Financing Student Rental properties in Hamilton
Student rentals are investment properties; the problem is most banks do not want to finance them. Regardless if you’re buying a single family home or a multi unit rental building to rent, the banks underwriting departments want to make sure that #1- you have a reasonable expectation of collecting the amount you’re renting it for and #2- the property can be legally used for the rents you’re collecting. A home rented to a family is rarely a problem. With 2-6 unit buildings, the bank wants to make sure the property is zoned for the number of units you’re renting. Most banks just don’t like student rentals!
How the bank sees a Student Rental
So what’s the problem with student rentals anyhow? For the most part, they’re just single detached houses- aren’t they? Well, the banks do have a problem with them; even though these properties are in fact single family homes, “the tenant” is usually a group of unrelated 18-23 year old students.
Then there’s negative publicity around student rentals. Residents are constantly trying to cope with being neighbours to properties filled to the brim with fun loving students and absentee landlords. This means no lack of publicity for this type of housing as the City is constantly trying to balance the need for student housing with the rights of non-student residents. Complaints are constant: properties that are housing too many students, lack of fire safety, illegal construction/building of bedrooms along with property standards and parking bylaw violations.
Student Rentals vs. Lodging Homes
The rules around renting to a collective of students can be complex. First of all, students are a protected group under the Human Rights Code. Cities have been told they’d be wise to avoid any type of zoning that could be considered “people zoning”. The Human Rights Commissioner has stated that groups of students who want to live together as a family unit while attending school away from home, have the same rights under the act as any other family unit and municipalities must respect this right. At the same time, municipalities have the right to enforce their zoning bylaws.
Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean it’s legal and it certainly doesn’t mean that you can get it legalized on the basis that it’s already there. Doesn’t work that way. For example, if the original house is a 2 bedroom house with a kitchen and living room, you cannot assume that the 4 bedrooms in the basement are legal. If they do not comply with the Ontario building code, that is if the ceiling height is below the requirement or there isn’t adequate light (windows) they may in fact be “illegal”.
Rules and regulations are in place for a reason. The City has a right to be concerned about over intensification along with owners circumventing the building permit process and creating additional bedrooms and bathrooms without inspections, approvals or permits.
Sometimes Buyers and Sellers will go through great effort to “de-student” properties, trying to convince the appraiser and bank that it’s not what it is. They take all the locks off the doors and try to clean it up in an effort to make it look as “single family” as possible, but it seldom passes the scrutiny of an appraiser familiar with the area. Even though the Buyer swears on their life that they’re going to be renting this property to a nice young couple with 4 kids, most banks decline.
Getting a mortgage for a Student Rental in Hamilton
The Royal Bank is one of the few major banks interested in financing Student Rental properties in Hamilton. This is not an ad campaign for the Royal Bank, nor do I collect a referral from them for promoting their services- just passing on the info! The good news is that the Royal Bank has expanded their student rental finance program: increasing the number of properties from 5 to 9 and reducing the down payment required from 30% to 20%. When the Royal Bank’s appraiser shows up at the property, they know it’s being used as a student rental; no need to try to pull the wool over their eyes or lie about what you’re going to be using it for- which by the way is really “mortgage fraud”, but that’s another subject!
Also, make sure your insurance company knows that the property they’re insuring is a Student Rental. Just like banks, many companies will not insure these properties. If you experience a loss, you may face issues making a claim.
So, if you’re purchasing a Student rental keep in mind that the City “usually” doesn’t have a problem if the property contains eight habitable rooms and houses 6 students. If you’re creating more living space, make sure you obtain a building permit. The City also “usually” doesn’t have a problem if you have one lease on the property, even though there may be 6 individuals signing on the lease. And lastly, if you need a mortgage, DO NOT try to pull the wool over the eyes of your financial institution. Ask them straight up if they will finance a student rental- if they don’t, contact Katie Morrison, Mortgage Specialist for the Royal Bank in Hamilton.