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ND grads rent houses to off-campus students

Nicole Toczauer | Friday, November 5, 2010

If off-campus houses were truly meant to be of students, by students and for students, then Rent Like a Champion covered every base.

Landlords Drew Mitchell, Jordan Curnes and Derrick Shenk, 2001 graduates of the University, developed their housing business Rent Like a Champion (RLAC) by offering students housing options.

Rent Like a Champion currently has ownership of over 40 housing properties, and they manage over 100 properties for University events such as graduation and football weekends.

“First and foremost, we are different from most landlords because we were once Notre Dame students ourselves,” Mitchell said. “We uniquely understand students and the off-campus experience.”

Mitchell said that the company offers students “housewarming gifts.” They provide each house with an amenity such as a flat screen TV, a custom built bar or arcade games.

“Every year, the number of amenities in a house grows. We do other things which set us apart, such as providing security for free,” he said. “We are also very reasonable with the return of security deposits.”

The partners created their company with the intention of providing appealing housing options as well as attempting to better the community in the areas surrounding the properties.

“Despite receiving a great deal of assistance many houses had fallen into disrepair,” he said. “We believed, and still do today, that we could have a positive impact on the northeast neighborhood through investment in and rehabilitation of the housing stock.”

Since its establishment in 2005, Rent Like a Champion has grown to include three primary branches of student rentals, family rentals and football rentals. Mitchell said the partners play different roles in the company.

“Jordan Curnes manages marketing and drives the internship program. Derrick Shenk is responsible for property acquisitions,” Mitchell said. “I manage the properties and finances.”

The rest of their team consists of two full-time maintenance staff, an office manager, a part-time manager for football season and six student managers. The student manager position, according to Mitchell, encompasses several aspects of the business, ranging from showing and leasing properties to management of the football rental business to property acquisition.

“The internship experience we offer to ND students is terrific for budding entrepreneurs and can be very lucrative,” he said. “It provides up-close experiential learning with a highly successful start-up business.”

Mitchell said the internship gives himself, Shenk and Curnes the opportunity to give advice to student enterprisers. The ND businessmen give guidance to students who are exploring off-campus housing options.

Mitchell said he would suggest students look for housing early because the best properties often get leased quickly, two years in advance in some cases. Mitchell also advised students to compare options when looking at properties.

“Living in a house gives you more freedom, space, and privacy than an apartment complex,” he said. “Ask current renters about their experience with the landlord.”

Mitchell said it is important for students to make sure the landlord provides a security system, as well as explore the option of finding a property that provides furnishings, which would help students save on their expenses.

For students who are experiencing issues with their current off-campus housing, Mitchell said communication with the landlord is key.

“If the problem is solvable, most landlords will be very responsive — and if not, often it’s the ‘squeaky wheel that gets the grease.’ If location becomes an issue, examine your lease and try to identify ways you may be able to break it,” he said. “A phone call from your parents may be very effective.”

Mitchell encouraged the Notre Dame community to get active on and around campus. Rent Like a Champion sponsors many activities through Circle K and other groups.