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Understanding Your Rental Apartment: Property Manager vs. Landlord

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If you’re on the hunt for a new rental apartment, you’re probably asking yourself lots of questions. Do you need a pet-friendly situation? Which school district should you rent in? Are you going to need renter’s insurance? If so, how much does that cost? Among all of these questions is one you might not necessarily have thought about: Should you rent from an owner or a property management company? You might not even be sure what the difference between them is. That’s why we’re here! We’ll talk about what the difference between them is and some of the pros and cons. That way, you’ll be an educated renter as you look for a rental home.

What Is an Owner/Landlord?

A landlord typically refers to someone who owns the rental apartment in question. This person directly manages the property and relationship with tenants. Most landlords own only a few rental properties. Being a landlord might not even be their only job. If you’re renting directly from the owner, there’s no company involved. It’s just you and the owner in this professional relationship. In this case you, the renter, are the landlord’s client. They have a vested interest in keeping good renters happy to minimize the cost of operating their rental property. The landlord is still beholden to the housing laws in your state, of course.

What is a Property Manager?

A property manager doesn’t own the apartment you’re renting, but is a company or individual hired by the owner to manage the rental property in question.   If you’re renting from a property management company, that company likely manages hundreds of rental apartments in apartment communities. The PMC has individual property managers for each building it manages, and these managers serve as the contact point for the building’s tenants when they have issues and questions. The representatives are there to ensure that the building’s tenants have their needs met and that they follow the rules, however the property owners not the renters are their client

So now that we’ve laid out the definitions of both landlords and property managers, let’s get down to business. How does this impact your rental experience? Let’s talk about a few of the major items.


Because property managers are real estate professionals, they likely have a lease already laid out. This means that you’ll probably have very little wiggle room in what the lease says. It might be quick for you to move through the lease-signing process, a very cut-and-dry situation. With an individual landlord, you’re more likely to lay out the lease together, and there will be more room for you to negotiate the terms of the lease. The process might not be as quick or as professional, because if it’s a small landlord, they are probably not a real estate professional, as we said before.


This willingness to negotiate on the part of landlords means that renting from an individual landlord could be cheaper. As with the lease, there probably won’t be a lot of wiggle room in the cost of rent if you rent from a property management company. Since the rental process is more professional and less personal, a property management company might be more willing to simply move on to the next applicant for a rental apartment if you won’t pay the rent they’re asking for.

That being said landlords are very aware of the cost associated with owning and maintaining a property, often they depend on the income from the rental for their day to day living expenses and are not in a position to operate the property at a loss. If you do decide to negotiate with your landlord consider what costs you can off set in exchange for a lower rent. 


Property managers typically offer around-the-clock maintenance, which can be useful. They’ll have a maintenance team on hand. An individual landlord might not be able to do this, especially if they’re the one making the repairs on your rental apartment or live some distance away from the property. If it is important to you that your garbage disposal be fixed right away at 11pm at night, you might want to rent from a property manager who maybe more responsive to your requests.

key to rental apartment

Sticking to Protocol

When it comes to rules and regulations, individual landlords will be more relaxed. If your rent is a few days late, you may be able to message your landlord ahead of time and pay it when you can without a problem. This is less likely to be the case when it comes to a property manager They’ll expect you to stick to the rules in place, and they’ll probably be less willing to bend them for you––after all, the company would expect them to do so, and it’s part of their job. So this is one aspect of life in your rental apartment where the personal relationship you have with your landlord could come in handy. 

This also means that landlords will likely be more wiling to rent to someone who doesn’t meet all of the qualifications they set out to look for. If you’re a student with no credit history or someone with a messy pet, a landlord may be more willing to rent to you than a property manager. To counteract this, you might consider getting renters insurance.


When it comes to building a personal relationship, an individual landlord will be your best bet rather than a property manager. This could come in handy not only when your rent is late, but when you need a reference for a rental application down the line. Or who knows––maybe you’ll like your landlord so much that you’ll renew your lease a few times. Renting from a property manager probably won’t be like this, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be professional and pleasant. It just depends on how much a personal touch means to you.

Hopefully, this list helps you sort out the pros and cons of both landlords and property managers as you decide which rental apartment you’d like. When you find the right apartment, check out our post on crafting the perfect rental application.

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