Is it illegal to refuse rent to college students?

I have college students who want to rent out my 4 bedroom house with their roommates?

Is it legal to only allow single families to rent out the house?

It may be illegal (probably is in California…ALL species seem protected there!)…but I doubt it.

The college student thing is easy, though – I would say a huge percentage of college students have no established credit, bad credit, or very high income to debt ratios – that’s not discriminating, that’s business!

If they say that mommy and daddy will be paying, tell them fine as long as mommy and daddy will be living there and supervising. That goes for ALL inhabitants.

My two cents.


It might not be all that bad of a thing. When we went to college at the University of Nebraska, our landlord rented our 4 bedroom house to us for $300 per person for 4 people. If it was going to be just 1 person there, it would have been $700 per month for that one person, but since there was 4 college students, he was getting $1200 per month. I dont know if this is illegal or not, but $300 for us college kids was cheap (or for mom and dad). Also, (From the people we went to school with) everyone paid there rent on time (within a couple days anyways) cuz it was daddys money. Im sure it is hectic for a lot of landlords, but i know our landlord got $1200 from us for 4 months that we were back at home and not even there.

So it might not always be a bad thing to rent to students.

The bigger issue is the irresponsibility of SOME college students (not all, just some – my two are angels!)…how much damage will they leave when the dust settles?


I can admit that me and my roomates were irresponsible, had countless beer bashes, broke windows, doors, stained the carpets, put holes in the walls, but we repaired everything, painted the walls and shampoo’d the carpets before we left. We got 900 out of our 1200 deposit which we told the landlord to keep for new living room carpet. I would say that most students will leave the place with it cleaned up for the most part. I have heard from most landlords (around here anyways) that they have more problems with middle aged adults with 3 little kids, not being able to pay their rent, they trash the place, get evicted, and the landlord is stuck with a big mess to clean and fix up.

Point being, is adults are just as likely to ruin your profits as a student would be.

In most states it is illegal to refuse to rent to a certain group of people who could otherwise form a legal contract with you. The only legal reasons for not renting to someone are business reasons, such as bad credit or past evictions, etc.
People will try anything though. When I helped run my parents’ motel years ago I had one woman who kept threatening to sue me unless I rented to her underage kid who wanted to party there with 50 of his buddies. He had someone of age rent the room, then he would sneak in later. I got tired of picking his drunk/drugged butt off the sidewalk and called the police and informed him he was not welcome anymore and why. He was ok with that…mom was another story! I asked her why she didn’t allow them to drink at her house and SHE DIDN’T HAVE AN ANSWER! We were able to not rent to anyone under contract age, but had to rent to the general groups of the public unless we had business reasons not to. We kept a file of the “bad folks” IDs and what they did to damage property with dates, etc. to stay safe. We got lots of lawsuit threats from the deadbeats and drunks, but nothing ever went to court.

Since you are renting to college kids, and most college kids have no or bad credit, I would have their parents sign the lease. That way if they don’t pay, or trash the place, you can sue the parents (they have the money) and if they are out of state, instead of driving or flying out to meet you in court, they will more than likely just pay off the debts.

college guys are the worst. I remember my college days, most guys lived like slobs. They really trashed their apartments.

it’s all about business; if you get premium rent and willing to put up some hassle, I would sign them up, gte a sizeable deposit and parents on the lease.

Obviously, there is some risk to damage to proerty, but if there is upside potential for taking that risk, then it might be worth it.

The real question is: is this a real nice 10 yr old house or something that is showing it age a bit or slight rough around the edges? (if its the former, it will become the latter after college kids have liveed there for a few years)

We own/have owned property in a couple of college towns. Here’s how I handle it:

-First, say there are 4 roommates (this goes for all tenants, btw) - they ALL go on one lease, and each and every one of them is responsible for the ENTIRE amount of the rent. However they divide it up amongst themselves is their business. That way if they flake you can sue each one for the total owed. It’s stated that way in the lease. Plus, if one randomly moves out you are still entitled to the full rent. With separate leases you can only hold each one responsible for their share. I’ve inherited the “separate leases” thing before and had one kid bail and I couldn’t legally demand the full rent from the other room mates because of how the previous owner had written the leases.
-Second, I have a high security deposit. I tell everyone the high amount. If I get an outstanding prospect that I’m interested in renting to I may negotiate that down, but on initial inquiries I give everyone the high amount.
-Third, I never say, “I don’t rent to college students.” If they ask if I do I say, “Sure. Here are my rules: blah, blah, blah, blah.” Generally, I have enough rules to discourage them. In the past when I have rented to students the “rules” become an adendum to the lease. At the first infraction I’m all over them like white on rice. No second chances, no hemming and hawing around. You can pretty much scare them off up front by being a hard-a$$ when you tell them “the rules”. If they don’t think they’ll be able to get away with stuff, and they intend to party, chances are they’ll move on. They don’t want to deal with a crabby landlord - they want to party.
-Last, if they are determined (and I’ve had some college kids that were just bound and determined to live in my property for some reason) I just tell them that they’re income doesn’t qualify and ALL of the parents will have to co-sign the lease. That has scared some off, and the ones it didn’t scare, the parents signed, and at the first hint of a problem the parents straightened things up RIGHT QUICK.

