A landlord’s advice to new prospective student renters


Laurier’s Brantford campus is fast-growing in terms of its student population and that can create a scramble when it comes to students renting for the first time.

Residence at Laurier is only guaranteed for first-years,  most students look elsewhere for living arrangements in second year and beyond. 

The process of signing a lease and choosing a new place to live can be daunting, which makes a landlord’s perspective and advice valuable when making these decisions.

Lawrence Hopman has  rented out both commercial and residential units in Brantford for ten years. His idea of an ideal tenant is simple: someone who is quiet and pays rent on time.

In fact, Hopman’s criteria for an exceptional landlord is not complicated either. 

“It’s difficult, of course, to qualify a landlord prior to renting, but you want one who is quick to respond and deals with issues promptly,” he mentions.

 He also identifies a secure building and a convenient location as important details to consider for student tenants specifically. 

Harold Howe, a landlord from Brantford, has an experienced perspective on what students should keep in mind when thinking of signing a new lease. 

He and his wife Marian are in their tenth year of renting out student housing. They currently operate with five of these properties, and have enjoyed restoring distressed century homes for this purpose. 

According to Howe, it’s important for a student tenant to make a good first impression, and there are a few specific ways to do so. For younger individuals who haven’t had a chance to rent before, this is especially imperative. 

“From our perspective, we can’t do a credit check on you or a character check, so we have to go by good instinct,” he said. “we’re very protective of our properties, and we don’t want party animals.”

 Presenting one’s self as mature and prepared proves to make a substantial difference in this realm. 

“Never, ever, make an appointment and don’t show.”

Not only does being prepared and organized reflect well on the tenant, it can also provide a considerable advantage relating to choice and quality of their options. 

“The best houses go first, and early,” says Howe, “likewise, the best tenants go first and go early.” 

He recommends that students begin their search for a new rental as early in the school year as Thanksgiving. 

Shifting the focus to a landlord’s qualities, Howe has a simple rule of thumb for selecting who you should rent from. 

“You want to have someone you would feel comfortable introducing to your mother,” he suggests. He also considers upper year students who have been through the process of signing a lease to be a useful source of knowledge when making this decision. 

Iona McMahon, a second-year student at Laurier who has been renting off and on since 2014. She has rented in both Toronto and Brantford, and has a clear idea of which qualities are essential in a landlord. 

“I think ease of communication is really important,” she emphasizes, “I realize some people manage multiple buildings with dozens of people living in them, but we’re paying to live here and it really sucks when major issues go unaddressed or requests to have something looked at go ignored.”

Howe suggests a few simple but valuable tests to hold a property to when touring it for a potential lease. The first impression should begin before the prospective renter even enters, because the state of the front door matters more than one might think. 

“If somebody has got the front door painted up nicely, they give a damn,” he said. 

According to Howe, the next evaluation at a showing should come as soon as the door opens. While it’s difficult to tell an individual’s character in the first or second meeting, a lot can be said depending on whether or not they are ready to meet you at the door. 

“If I’m not there as a landlord, scrap it, they don’t have the ambition to meet you,” he said. 

Finally, if the property has passed all of these tests, Howe suggests one more unique step. 

“Ask yourself, ‘do I feel comfortable going around here in my bare feet?’ If you don’t, leave,” he urges. 

When selecting a property, issues like room size are relatively insignificant and Howe identifies the kitchen and bathroom to be the most crucial rooms to consider. He also encourages student tenants to refrain from making decisions based on small differences in the price of monthly rent. 

Overall, the process of renting a house, apartment, or other dwelling should be a simple arrangement where both the landlord and the tenants honour the lease. 

However, when you do find that one great landlord, there is one easy way to make sure they stay happy.

 “The greatest way to get on the good side of a landlord is baked goods,” said Howe.

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