease (pre-built for our state, but also modifiable), $30/group for electronic signatures. Super familiar with Docusign (I use pandadoc for proposals and agreements in my core business) and other e-signature solutions, but am much more interested in getting an online lease solution.  The only one I've seen is Lease Runner.  I wish that Cozy would buy them and add that feature so I'd have everything in one solution.

College Rentals - we do 9mo academic year furnished rentals (9/15 to 6/15, quarter system), and then do Vacation Rentals in the summer time.  Our properties are top 10% here, so we end up getting a lot of women as tenants and visiting faculty. (and travel nurses in the Summer too).

@Antonio Porta has it nailed from my perspective.  I've been mostly renting to students for over 20 years now, and they have been great tenants for me, as long as you're tough but fair from day one.  They're new to being tenants and they appreciate getting educated without getting ripped off.  The large Property Management Companies here are pretty abusive to students so people really like renting from us.

Any advice on the online lease would be much appreciated!


@Antonio Porta I just saw your post - thanks for the advice.  I'll need to read up on the local laws as far as lease violations go, because you're right that it'll probably happen.  That sounds spot on with the lease too.  One tenant moves out this weekend, so I may shorten the lease of the next tenant so that it ends closer to June.

@Aaron Booker I'm liking Cozy so far, and I think I'll try their application out too for my next go around.  I think I'm going to shoot for full 1-year  leases once I get all my tenants on the school year schedule, which I think is reasonable (it seems like many students have to pay rent over summer for places they aren't living in).  I did the lease signing fully online and it went well - I used Tenant Tech, but I'm not sure what all states they accommodate.