Renting from Landlords vs. Property Managers
Written by: Veronique Hart, Property Management Specialist - Updated: Aug 31, 2022
If you plan to rent a house or apartment, you’ll need to deal directly with either a landlord or a property manager who takes care of the building on behalf of a landlord. In addition to factors such as price and location, this is certainly something you should consider when you’re looking for a place to live.
In this guide, we’ll show you the difference between these two roles and help you determine which option makes the most sense for your specific situation.
Landlords vs. Property Managers
From your first tour of the property to your eventual move-out inspection, there are many instances where you need to interact with whoever is managing your building. Sometimes it doesn’t matter whether it’s a landlord or a property manager, but it can make a difference in the following five areas:
Landlords and property managers have similar sets of responsibilities, which include:
- Advertising available properties
- Screening potential tenants
- Writing lease agreements
- Collecting rent and security deposits
- Conducting move-out inspections and returning security deposits
- Managing tenant relations and addressing complaints
- Maintenance and repairs
The difference, though, is the level of control that landlords and property managers have over these responsibilities. Owner-managed rental properties tend to be more flexible, as the landlord is in complete control. If they want to be more relaxed about the terms of your rental agreement, no one is going to stop them from doing so. For example, they might not care if your rent is sometimes a few days late, or you may be able to convince them to allow a small dog in your apartment even if a no-pets policy was written into the lease.
Property managers do not have this much freedom, as they usually work for large firms where policies are set higher up on the corporate ladder. If a property manager allows a tenant to break the terms of their lease, they may get into trouble with their boss. They don’t want to put their livelihood at risk, so they’re generally stricter when it comes to the terms of your lease agreement.
Just like there’s a difference in how leases are enforced, there also tends to be a difference in how leases are written, depending on whether the building is taken care of by a landlord or a property manager.
Property management firms may have dozens or even hundreds of buildings they oversee — so to save time, most of them take a cookie-cutter approach and use the same broad language in the lease agreements for each of their buildings. On the other hand, most landlords manage fewer than a handful of properties, so their lease agreements may be more personalized. For example, they might set quiet hours during the late night and early morning for their own comfort if they live in the same building as their rental units.
Point of Contact
If you need to contact whoever is managing your building for any reason, you’ll probably have better luck reaching a property manager than a landlord. Again, landlords don’t answer to anyone, so there are no immediate consequences if they don’t pick up the phone or take a while to get back to you.
Conversely, property managers have a strong incentive to be responsive and maintain good relations with tenants — this is another area where they can be reprimanded at work if they don’t keep up with their responsibilities. Whenever there’s a maintenance emergency, such as a power outage or major leak, a property manager would probably get the issue fixed faster than a landlord. One exception to this general rule is that if the landlord lives on the property they rent out, they’ll probably get building-wide maintenance issues fixed as fast as anyone. Also, responsiveness can be an issue at the very largest property management firms, where requests may need to make their way through several layers of corporate bureaucracy before they get approved.
Property managers tend to handle complaints better than landlords. This is their job, and they like to learn about ways they can improve the properties they manage and therefore improve their work performance. Landlords may take complaints personally and get defensive, especially if they have a connection to the building that goes beyond their financial commitment.
Most property management firms are large companies with deep reserves of cash at their disposal, so they are often willing to quickly fix maintenance issues and add amenities such as pools, media rooms, and fitness centers to attract new tenants. While plenty of landlords are wealthy enough to use a similar strategy, many others struggle to keep up with the expenses of property management and may avoid additional purchases that will eat into their profits.
Most property management firms charge landlords 8-12% of rent on top of additional service fees, which usually results in tenants being charged more for rent to help make up for this expense. By renting directly from a landlord, you may very well get a better deal.
Pros and Cons of Renting from a Landlord
So, should you rent from a landlord or a property manager? There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this question — the right choice for you will depend on your particular situation and preferences.
As mentioned above, if your top priority is finding the lowest price for rent, then a landlord will probably be your best bet. These relationships are more informal than working with a property manager, which has its advantages and disadvantages — they may not be as strict about sticking to the terms of your lease agreement, but they may also be unavailable when you really need them.
|Tend to offer the lowest rental rates||Can be more difficult to reach during emergencies|
|Often more relaxed about the terms of your lease||Generally less proactive about keeping properties in good condition|
|No corporate bureaucracy||May have limited resources in the event of a catastrophic incident|
Pros and Cons of Renting from a Property Manager
If you’re willing to pay more for features such as around-the-clock availability and high-end amenities, then you should seek out buildings that use property managers. Other than the cost, the biggest downside to this option is that you are more likely to be fined or even evicted for violating the terms of your lease agreement.
|Often provide better amenities||Usually charge higher rates for rent|
|More responsive to tenant requests||Strict about violating lease agreements|
|Tend to fix maintenance issues faster||Highly dependent upon on-site property management staff’s performance|