Landlord vs. Property Manager

As you are looking for a place to rent, the differences between how places are managed—either by a property manager or landlord—may not seem to make much difference. But not all property bosses are created equal. Whom you choose to rent from can make a big difference in your whole rental living experience.  So before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you know the subtle (and significant) differences between the two.


When you rent directly from a landlord, you’re renting from the owner. Landlords often create their own leases, determine rent and security deposit amounts, and handle maintenance requests and other management business. Landlords are common when you’re looking for a private home, but many also own small apartment complexes or duplexes.

A property manager typically works as the middleman between renters and an individual landlord or a larger property management company. For example, a property manager may work with several landlords who own private homes or small apartment complexes. The property manager handles maintenance requests, collects rent, and deals with tenant disputes. As a renter, you may never meet the landlord.  Property managers may also work as part of a company that owns several large apartment complexes. These property management companies typically have a corporate office that creates lease agreements, property rules and determines fees.


Individual landlords and property managers have to follow the landlord and tenant laws in your state. For example, if your state has a five-day grace period to pay the rent at the beginning of the month, a landlord cannot charge you a late fee on the 2nd. Beyond the legality, however, you may see differences between the two.

Property management companies usually have a blanket lease and policies for every complex they manage. For example, with pets, many property management companies have breed restrictions and weight limits. If your pet isn’t included, you may not be able to lease in any building managed by the property manager. Individual landlords, since they own and operate their buildings, may be more willing to negotiate lease policies regarding such matters as the breed and size of your pet.

Maintenance requests may also be handled differently. Many property managers keep a maintenance crew on site. In such situations, repairs to your apartment may be handled more smoothly. Individual landlords do not typically have a maintenance crew. Instead, they make small repairs themselves or hire out for larger problems. Since landlords often have day jobs, you may wait longer for repairs.


Both landlords and property managers try to offer a competitive rental rate, but there are differences between the two that could save you money.

You may notice the first difference during the walk-through. Many property managers have a standard application fee for all potential tenants, while landlords may waive this fee.

When it comes to rent, property management companies often run special deals — such as a month of free rent for any tenant who signs a one-year lease. Landlords don’t usually offer specials on their rentals, but they can offer something a property manager can’t — negotiation. Many landlords may be willing to negotiate the rent with you, which could save you a chunk of change in the long run.