Renting from an Owner vs. an Apartment Manager

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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.

28 Responses to “Renting from an Owner vs. an Apartment Manager”

  1. May 13, 2008 at 7:37 pm, Guest said:

    renting sucks and nobody cares about anything but the almighty dollars and if you can find anyone who is a good landlord youre lucky. [email protected]

    Reply

  2. May 13, 2008 at 7:39 pm, Guest said:

    I have been on my own and rented and owned for 30 years. nobody cares about anything but money.

    Reply

  3. May 14, 2008 at 5:11 pm, Guest said:

    Renting from a individual owner is WAY better! Property Managment sucks and they will alwas try to screw you out of your deposit. I just moved out of a house through Windemere in Bellinham WA and I left the place in better shape than when I moved in. They would not provide me with invoices and told me they did not have to substansiate any charges. They took over a $1000.00 from me and the onlything I can do is take it or hire a lawyer for another $1000.00.

    Reply

  4. May 15, 2008 at 9:44 am, Guest said:

    you can take them to small claims court. Most county’s have them. Should not cost more the 50.00. Don’t let them get away with it.

    Reply

  5. May 15, 2008 at 5:47 pm, Guest said:

    you can say that again! after renting from a owner for eight months…the place goes into foreclosure and he (the owner/landlord) was in constant denial not caring that my child and i was about to be homeless! DO NOT RENT AT THE PARK AT BROWNSMILL…most of them are going into foreclosure and the owners are trying to find the first sucker they can find to rent them to until its sold on the courthouse steps! drug dealers are out there and people doors are being kicked in, ac units are being stolen from the empty units as well as all of the appliances…and guess what? this is a brand new gated community…oh yeah…there are two drug dealers there as well!

    Reply

  6. May 21, 2008 at 5:39 pm, Guest said:

    I have been renting for twenty-five years now and I can say that I have rented from both property managers and individual owners and can say that it is a crap shoot. Of the four individual owners, two were great and two were horrible. The best rental I had was had a property manager who lived on the property. The property manager is a very good one who is firm but can be flexible in the right instance. I was laid off from my job and when I asked to pay my rent in to two payments each month, she said no problem. The first place that I rented from a guy who turned out to be an alcoholic and a slimelord. I had to threaten to take him to court so he would fix a leak in the unit that during one bad storm was almost pouring into the unit. The property managers that I have had are not as flexible in the large complexes. If you are going to rent from a property manager make sure it is a place that isn’t more than 50 units, that they live on the property and that the property managment company doesn’t manage more than 3 properties.

    Reply

  7. May 23, 2008 at 10:51 am, Guest said:

    My wife was in property management for 10 years. The companies are just like every other business on the planet. They want as much money as possible (even if it involves corporate theft) without spending a dime. They purposefully hire incompetent persons. It provides a buffer for upper management- “not our fault”. When my wife would completely turn a property around and make them profitable, she was undermined by both her staff and the corporate office. Out here in Texas, the landlord has all of the rights. They can pretty much write a contract to include ANY terms and change it on a whim. If you don’t like it, move! The courts are so jacked up and the cost of an attorney is too high to fight. We were involved directly or indirectly with several companies where the staff and management would steal rent money. Or they would hire third party companies (owned by their spouses) and keep them on a never-ending payroll gravy train. We’ve lived in several states and by far, Texas is the WORST! You pay your rent on time and all you get is lost rent checks, no response for emergencies and shabby living conditions. However, on the drop of a dime, you can get bizarre eviction notices, complaints, harassment, etc. My best suggestion for anyone is to investigate the responses on various websites and ask around. And remember, many positives are just the management typing on the forum. If the responses are mostly negative, run don’t walk. Also, get information from your state’s Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau. Find out what your rights are. Not that you anyone will stick up for you… Nothing sucks more than getting your family stuck in a contract that you cannot get out of, but if the property management company decides to go bankrupt, sell the property, loses your check, etc. they give you a 24 to 72 hour notice to vacate. This is not a spite-filled response. I’ve owned my business for half of my life. There is no need to conduct business this way. Every state has issues. But it is a fact that Texas is by far the worst due to the way the laws are written to protect the landlords. Get it in writing. Get multiple quotes from different properties. Do your research. Keep copies of all payments. Send new work-orders as certified mail. Finally, talk to the neighbors. They LOVE to tell you what’s up!

