Ah, September in Ontario. The nights begin to cool, the school buses are back on the roads, the condo visitor parking lot is full of unauthorized cars…
It is that time of year again! Students return and for condominiums with many student rentals, it can be a difficult period to navigate. The fall season does not have to be about the fall of order and rules in your complex, so keep reading on to find out more ways to handle “student season”.
Disorderly Students: Sweeping assumption?
Some condominiums have a high rate of student rentals, and with that can come a whole lot of headaches for residents as well as property managers. However, most of these students are not problems themselves; I was a student once and it is easy to be blissfully unaware of restrictions, especially when you are visiting a friend at their place (or milling around a house party). It comes down to the personality of the renter, not necessarily their age. Many are hard-working, independent, quiet, and often looking for a nice, safe, and accessible place to live. Do not assume off the bat that they have come to wreak havoc on your peaceful community. Sometimes owners are more difficult to deal with, so treat each issue on a case-by-case basis. I will pose a few concerns and offer some potential solutions, so you can go back to dreaming about the changing leaves and pumpkin spice lattes (or your other cozy drink of choice).
If you are renting out your unit, you must provide the management company (or board of directors, if there is no property manager) with your tenant’s information within 10 days of entering the lease. In a building, this can be a bit easier as the manager can obtain this when the resident asks for their names to be added to the buzzer, or they request a new fob, or rental of the party room. It can be much more difficult in a townhome, as there are not as many things to hold in exchange for their names and contact information. Perhaps it is a visitor parking pass, or when they reach out to you about a maintenance issue, but we ask directors and residents to be patient as we inquire about the new people in the corner unit. We are not asking because we are nosy; we are supposed to have this information!
If your condo has visitor parking, it is common for there to be rules surrounding the spaces, such as a rule that indicates that residents cannot park there at any time. If that rule exists, then it is ideal to have a system to enforce it, such as hiring a parking control monitoring company to write tickets to offenders or having a designated person onsite contact a company to ticket. Sometimes tickets are the only effective way to ensure action after reminders have been issued. If you are looking to rent your unit, please be sure to communicate the parking situation to potential renters. Do not tell them, for example, that they can park in visitors if that is against the rules, otherwise you may have your tenants sending parking tickets your way.
As property managers, we do not enjoy telling new residents that there is nowhere for their second vehicle (or third). If you will be having guests use parking, make sure you understand the process of parking in visitors, if it be displaying a pass or calling in to register your vehicle to avoid a ticket.
Students can get a bad rap; they are not all partiers who set up lawn chairs and beer pong on the front lawns and blast their music into the wee hours. However, these situations sometimes unfold anyways, especially when guests of theirs with little regard for your sleep schedule come onsite. Sometimes these incidents are one-offs and neighbours put up with it. Other times, it becomes a trend, and something must be done. In a townhome, the primary option is calling the police (not 911 for noise please) or City bylaw, depending on where you live. They will either be issued a notice or fine, and noise infraction tickets should certainly deter the party units (eventually they cut into your coffee or beer budget). In a building, sometimes the superintendent can investigate but they should bring matters such as these to the property manager afterwards. Managers can contact the owner and advise them that their tenants must abide by the condo rules and bylaws regarding noise. Neighbours have the right to the peaceful enjoyment of their homes.
Garbage and Tidiness
Some students are extremely neat and orderly, and things tend to go more smoothly when a parent owns the unit they are in, or someone else is checking in. Other times, porches are littered with junk, windows are lined with liquor bottles (otherwise known as trophies to some), windows or balconies may have a flag or a seasonal item that is way past its season. For many students, this is their first time away from home and they just don’t think about how these things look to an outsider. The mess is often unintentional and without malice. However, it will irk the residents who put time and care into their property, and several disheveled units can quickly give a property an unkept look. If you are a landlord, it is required for you to provide your tenants with the condo documents which often indicate the rules on window coverings, porch or balcony décor, waste storage, etc. It is also prudent that you or your unit manager check on the unit more than once a year to ensure it is in good shape. It is not the role of the property manager to do weekly checks on units and send constant reminders.
If you manage a building or complex with many student rentals, it is not a bad idea to distribute the rules/policies regularly, either on your electronic notice board or via a community website.
Sometimes an insert is included in the status certificate package summarizing the aspects that greatly impact tenants.
Some condos update their rules to be very specific to assist with enforcement (timelines to remove Christmas lights, what can be kept on porches, etc.).
Try to work with the owner of a problematic tenant before calling legal, as it is important to take steps to resolve the matter first.
The manager does not typically enter units so it is prudent to have someone check items that may be disregarded such as furnace filters, window A/C units, water softeners, shut-off valves, smoke detectors, bathtubs, toilets, etc.
Sara Hicks, B.A.,(H.), OLCM, RCM, LCCI
Vice-President , Shareholder, MF Property Management