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Renting to International Students: A Complete Guide for Landlords

Canada welcomes thousands of students each year whose goal is to acquire a quality education from a Canadian college or university. In this guide, we explore the benefits and risks of renting your property to international students, how to vet them, and more.

Students from across the globe find Canada an attractive place to pursue their college or university education. 

According to data released by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (IRCC), Canada’s international student population stood at nearly 622,000 as of December 31, 2021. The majority of these students are from India, China, France, Iran, Vietnam, and South Korea.

Are you considering renting to international students? If so, it’s worth getting to know what they look for when searching for a suitable rental unit – and what to consider when screening for those who apply to be your tenant.

What do international students look for in a rental property?

International students value reasonably priced accommodation with basic amenities, much like their domestic counterparts. Preferences and needs will vary, of course. But most students will be preoccupied with their studies. Their goal is to obtain a Canadian degree, not live in a lavish penthouse downtown.

Here are some criteria likely to appear on their rental checklist.

Convenient location

Students value rental properties close to grocery stores, shopping centres, banks, transportation hubs, restaurants, and other amenities. Adjusting to a new home will be easier for them if they have everything nearby to meet their basic needs.

A rental property within walking distance of the university campus is also helpful, as it reduces their commute time.

Basic furnishings and amenities

Does your rental unit offer basic furnishings, like tables, chairs, beds, couches, etc.? If so, you’ll score extra points with international students. By including these in your rental unit, you’ll save them the trouble of having to acquire them on their own. 

Your unit should offer the following appliances:

  • stove
  • microwave
  • dishwasher
  • washer and dryer set
  • fridge

These appliances are the bare essentials – tenants will expect them. Ensure all are in working order before advertising your property.

Safety and security

For many international students, it’s likely their first time being abroad on their own. Naturally, safety and security are important to them and their family back in their home country.

Some security features you make want to implement are deadbolt locks and smart doorbells. Also helpful are security cameras and adequate lighting near the building entrance and parking lots. Consider installing an alarm system, too.

There’s no need to overspend on security. But if your property is in a crime-ridden neighbourhood, you need to take the necessary precautions to ensure students’ safety. Otherwise, they’ll immediately dismiss your rental property.

Flexible lease terms

Depending on how long they plan to stay in the country, an international student tenant may need flexibility in their lease term. Some may wish to sign only a nine-month lease, as they plan to return to their home country once the school year ends.

How to screen international students for tenancy

Screening a student from another country can be challenging. Most of them will lack Canadian-based work experience, credit history, and other background details. You may have to gather pieces of information from diverse sources, some of which may come from overseas.

Proper documentation

Always verify that the student has the necessary documentation to enter Canada, attend school, and work. The last thing you want to do is sign a lease agreement with someone who’s not legally allowed to be in Canada.

International students who wish to attend a college or university must obtain a study permit from the Government of Canada. The organization that issues them is the IRCC. However, some students may be eligible to get one faster through the Student Direct Stream.

Students wishing to pursue their studies in Quebec must acquire a Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ). In addition, they can only apply to a post-secondary institution chosen by the Quebec government 

To apply for a study permit, international students must possess the following documents:

  •  An official letter of acceptance at the post-secondary institute they will attend (which must be from a designated learning institution)
  • A valid passport or travel document 

In addition, they must present proof of income to support their tuition, living expenses, and return transportation (such as a bank account in their name).

Once the student receives permission to enter and study in Canada, the IRCC will provide them with a letter of introduction. They’ll need to present this document to border agents when they arrive in the country.

Students anticipating a stay of fewer than six months in Canada need to apply for either a travel visa or Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA). Those who wish to work more than 20 hours per week also require a work permit.

Credit history and income

A student visiting Canada to attend college or university likely has little to no experience with its financial system. They may have never obtained a loan from a Canadian bank, filed a Canadian tax return, or held a job with a Canadian employer.

They may have a solid credit score in their home country, but it doesn’t affect their credit standing in Canada. They’re essentially starting from scratch when they arrive.

As a result, you may have to do a little digging to vet them properly. Here are some areas to determine whether they can afford to pay your rent:

  • Bank statement. One of the first things people do when they first set foot in a new country is open a bank account. Scanning several months’ worth of bank statements will give you a glimpse into their spending habits and the amount of income they have or receive regularly.
  • Monthly bills. Examining a student’s utility or phone bill statement will allow you to see how consistent they are with on-time payments.
  • Pay stubs. Suppose an international student has a work permit and has recently secured a job. In that case, you can ask for proof of employment income.

Past landlord reference. If the student has rented an apartment in the past, it’s worth connecting with their prior landlords. You may gain valuable insight about their character, ability to pay rent on time, and even red flags you missed or never considered initially.

Ask plenty of questions – but only those allowed under the law

As a landlord, you have the right to inquire about a student’s finances, background, and circumstances.

Here are some questions you can ask them:

  • When are you planning to move in?
  • How many people will be living with you in the property?
  • Do you require any special amenities?
  • How much income do you earn per month?
  • Do I have your permission to run a credit and background check on you?
  • Can you provide past employer and landlord references?

While the above questions are perfectly legal to ask an applicant, there are others the law prohibits you from asking. The reason is to ensure individuals who apply for tenancy aren’t subject to discrimination.

Here are some questions you cannot ask a student during the screening process:

  •  What’s your ethnic background?
  • What’s your refugee status?
  • How long have you lived in Canada?
  • Will you have any relatives visiting you?
  • Do you plan on having children?

 The law also prohibits you from denying tenancy to a student simply because they’re new to Canada. For example, the mere fact that they have a non-existent credit score is not a legitimate reason to dismiss them as a tenant.

Final Thoughts

If you select the right candidate, renting your property to an international student is a smart move. 

Many international students receive financial backing from their families back in their home countries. Others have access to lucrative scholarships and grants as well. For these reasons, their lack of credit history in Canada may not be much of an issue.

In addition, many international students are highly motivated, responsible, and diligent. A high percentage choose to study demanding majors such as medicine and engineering. As a result, they’ll be more likely to focus on their studies to ace an exam than engage in activities that can get them into trouble, such as hosting wild parties.

Travelling overseas to attend a university is a tremendous undertaking. Not surprisingly, most international students have both the financial resources and commitment to succeed. 

Still, renting your property to an international student does come with some risk.

The student may neglect their cleaning duties and cause damage to the property. After they leave, you’ll be responsible for tidying up and repairing your unit, which can cost you a lot of time and money. However, these issues can arise if you rent out your property to a domestic student, too (or any tenant for that matter).

While rare, your student tenant can also abruptly quit their studies and leave Canada. Consequently, you’ll lose out on several months worth of rent payments – not good. And it’ll be almost impossible to pursue legal action against them if they’re overseas.

Protect your rental income with SingleKey’s Rent Guarantee

Wondering if there’s a way to reap the benefits of renting to an international student while avoiding the risks?

SingleKey’s Rent Guarantee program will protect your rental income should your tenant disappear, leaving you with months of unpaid rent. You’ll receive up to 12 months of rent up to $60,000 if you fail to receive payment from your tenant. Not only that, but the program reimburses you for up to $10,000 in property damage.

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