    Reply

  8. May 23, 2008 at 4:04 pm, Guest said:

    I rent a townhouse room at 11822 great owl circle in reston. The landlord ——- —— is like a slumblord! It is his way always! Night or day with out asking he enters your room/townhouse with out asking/calling/KNOCKING etc. STAY AWAY! NOTHING IS EVER FIXED AND WHEN IT IS IT IS IN THE CHEAPEST WAY WITH USED JUNK!
    HE CUTS YOUR POWER AND WATER OFF WITHOUT TELLING OR ASKING!

    Reply

  9. May 27, 2008 at 7:38 pm, Guest said:

    PLEASE!I have been renting since I was 24 and am now 67. I have never had a problem with a manager that couldn’t be handled. I did make sure I knew landlord tenant laws and read leases before I signed it. Apartment rental is a business, not a charity.
    Read the rules before you rent so that there are no
    surprises. My best landlord owned the building,but I also had a good one at a company owned building. BE
    HAVE YOURSELF, BE COURTEOUS AND FOLLOW THE RULES.

    Reply

  10. May 30, 2008 at 6:12 pm, Guest said:

    My landlord took me to court after I turned him into the BBB for not refunding my security deposit back. I lived in a place of his for 1 year. After my lease was up I moved out, but on the day I was moving out (which was the first day of the month) he immediately said, “you didn’t give me a 30 day notice”. I told him not to play that card and to give me my deposit back (which was $800). Well after a week had past he called me up and told me he wasn’t giving my security deposit back, that if I wanted to I could take him to court, and that he would ask for an additional $800 for not giving a 30 day notice. I then turned him into the BBB and they filed a complaint against him. He got so mad he actually filed a court case against me for an additional $800. When we went to court, I put all of the landlord/ tennant acts against him and his lease agreement. He was speechless. The court later decided on the case and awarded me $1600. $800 for my deposit and $800 for neglegently holding it back for so long. Yes I am a happy camper, but he still hasn’t paid me. It’s going on 4 months now and I will soon have to go to the courts to file charges against him for not oberying court orders.
    Bottom line, owners and corps can both be a struggle, or can both be a good experience.

    Reply

  11. May 31, 2008 at 7:38 pm, Guest said:

    My husband and I are owner/landord of a single family home. What most renters don’t realize is this is business-not personal. We have a very specific lease, but nothing outrageous. We have a few simple request: Pay the rent on time, treat the property with respect and keep it clean. Communication is key in any relationship and a landlord cannot read your mind.If the rent is late call and say why and when the rent will be paid. We’ve gone the extra mile to put in all new flooring, new appliances, fresh paint, blinds, etc and things can be ruined in a 2 month period.
    There are some bad landlords out their that take advantage, but the tenants know how to play the game too. It’s an old saying, but simple “Treat people like you want to be treated”.

    Reply

  12. June 10, 2008 at 12:52 pm, Guest said:

    Oh, I totally agree. I just left Texas and was renting a small house with Century 21 —– —-. It has been a horrible experience. In the three years I rented with them, I filed countless work orders, for things like a faulty front door lock that I couldn’t even properly shut and lock my front door!, a broken dishwasher, and oven that didn’t heat up, a faucet that rapidly leaked hot water, only to be ignored. I moved into the house with urine stained carpets they never replaced. I left the place immaculate, only to have them make up bogus ‘repairs’ in order to extort almost all of my security deposit. DON’T RENT WITH CENTURY 21! —– —-!!!!
    The sending of work orders via certified mail is really good suggestion.

    Reply

  13. July 16, 2008 at 6:49 pm, Guest said:

    I have not had a late rent in 2 years and 6 mos.!(record was broken in July)
    I don’t allow it. If the resident makes sure the child care is paid every Friday on time; then they can pay the roof over their heads on time. No exceptions. I consider rent late on the 2nd.

    How would you like it if your boss told you he would pay you on the first, and you wait until the 2nd, and you ask what happened, and he said “he decided to pay you on the 5th at 5:30PM.” How would this bowd with you? EXACTLY, This is my boss’s payday. Treat it as if.

    You re-teach your Residents on expectations. Yours and theirs. I run this property with the mindset of
    PMC rules regulatons. My Owner’s are the Original Founders and Management Company for 30 years. I am the mentor, the counselor, a friend, compassoniate, customer service provider for all my Resident’s. I work for them. They pay my salary and benefits.

