If you rent to more than one tenant at a time, you will be most successful if you choose tenants who have a lot in common. Targeting a specific demographic such as occupation or unique need makes sense from a financial perspective. If you’re willing to invest in accommodations for, say, hearing-impaired people you can be the go-to person for Deaf tenants in your area. If you are within easy walking distance of a college or university, however, it makes sense to specialize in students. I’ve already mentioned the fact that Wi-Fi Internet access is a huge selling point for landlords trying to attract students. Bundling expenses such as utilities into the bill is also a good way to attract people on a limited income (and students generally are).
Your student tenants will generally be 18 to 24 years of age, but you may occasionally have one under 18 due to early graduation from high school. If so, the contract you sign must be with the tenant’s legal parent or guardian, whom you can hold accountable for unpaid rent or for damages if there are any.
Each of your student tenants has a class schedule and most of them have a work schedule too. But the class schedules don’t overlap with the usual 9 to 5 business day. Night classes are common, and most schools offer at least some Saturday and even Sunday classes so as to make the best possible use of the building and to serve as many students as possible. A student’s schedule will change from one term to the next. It therefore makes sense for everyone in the house to post their work and class schedules on the refrigerator just so that you don’t accidentally call or text them while they’re in class.
If you went to university, you will no doubt remember that most of the school work you did was outside the classroom. The general rule was that if you wanted to earn an “A” grade, you needed to put in three hours of work, study, writing, or lab activity for every hour you spent in the lecture. The lecture part of the class was really only to go over the material you were supposed to have already read and studied prior to attending. The instructor would touch on the high points, show examples, and perhaps expand on a few things that weren’t in the textbooks (but that might be on the exam). For a “B” grade, two hours of work for each hour in the classroom was normal. A person who put in only an hour of work per hour in class (generally a cram session before an exam or a burst of effort just before a term paper was due) could generally expect a “C”, and a “D” was for students who came to class but didn’t crack a book, review their notes, or put significant effort into term papers. Wise students therefore took notes and compared them with the notes of their peers. Sharing notes was, and still is, an acceptable way to study.
Because your tenant does so much work outside the classroom, it’s reasonable to expect him to do at least some of his studying at home. This might be in his room, or it might be at the dining room table or some other common area in the house. During this time, it’s important to not disturb him. People who get immersed in what they are reading or studying generally take about 20 to 30 minutes to get into a comfort zone which Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi described as “flow”. Things start to make sense, ideas sort of chain together, and new information is being stored in the brain.
If you interrupt the student who is deep in study, three things happen. First, the last 20 to 30 minutes spent getting into the flow condition are wasted. Second, after you get what you want from the student and she returns to study, it will take at least 20 to 30 minutes to get back to where she was when you interrupted her. One interruption, even for just a few seconds, destroys an hour’s worth of study. People who have never gone to university or who chose to not study while they were there seldom understand and appreciate the situation. They fail to see why the student can’t pick up where she left off just as though she was mopping a floor. This leads me to the third problem: students resent repeated or trivial interruptions.
It makes a lot of sense to have designated quiet times and study times where you don’t ring the student’s phone, knock on the door (unless the house is on fire), or have company over. During this time, nobody’s allowed to do something that disrupts somebody else’s study. If someone else wants to watch TV or listen to music, headphones are in order for the person interested in the disrupting activity. Designated quiet time examples might be from eight to ten PM every night, and from eight PM to midnight if someone is studying for a midterm or final exam, or if someone is taking an exam for an online course.
The other important aspect to study time is that, when the agreed-upon quiet time is not in effect, people may still study but other people are free to practice the piano, watch television, or engage in similar activities. If both activities produce noise, they can again be organized by time. The important thing to ensure is that the person studying or practicing music does not have to have earplugs or headphones in all the time, particularly when other people in the house are engaged in what’s essentially a leisure activity.
Music practice (in case you’re renting to a trumpet major) does not require silence elsewhere in the house. A musician who’s concentrating doesn’t care if there are pots and pans banging in the kitchen or if someone else is talking or watching TV. As long as you’re not talking to the person doing the practice, he’s going to be OK. Yet the noise can interfere with someone else’s study or activity.
Generally, study (and practice, for music performance majors) takes precedence over recreational activities such as TV. However the person who needs study and practice time needs to be mindful of other people’s needs and wants. He or she cannot arbitrarily designate “practice time” or “study time” to be 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There has to be compromise and notification in advance.