If you get ANY tenant you DON’T want to rent to there are ways around it. Whenever anyone fills out an application with me I always “have a couple of other applications ahead of theirs”.

Really, don’t think of it as discrimination. You just want the best possible tenants living in your property. College students are not a protected class. If any of them fall into some other minority category they could maybe come after you that way. But by saying that their income isn’t satisfactory you’re golden.

Sorry, I got on a bit of a rant there…hopefully something will help.

Karla in Amarillo

I like what you wrote up there karla. It was very good, and i intend to reclause my leases like you have in the future. I dont know the laws in Texas about the deposit, but up here in Nebraska you cant charge more than one months deposit unless you allow pets, which you can charge 1.5 times one months rent for a deposit.

You probably wont have any problems with charging more, but i would check the laws down there to find out if you are safe doing that.

Hey, black95gt! Thanks. We used to live in Nebraska. We owned rental property (and lived) in Blair and Omaha. Are you still in Lincoln or some other part of the state now? (Go BIG RED, btw! :P)

You’re right about the deposit, and I’m not really talking about anything in excess of a month’s rent. Most of our properties rent for upwards of $1000 a month. On a house I just rented with $1195 rent the security deposit is $850. If it were in a college town the deposit would be $1195.

The not separating the leases is HUGE! I was just re-reading the leases that we just inherited on a tri-plex we’re closing on Friday - one unit is rented to college students - and he’s got them on separate leases. These 4 guys don’t even pay the same amount monthly. Luckily they’re on month-to-month, and I’ll be resigning them to MY lease August 1st!!!

K in A
P.S. I’ve found from landlording and back when I was a student - most of the really die-hard partiers want to rent the crappiest hole they can find so it doesn’t matter as much if they trash it.

<<P.S. I’ve found from landlording and back when I was a student - most of the really die-hard partiers want to rent the crappiest hole they can find so it doesn’t matter as much if they trash it. >>

LOL Karla…that is so they have ‘party money’ left over after paying the rent (or not patying it in some cases!)…


Karla, I just went to school in Lincoln… But i lived in Omaha for about 5 years, and worked at the Cargill plant (Building Cargill) in Blair. Small World huh? But i moved back to my home town in South Sioux City and have a pretty good job here. I am just now getting into real estate and have one rental house under my belt. The hardest thing for me is trying to find houses in my area that i can buy for 35-45k. if they get higher than that then you cant really make any money off of them

“LOL Karla…that is so they have ‘party money’ left over after paying the rent (or not patying it in some cases!)…”

Keith - when I was in school the 2 biggest party houses were “The Puke House” (referred to the color of the house and what went on there) and “The Swamp House” (referred to the low lying location and when enough beer got spilled…) These were both rentals. I think back now to what on earth those landlords must have been thinking…Eee Gads!

The people living in both of those houses MADE a killing throwing keg parties every weekend! Every night at the beginning and ends of each semester! Again, how the cops didn’t shut these little operations down puzzles me…now. I wonder if they paid their rent on time???

But, I digress…and hijack…

K in A

My daughter goes to school in Richmond. The university is right on hte edge of the 'hood. Last year she rented a room from one of her friends in an old (and I do mean “OLD”) duplex…it was a craphole but there wasn’t a lot of damage that they could do to it either…rent was cheap and she was happy living the “Bohemian” life! Each to his own, I guess…

My son goes to school in Danville, VA. The parents of one of his football buddies just bought a rental house down there for their son and are leasing rooms to other players…“The Boy” (my son – name via Homer Simpson) is renting a room. The lease is pretty tight so I don’t think there will be a lot of shenanigans…but the rent is pretty good – I’ll save about $2,500 form the dorm.

Like I said, my kids are angels, though :wink: