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Should I Rent From a Landlord or a Property Manager?
If you’ve been renting a place to live for a few years, you’ve probably been paying rent to either a landlord or a property manager. But do you know how they’re different or what their responsibilities are, one compared to the other? To help you understand which option works best for you when the time comes to move, we’ve put together this review of the differences between a property manager and a landlord.
General Differences Between a Landlord Vs. a Property Manager
In most cases, property managers act as on-site caretakers of rental spaces and apartment buildings, while landlords typically own the property they’re renting. In some cases, property owners and landlords may not play a large role in attending to tenants needs. Property managers are typically more “hands on” with tenants. They handle everything from screening tenants, managing rental applications and defining rental costs to handling tenant issues and complaints.
What’s the difference between a property owner and a landlord?
The main difference between owners and landlords is that property owners are typically more focused on their real estate investment and rental income than they are on their tenants. Landlords, while still owners of their rental property, play a more active role in the day-to-day operations of the rental property.
Responsibilities of a landlord vs. a property manager
Landlords are both property owners and managers of the property. They’re more directly involved than owners in the day-to-day operations of the rental but may outsource some of their duties to others, perhaps even property managers. Tenant relations with landlords are usually less formal.
Here’s a list of responsibilities landlords typically perform:
- Lease management and enforcement
- Show rental to prospective tenants
- Collect rent
- Perform repairs or outsource the job
- May be more willing to negotiate on rental price vs. property owners
Both the landlord and the property manager may perform duties in and around the rental property. The main difference is that the property manager is typically hired by a property owner or a landlord to deal with the everyday business of managing the rental property.
Here’s a quick review of the duties managers perform when you're renting from a property management company:
- Prepare vacant units for the next tenant
- Define price for the rental
- Vet, screen and approve prospective tenants
- Advertise the rental property
- Create the lease and enforce the terms of the agreement
- Collect rent
- Handle tenant issues, repairs and complaints
- Act as groundskeepers of the rental property and shared spaces
- Manage employees on-premises
- Manage move-ins, move-outs and evictions
- Attend to the business of the property, including tax preparations
- Ensure the property stays in compliance with local, state and municipal codes
- Archive records and develop reports for rental property owners
How the renting experience differs with a landlord or property manager
You might equate landlords to an Airbnb owner, whereas property managers are more aligned with hotel chain administrators. And if you’ve rented from an Airbnb, you may recall the owner helping you settle in, offering details on local attractions, checking in on you, etc.
Property managers are usually “strictly business,” and may not be willing or able to guide you to local attractions the way landlords sometimes do.
Landlords will typically be more open to adjusting terms in your lease agreement than property managers. If you’re looking for a little wiggle room around a move in date, a landlord may be more willing to prorate your rent for your first month, if you’re not going to be occupying the space on the first of the month.
Property managers are a decidedly stricter when it comes to adhering to the terms in your lease. In the case above, they would likely require you to pay the full month’s rent whether or not your living there for the whole 30-day period.
Late fees and other costs you incur as a tenant are another consideration when renting from a property management company. Suppose you've got a good working relationship with your landlord and you inform them that rent will be several days late. They may be willing to waive the late fee. But property managers are usually more business-like in their dealings with tenants.
Because of the typically informal way tenants interact with landlords, the relationship can become more personal over time. For instance, you may be able to negotiate financial terms or other clauses in your lease. Pets over 50 pounds may be allowed — but the lease stipulates an extra security deposit is required.
If you’re tight on cash and need a few months to come up with the extra money for a pet deposit, a landlord may allow you more time than a typical property manager would to deliver that deposit.
Getting work requests completed in a timely manner is usually an advantage of those renting from property managers. Their business model typically requires a prompt resolution to maintenance issues. If your dishwasher stops working and you notify your property manager, you may be given a ticket number and an appointment for maintenance personnel to stop by and take a look.
When renting property from a landlord, you run the risk of the landlord not being able to find the time to get over to your place for a few days if they're busy. Or they may not be able to replace broken appliances immediately. And that can leave you feeling a bit unsteady about your decision to rent from a landlord.
Expect more professional dealings with property managers vs. those with landlords. Looking for a hands-on and personal approach? Renting from a landlord might be the better way to go. If you’re not up for a social relationship, renting from property management company can be of use. That’s because they’re typically less likely to chit chat and may not express the same readiness to get to know you as landlords typically do.
However, if things go wrong, and your landlord isn’t willing to make repairs for issues that are the responsibility of the property owner, you may find yourself with nowhere to turn. Property management groups usually offer tenants a means to escalate issues if a problem persists in your rental unit. Because landlords are usually a one-person show, it’s important to interview them and check in with other tenants on their concerns with the landlord before you sign on the dotted line.
The relationship between property manager vs. landlord
Renting from a property management company is a great idea if you plan to be traveling a lot and need a more professional rental experience. However, if you’re a people person, you may enjoy the more nuanced relationship that landlords typically offer.
It all depends on your personal preference. Because everybody’s different, the best way to figure it out is to meet a few property management groups and landlords and make the choice that works best for you.
Should You Rent From a Property Manager or a Landlord?
Although personal preference will weigh heavily into your thought process, it may be wise to consider your wants and needs first. Before renting from either a property management company or a landlord it's key to make the right call. To help you weigh out your options, we’ve put together a list of pros and cons for each:
Pros of renting from a landlord
- Greater financial flexibility
- More personal relationship
- Custom lease agreements are more likely
- Decreased rental costs due to lack of property management firm fees
Cons of renting from a landlord
- May have limited funds for repairs
- Delays in repairs may occur if they’re busy with other attentions
- Booking a handyman can sometimes take weeks
- Less likely to offer one month’s free rent when signing on
Pros of renting from a property management company
- Professional staff typically on site to handle issues and repairs
- Prompt attention to concerns
- Great for those looking for a business-type relationship with their rental group
- Typically well-funded and insured
- Incentivized sign-on bonuses like one month’s free rent more likely
- Perks may be available such as an exercise room, pool and community gathering area
Cons of renting from a property management company
- Higher rent due to fees for rental management group
- Application fees typically apply
- Decreased financial flexibility
- Stricter rules and fine enforcement procedures
Protect Your Apartment With Renters Insurance
Whether you choose to rent from a landlord or a property manager, be sure to carefully protect the things you own first. Check in with your American Family Insurance agent and request a customized renters quote today. You’ll have the protection you need and find real peace of mind with great coverage.