Rental properties are usually managed by private landlords (aka independent landlords) or a property management company. On the surface, these roles are fairly similar. But where private landlords completely control their rental units and play a more hands-on role, property managers typically have a business-only approach with contracts and dotted lines. Each approach has its pros and cons for tenants.
1. What are the Duties of a Landlord?
Landlords take on the role of both property owner and manager. They often manage smaller portfolios of 2 to 4-unit properties and single-family homes.
Landlords are responsible for:
- Listing the property
- Rental showings to prospective tenants
- Screening tenants
- Lease management and enforcement
- Rent collection and security deposits
- Property maintenance and repairs
- Accounting and tax preparations
- Handling tenant disputes and complaints
Generally, landlords have a more active role in day-to-day operations. Whereas property managers oversee official processes for tenant requests and lease agreements.
2. What are the Duties of a Property Manager?
A property manager serves as a middleman between the owner of the rental and the tenant. They typically work with landlords and real estate investors that own larger multi-unit properties and commercial spaces.
Property managers are responsible for:
- Lease agreements and renewals
- Tenant screening and turnover
- Maintenance and repair requests
- Property finances and rent collection
- Compliance with local, state, and municipal codes
- Managing on-site employees
Some property managers will take on duties similar to a landlord. But most are hired by a property owner to deal with the business side of rental property management.
3. Landlord vs. Property Manager: Advantages and Disadvantages
Managing rental properties involves the same responsibilities for property managers and private landlords, like rent collection, maintenance, and repairs. Legal obligations to tenants also share similarities regardless of who is in charge. These include state laws for security deposits, rent increases, evictions, privacy, and property conditions.
Even though it’s easy to connect the dots between landlords and property managers, there are significant differences—good and bad—that impact the overall tenant experience.
Point of Contact
One of the main differences between a landlord and a property manager is who you will be dealing with on a daily basis.
In private landlord rentals, you deal directly with the landlord. Since the landlord owns the property, they are vested in keeping tenants happy when they get calls for repair requests or noise complaints.
The downside is landlords may not be able to respond to calls at all hours of the day (and night). This can be inconvenient when you lock yourself out at 2 a.m. or have a plumbing emergency over the weekend.
A property manager often has the authority to make decisions without consulting the property owner. This can speed up response rates for repair requests and complaints.
On the other hand, larger firms with multiple properties have formal processes that can cause delays. They may not be able to send a contractor for repairs right away, whereas a landlord who lives nearby might provide faster service.
The types of lease agreements that landlords and property managers use can vary. No matter how general or specific the lease agreement is, it must follow the landlord-tenant laws in the area where the rental property is located.
Most landlords use a general lease agreement from a lawyer or outside source, and these are often modified to include rules for quiet hours, pet policies, rent collection terms, and rent payment options.
Landlords have a little more wiggle room to negotiate lease agreements. But if they had a few bad tenants, you might get stuck with some rigid restrictions around security deposits, renewals, and termination.
Property managers tend to use a general lease agreement for any type of property they manage, and the lease terms are usually more strict and followed to the letter.
These airtight agreements leave no room for negotiation. However, the rules are spelled out clearly, so you know what to expect.
Maintenance & Repairs
Landlords and property managers generally handle maintenance and repairs in different ways.
Depending on the severity of the issue, the landlord will either handle repairs themselves or hire a specialist. It could be a quick turnaround if they’re handy, or it might take several days or weeks to address maintenance requests.
Property managers usually have a team of professionals they can call on as a larger operation to get the job done quickly. Requests are often submitted as tickets, and this helps streamline the process unless the system breaks down and your ticket disappears.
Deciding whether to rent from a private landlord or property manager will come down to resources, accessibility, and policies.
Private landlords may not always be available or have the resources for quick repairs, but you have one point of contact and more flexibility on lease terms.
Property managers have strict rules and policies for rental agreements, but they have more people to answer calls and respond to requests for repairs and maintenance.
Private landlords (also called independent landlords) have complete control over their investments and don't typically use real estate listing agents. There are hundreds of dedicated property rental websites, such as Craigslist, Zillow, Rentals.com, and more. You can even find private landlords through referrals from current tenants and social media like Instagram and Facebook Marketplace.
Three-quarters of all renters choose to live in 1 to 4-unit properties owned by private landlords. Tenants typically prefer private landlords over larger rental organizations for the personalized level of service that caters to their needs. Cheaper rent is another perk since landlords aren’t charging additional fees to pay a property manager.
Time is money. Property management software saves both, and it does all the work of a professional company without the overhead costs. You can simplify property finances with landlord banking, bookkeeping, automated rent collection, and property insights all under one roof.