Renting through a Property Management Company vs the Landlord

Example blog post alt

If you are in the process of finding a place to rent, one consideration that may not cross your mind are the differences in renting from an individual landlord vs. a property management company. There are actually several pros and cons in each situation. By considering these factors when deciding where to live, you can eliminate potential headaches and increase your satisfaction with your renting experience.

An individual landlord operates rental properties on his or her own. As a generalization, you may be risking slightly less professional approach to property management, though this is not always the case. There is not a team of professionals that handle different property management responsibilities. The landlord running the entire property management operation should be competent at everything from devising legally valid leases to taking care of maintenance requests in a timely manner.

There are two types of individual landlords: Professional and accidental. Professional individual landlords, which in Europe go by the name private landlords, typically make property management a career. On the other hand, accidental landlords own just one property that they took over because of an inheritance or another type of financial reason. Accidental landlords rarely delegate responsibility for running a rental property, while professional landlords might contract out a few services, such as HVAC and landscaping.

According to the professionals at Utopia Management, here are some aspects that are routinely handled professionally by a firm, that may or may not be handled professionally by an individual. You can discuss these up front with your potential landlord.


  • Presents a legally valid and detailed lease

  • Ability to process rent payments online and by credit card

  • Dependable and timely maintenance services

  • Prompt responses to emergency calls

  • Understands tenant and landlord rights in California

  • Answers the office phone and returns messages in a timely manner


Benefits of Renting from an Individual Landlord

Streamlined Communication

Tenants that rent from a private landlord can expect to have direct access to the landlord. You do not have to talk to more than one person in an attempt to resolve an issue. However, as we will see in the disadvantages section, trying to reach a private landlord can be an act of frustration.

Potential Excess Fees

Some property management companies tack on hefty application fees fees and other types of administrative costs on the front end of lease agreements. The property management team at Utopia Management encourages anyone that is thinking about renting from a private landlord or a property management company to review rental agreements thoroughly, before signing on the dotted line.

No Hit on Your Credit Score

You can expect an individual landlord to check references, but some private landlords do not run credit checks.  The three primary credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) consider a credit check to be a blemish on a potential renter’s credit history. A steady source of income that preferably comes from gainful employment is all some private landlords want out of tenants.

Flexible Deposit Agreements

Private landlords are more likely to adjust deposits to accommodate the unique financial status of each renter. For example, paying more than average for a deposit might get you a discount on the first month’s rent. Just make sure the deposit agreement is clearly defined within the lease.

Disadvantages of Renting from an Individual Landlord

Do the disadvantages of renting from an individual landlord outweigh the benefits? In many cases, the answer is yes.

Lack of Regulation

Private landlords are not required by law to register with a professional trade association, which many real estate consultants claim is the ideal situation for scammers to thrive. This is especially true for accidental individual landlords that do not have the best interests of tenants in mind. Some local governing bodies work with private landlords to ensure the implementation of ethical business practices.

Not Familiar with Landlord-Tenant Laws

Someone that “fell into” a rental property probably has not brushed up on the nuances of landlord-tenant laws. Although it might appear a private landlord willingly violated one or more laws, the private landlord might have committed the violations because of a lack of legal knowledge, not expressed unlawful intent.

Informal Rental Agreements

Beware the private landlord that offers an informal rental agreement in return for lower monthly rent and/or a reduced deposit. Informal rental agreements that include verbal agreements are a recipe for legal hassles down the road. A formal lease should be an integral part of the relationship that you establish with any type of landlord, regardless if you deal with a private landlord or a property management company.

Personal Safety During a Viewing

With a property management company, you enjoy the sense of safety that keeps you on site longer to learn more about a unit. An individual landlord represents a stranger that you meet at a location that you have never visited. If you decide to meet a private landlord at a rental property, make sure to bring along a friend or a family member to boost your personal safety.

Poor Communication

Now, we return to the issue of communication. Although it is true that you deal directly with a private landlord, you might find the private landlord to be, let’s say, less that readily available to discuss rental issues. Reaching an answering machine several times throughout the course of a few days can lead to an incredible amount of frustration. Yes, you might have to talk with one person to reach another person at a property management company, but at least you found a professional that listens.