Students make great tenants, property insiders say

Ada St tenants, from left, Massey social work student Taylah Brooks-Bowen, UCOL exercise science student "Boogie" Kieran ...
David Unwin/Fairfax NZ

Ada St tenants, from left, Massey social work student Taylah Brooks-Bowen, UCOL exercise science student "Boogie" Kieran Jaggard, and waitress Taelah Parlato, say students make great tenants.

Some property insiders have come out singing the praises of students as tenants, saying they are not the flat-trashers and couch-burners people think they are.

The 'student city' of Palmerston North has settled back into classes for the year after orientation week, and, unlike Wellington, there is no shortage of rentals.

Massey University Student Association (MUSA) owns and rents about 30 houses. Its president Nikita Skipper said she is frustrated with the out-of-date bad reputation student tenants face and believes it results in some being passed over for tenancies.

"Students are put under such a microscope. There's a stereotype students want to have a sh...y house and trash it, but I find that funny. Students are so diverse. They are not necessarily that 1 per cent you hear about."

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Pauline Karam has been MUSA's property manager for five years, after working as a private property manager. She estimates she's had more than 750 students as tenants, from which she made evictions from two flats. In the wider industry she encountered a much higher rate of serious tenancy problems and evictions.

She thinks one reason is that the students who are fresh out of home are "buzzed" about flatting and appreciate her extra guidance.

"I start the learning and let them know what I expect and if you be their friend and are always communicating with them we don't have trouble."

Manawatu Property Investors' Association president Pauline Beissel agrees students are not the problem people assume them to be. There can be the "not so good" in any group, but as a general rule, students are focused on study, and while they might be a bit green at housework, they learn quickly.

"Young people have been raised by our generation to pay their bills and they often set up flat agreements and accounts. As far as paying their landlords they are excellent tenants.

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"Sometimes you've got to help them out a bit along the way, encourage them to get a second hand lawn mower, or let them know how things are to be kept clean, but they do listen. I think students are fantastic tenants."

She's not aware of students trashing flats in Palmerston North and doesn't think there's an issue with rowdy parties.

"You hear of tenant damage in other cities, in Dunedin, but for the number of students we've got here, on the whole it's been very good."

The Professionals business development manager Jodi-Anne Taiapa said students were typically good tenants.

Students were more aware of their rights and obligations in the past five years, regularly show up with references, and ask about smoke alarms and insulation.

As with Karam and Beissel, she said the key was to start by building a good relationship and spell out the practicalities of what the rental agreement means.

"Once you've got that, they know they can come to the property manager if anything goes wrong and you can get hold of them to get access the property."

"They aren't million-dollar homes that they are living in. They do look after them fairly well."

Massey second year student Taylah Brooks-Bowen is starting her second year flatting in Ada St in Palmerston North, which has a reputation as a student street. There is "definitely" still a strong public suspicion that students are bad tenants, which she thinks is unfair.

"There's not really been any problems and noise in the street any time and people clean up after parties."

Skipper said she'd like to see landlords recognise students are good tenants and look after them well. The "student city" image would benefit from also growing a reputation for good quality cheap housing, she said.

"Students are in housing, but it's not necessarily the level and cost of housing that we'd like."

 - Stuff

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