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Surge in subleases as post-secondary students leave town

If you find your Saanich street suddenly vacant in the coming weeks, don’t panic – it’s not the plague.

  • Apr. 12, 2012 5:00 p.m.

If you find your Saanich street suddenly vacant in the coming weeks, don’t panic – it’s not the plague. The university students have all just gone home.

But the reality facing many students who’ve lived off campus for the last eight months is many signed a one-year lease last September, leaving them on the hook to pay rent through the summer.

Rebecca Koch pays $550 a month to live in a four-bedroom house just steps from the University of Victoria on the Gordon Head-Cadboro Bay border.

The 20-year-old who is studying business is banking on finding a summer student to sublet her room for the remainder of the lease. Koch is going home to the Lower Mainland in May and won’t be returning.

But finding a replacement tenant is proving tougher than she thought. So tough, in fact, she’s decided to rent for cheaper than what she pays.

“I’m completely willing to go down $100 a month, as long as someone takes over my lease,” Koch said, acknowledging she’d rather pay the difference than the full rate for an empty bedroom. “It’s hard because there’s so many students (in the same situation I am), and so little demand for any of the houses.”

It’s the same story for Sarah Hein, who, along with her four other roommates, is looking to sublet all five rooms in their rented house for the summer.

They, too, are trying to get their place rented in the short-term by offering a $125 per month discount per person on rent.

“What actually has been a big problem is people want the place for longer. They want it for next year, too,” said the 20-year-old Hein, a third-year applied linguistics student.

According to numbers from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Victoria’s rental vacancy rate typically goes up in April.

“There’s many factors that influence movement in and out of the rental market, and you would expect that students moving out of rental units, that would free up some spots,” said Carol Frketich, B.C. regional economist with CMHC.

Seventy per cent of UVic’s population – or 16,199 students – aren’t originally from Greater Victoria, while Camosun College sees 17 per cent of its students (2,210) come from outside of the Capital Region. Both post-secondary institutions are now in their final exam periods, which means an exodus of students from now until the end of April.

A spokesperson with the Residential Tenancy Branch said students should do their homework before accepting a subtenant.

“Be sure that your tenancy agreement allows you to sublet,” the spokesperson said first and foremost, and get your landlord’s permission in writing.

Other suggestions include asking prospective subtenants for references – and checking them out. “Is the tenant who they say they are? Is the tenant able to pay the rent? Is the tenant reliable? How likely is the tenant to be noisy or to disturb other occupants of the building?”

Write up a subletting agreement, and conduct a move-in inspection with the subtenant you choose.

“Be clear about when rent is due, and who it should be paid to. Have a contingency plan in case the subtenant doesn’t pay on time,” the spokesperson said. “Find out what the tenant plans to do when the sublet is over. Is the tenant likely to leave when you (want them to)?”

Tips for subleasing

Make sure your subtenant:

• knows when they must move out;

• knows what the rental unit comes with (Are utilities included? Is the room furnished?);

• knows how to contact you and your landlord;

• provides you with a security deposit (no more than half a month’s rent);

• knows your expectations (date and time, cleanliness) for when they are to move out.

– Residential Tenancy Branch

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