Walker Peek: Reduce Student Tenant Turnover Due to Noise Issues

by Scott Reid

One of the leading causes of tenant turnover is noise issues causing complaints and ultimately early move-outs. This trend is exacerbated further in college and university towns, where it ranks up with customer service for reasons that good tenants leave early.

There’s been a lot of focus the last several years on tenant retention, especially when turnover can cost up to three times the monthly rental rate in management and maintenance costs. When students are situated for two to four years, it makes a lot of sense to capture their business for their entire academic stay, putting off the turn costs as long as possible.

Since many of us understand that stopping the parties and late-night lifestyles of the students is a fruitless approach, we’re left instead with the option to mitigate the issues at hand and make the tenants as comfortable and happy as possible.

Sources of Noise Issues

Whether you’re in a metropolitan area or small town USA, nowadays you have to expect background noise in and around academic locales.

Some of the top reasons for noise concerns in college towns are traffic and street noise, as well as noisy neighbors and pets. Construction, nearby business or local industry all add up as well. Due to limited setbacks from thruways and nearby houses, there’s constant noise coming in and out of student living spaces.

This contributes to the vibrant feel of a college town, and is often a positive. The hustle and bustle also has its downsides, however, since students have exams at different times of the semester, and some are home-bodies while others like to stay out all night long. If your student housing complex is like many others, this dichotomy results in unhappy tenants and lost revenue due to turnover and vacancies.

Noise Reduction Options

When faced with these issues, property managers and student housing operators need to make a decision that is economical and timely, but also solves the underlying noise problems.

Double-pane windows are a proven and effective commodity if it’s in your budget range. They typically run from $800 to $2200 installed for an average size window, and much more for a sliding glass door. If you are willing to make the investment, these will oftentimes solve the noise issues, or greatly reduce them.

If possible, try to put up a fence or heavy landscaping between the noise sources and occupants. This does not mute the sound, but is surprisingly effective at muffling direct noises that would otherwise be very difficult to block. You’ll notice a big difference with local traffic, due to the sound wave diffraction and dissipation around the obstructions.

New soundproofing products have also entered the market over the past few years, including soundproofing curtains and drapes that block 80 to 90 percent of the sound coming through. While they’re not as effective as double-pane windows rated at 90 to 95 percent sound blocking, they are often found at a fraction of the cost. They’re also effective as blackout curtains and thermal-blocking curtains to reduce heating and cooling costs.

These noise-blocking curtains have had great effect at universities around the country, including Campus Housing locations at Ball State University in Indiana, as well apartment complexes in Gainesville, Florida. Several of these locations now advertise their soundproofing curtains to attract new tenants or lease up new locations.

If you’re looking to solve a noise issue at your student housing location, consider your noise source, and make the investment that is in your budget and solves the issue. For extreme noise problems, a combination of solutions is often the final answer for 100 percent sound blocking.

— Walker Peek is the founder of Residential Acoustics, an international manufacturer and distributor for soundproofing curtains and other acoustic products. For information on Residential Acoustics’ sound blocking products, visit https://residential-acoustics.com.  

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