    Being the Business Manager for the Owner and Residental Manager, you have to remember you represent the Owner’s asset, and the Resident’s needs. Stay consistant, be firm but fair management style.

    You could eat off my parking lots. Come visit us at The Dunes Apartments in Jacksonville, Florida, you won’t even find a cigarette butt on the property. Or.. please go read the ratings.

    Reply

  14. July 16, 2008 at 6:59 pm, Guest said:

    Oh yes they do have to prove to you your charges, and with Photos. Remember to always get a copy of your move in sheet, and your move out sheet. Never, ever just leave the keys. You then gave management an open check.

    Jan Spottswood
    Business/On-Site/Resident Relations Manager

    Reply

  15. July 28, 2008 at 1:54 pm, Guest said:

    I’m trying to find an answer to the question, Do people looking for housing (rental) have the right to know why they were declined/denied? My wife and I went to look at a house for rent in the area we live in. It’s in our price range and looks nice despite the neighborhood not being so great. The lady we talked to told us it used to belong to her grandmother and since she didn’t live there anymore, they decided to rent it out. When I asked her why we were denied, she told me they don’t give out that information, but also tells me that the “lady who owns the house” makes the decisions. But based on what was previously told to us (about the grandmother) it sounded like she was trying to avoid being directly responsible. We live in Columbus, Ohio and I recall, but am not totally sure that there is a state law that gives us the right to know exactly why we were denied. Can anybody help?

    Reply

  16. August 23, 2008 at 8:34 pm, Guest said:

    A person can be denied a rental unit for a number of reasons and the one that is usually on the top of the list is credit. If you filled out a credit application when you applied for the rental that may have been the case. State laws differ, so you should seek professional legal advice to determine whether any fair housing laws were broken in your state. I hope this answer helps…Jean

    Sincerely and Respectfully Submitted,
    Jean Poitevien
    Real Estate Consultant
    Long & Foster Realtors

    Reply

  17. August 27, 2008 at 10:29 pm, Guest said:

    The Management must give you a reason why you were denied. This gives you a chance to get a free copy of your credit report. It also is a great opportunity for some who really don’t know their credit, to get “in shape.”

    (This program was before the new programs now; free and annual credit reports.com)

    Fair Housing is not taken lightly. Did they take an earnest/good faith deposit on an apartment?

    Reply

  18. September 06, 2008 at 11:50 am, Guest said:

    Sometimes all it takes is a letter from an attorney to get your money for you. The attorney will know the law and having laws cited in the letter explaining what penalties can be imposed on the landlords for failure to follow the law can often scare a landlord into shaping up. If all it takes is a letter, then it shouldn’t cost you too much. In California, landlords are required to provide an accounting of all charges against the security deposit within 21 days. If they do not provide this, they forfeit the right to keep any of the deposit. Perhaps Washington has a similar law.

    Reply

  19. September 12, 2008 at 6:03 pm, Guest said:

    Good for your parking lots. And who would want to visit a BEOTCH like you? You better hope you never fall on hard times.

    Reply

  20. September 22, 2008 at 9:26 pm, Guest said:

    Many landlords love to grab security deposit money. I’ve had that done to me many times though I’m a neat and clean person.

    Sorry to hear you spent so much time and energy with that jerk. I bet he won’t pay up.

    Reply

  21. September 30, 2008 at 10:00 pm, Guest said:

    As a Property Manager, I can tell you that there are good and bad apples in our line of work just like every other business but I would like to make a few points from a Manager that does care
    I take my job very seriously
    My Residents sign my paycheck, they are the reason I have a job
    I am by law required to follow Fair Housing but my heart would demand it anyway
    My property stays 100% full and it is because My staff and I hold our standards above board at all times and people know it
    You as the resident needs to understand
    You are not the only one we have to care about, we have everyone on property to care about at the same time. We have to look at what is best for everyone there
    We do not own the property, we work for the owner, therefore we do not have the right to waiver late fees and such.
    Please do not yell at us because we have feelings too
    Always give the required notice in writing and make a copy for yourself
    Ask for a list of what will be required when you move out in order to have your deposit returned
    ALWAYS do a walk through with your manager when you turn in your keys.
    If you do not receive a movein inspection sheet the day you move in, demand it, list all of the items you find the day of move in and have the manager or leasing agent sign it. Keep a copy for your records.
    Make sure you also receive a full copy of your lease and all addendums.
    NEVER PAY WITH CASH!
    Each state has different laws but most have a tenant/landlord act so check to see if you can get a copy and read it. You will then know what your rights are and how you will need to proceed to correct any problem that may come up.
    There is no property, property manager or owner that can 100% say you will be safe, you are responsible for your own safety so have common sense. You should expect them to care and do what they can to help you by proper screening of applicants. In 17 years in the business, I can say that if you lower your standards, you lower ability to control what happens on the property. Ask you apartment or property manager if they do criminal checks on applicants.
    These are just a few of my recommendations.
    I will be back to add more =)

