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Alumni, students manage housing rental business

Lily McGill | Monday, October 8, 2012

Editor’s Note: This article has been edited to correct inaccurate figures for RLAC’s revenue and presence on other college campuses.

Founded in 2006 by three Notre Dame graduates, Rent Like a Champion (RLAC) offers football weekend rentals and off-campus student housing with the help of student managers.

Student manager Jack Keller said the rapidly growing business was inspired by the founders’ experience living off campus in a dilapidated part of town.

“[RLAC founders] lived off campus and saw how rundown the neighborhoods were and how bad the city was hurting,” Keller said.

Keller said the founders originally bought houses in disrepair, renovating them and renting them to South Bend families. The business later transitioned to providing student rentals and eventually incorporated weekend rentals to football fans, alumni and students’ families.

“At the start of RLAC, the focus was to benefit the community,” Keller said. “After doing that for so many years, a business naturally developed from it.”

The company originally offered its website as a venue for South Bend homeowners to list their residences for rent on home game weekends as an alternative to pricey and scarce hotel rooms, Keller said.

“It’s such a genius idea because it perfectly filled the void,” he said. “My family used to try to come back for football games when I was younger, and renting hotel rooms was always such a pain. We’d spend so much money … the hotels jacked up their prices.”

The need for alternative accommodations near campuses with major football programs has fueled the company’s expansion to include 15 college towns, he said.

Rentals marketed by RLAC’s partner University Football Rentals at schools such as the University of Michigan, the University of Iowa and the University of Texas have been met with substantial demand, student manager Pat Adams said.

“Last year we had over 300 rentals and earned over $500,000 in revenue,” Adams said. “That’s huge.”

Keller said the student housing side of the business has contributed to the company’s growth as well.

“My first year we had about 40 people rent from us,” he said. “This year’s I’d say we’re going to have 60, maybe 70.”

Keller attributed much of the company’s success at Notre Dame to its staff being made up entirely by Notre Dame graduates and students.

“Every person involved with the company is part of the Notre Dame family,” Keller said. “They understand what a lot of our renters are expecting when they rent and thus they’re able to better serve all their customers.”

Incorporating students into the company’s operations has helped get the word out about the relatively young business, student manager James Schappler said.

“It’s very unique in the sense that the people who are marketing and selling the properties are students,” Schappler said. “The name’s easier to get out because the students are actually on campus with you: They go to school with you.”