You have narrowed your apartment search down to two possibilities. One is managed by a property management company (PMC), or is a part of a large group of apartment communities (e.g., AMLI, Archstone-Smith, Equity Residential). The other is managed by an individual owner who may own a few properties or just the one rental you’re looking at. Before you sign on the line, you weigh the pros and cons just like you are supposed to. What side of the list does this fall? Is it a pro or a con to rent from an individual landlord?
Doing research for this entry, I just can’t help but picture Jack Tripper and the Ropers. I also can’t help but think I may be seriously dating myself. I hope that someone who is reading this knows who I am referring to. Our idea of the landlord is going to have a lot of say in this decision. Realistically, Ropers aside, is it a good idea to rent from an individual landlord over a PMC?
The positives of renting from a PMC are mostly size. The communities tend to be larger and have more amenities like a pool, health club, laundry room, etc. These are the communities that are more likely to have special events to meet your neighbors. They may have a full-time maintenance person who can respond to issues quickly. They have the benefit of a larger budget and may be able to be more responsive to your requests that result in a big bill from the plumber or A/C guy. They are also more likely to run by the book. This can be in your favor when the neighbors party every night and park in your spot.
The positives of renting from an individual landlord are a more personable experience. They own this property. They have a vested interest in the property’s well being. If you decide you want to do a home improvement you may be able to present it to the landlord and get it approved. You may even be able to work out an arrangement on material costs. An individual landlord will want to keep a good tenant happy and as long as possible, which could include not raising the rent on lease renewal. They may be willing to compromise with tenants on policies, such as negotiating the rent.
The negatives of renting from a PMC are mostly size. Does this sound familiar? The regulations in your lease have to be followed by all. If you give special consideration for one tenant, how do you say no to another who knows of the special treatment? Where do you draw the line? This can be unfortunate when you need to babysit your sister’s cat for a week and you know Fluffy loves sitting in the window. This may make the PMC seem very impersonal and unreasonable to some.
The negatives from renting from an individual landlord are mostly unknown. This is where you will want to take extra care that you are covering your bases before signing a lease. If the landlord says he doesn’t require a lease, don’t even consider moving in without one. You want this to protect yourself as much as he should want it to protect himself. Ask the questions you need to ask and get references from previous tenants. Find out how imposing the landlord is–do they live right downstairs like the Ropers? How do they handle emergency expenses? Some landlords may not have the cash flow available to buy a new refrigerator, should yours die. What is outlined in lease about this? How available are they after hours and on the weekends? Are they doing the maintenance work themselves, or do they have reliable vendors who can respond quickly to maintenance issues (maybe not the same day, but at least within a day or two)? Do they plan to sell the property in the next couple years?
I’ve rented from an individual landlord and it was the best situation I ever had renting. Unfortunately, not every landlord is like this. The good news is you have a lease to protect yourself. Ensure that you read it completely before you sign it. There are also tenants’ rights to protect you. There is a great website that outlines the laws protecting tenants. It is laid out very well to help you find what you may be looking for without having to read through a lot of law verbiage: FindLaw.com. You may still need to check the state or local real estate laws regarding your situation, but this site is a great place to start.