    Reply

  22. October 08, 2008 at 12:28 pm, Guest said:

    No landlord deserves to be cheated out of rent or needlessly delayed when they have obligations themselves… however, most private property owners and many management companies do allow a five-day grace period for rent to be paid, beginning on the 1st of each month; after the 5th day, a late-fee is assessed. This allows a tenant to make rent within a reasonable time, considering weekends, bank holidays, and delayed paychecks. Believe it or not some people do receive paychecks in an irregular fashion – my boss handwrites the checks semi-monthly and we may get them two or three days after our payroll period has actually ended. Thankfully, my landlord is very reasonable and has given every tenant the five-day grace period, so I never have to pay my rent late, even when my employer pays me late! Because of his compassionate policies, 99% of his tenants are absolutely reliable. Openly distrusting people and placing that distrust into policy only encourages irresponsibility. It’s basic psychology re: authority figures. It might work well to relax a little and the rental reliability might last longer than two years and 6 months. It might last, like my landlord’s experience, over ten years.

    Reply

  23. October 13, 2008 at 1:00 pm, Guest said:

    Once I’ve beend denied by a Property Management Company, is there anything that I can do? My credit score passed, and the only thing that is holding me back is my rental history. I’ve been renting from my current residence for over 4 years now. Unfortunately, we’ve ran into some hard times during this past year and have been late numerous times. They are holding that against us, even though the first 3 years we were ALWAYS on time. We would barely even wait until the grace period to pay our rent.

    Is there anything else that I can do? It’s so hard because most of the properties listed in my area are listed by this particular property management company…

    Reply

  24. November 01, 2008 at 7:22 pm, Guest said:

    If you are current now, I don’t see why anyone would have a problem. You could offer to pay a months rent as a security deposit
    Most managers look at your rental history as a whole. If you paid on time for 3 years and for a couple months was late and you had a family crisis, then the property management where you applied should really take that into consideration!
    Push them a little harder =)

    Reply

  25. November 02, 2008 at 9:31 pm, Guest said:

    If my boss handed out paychecks a day late I wouldn’t care so much because I understand stuff happens. Any responsible person would have ( if possible) a small saftey net of money tucked away anyway for those emergencies. Hope when you fall on hard times someone treats you with the same love you treat your tenants with. Kharma is a b*tch man and you certainly sound like you are one too. Glad to hear about those spiffy parking lots though.

    Reply

  26. January 25, 2009 at 7:17 am, Guest said:

    if a manager has specific policies and adheres to them with every applicant as in denying a rental because of late payments, then he most certainly CAN deny someone based on that. If an applicant is denied, the manager should give reasons why. I use a tenant screening company which given me a standard form to mail to each applicant denied which i do mail after denial.
    what people do NOT relize is that it is a business first and foremost and if a community is succesful, it is being managed as such.

    Reply

  27. August 21, 2009 at 5:25 pm, Lisa said:

    If a landlord decides to not accept an applicant for a lease, but already took an earnest deposit, don’t they have to return the earnest deposit & within a few business days?

    I have always understood that if the tenant applicant decides to bail, then earnest deposit is forfeited, but if the landlord bails, the entire earnest money should be returned.

    Any thoughts? comments?

    Reply

  28. April 23, 2020 at 11:47 am, Derek McDoogle said:

    One of my neighbors owns a building with 10 apartments that he rents out and has been taken care of since he built them. I like how you mentioned some of the advantages of renting an apartment from a property management company such as more amenities like a pool and laundry room. Since my uncle's building has these types of amenities, I will recommend him to contact a property management company that can help him handle all the jobs so he can enjoy his time when he decides to retire.

    Reply

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