As a renter, you’ve likely heard the terms landlord and property manager used interchangeably. While that may be common practice, there are clear differences between the two. Understanding these differences can be helpful to inform the way you approach conversations about your rental unit with either party.
General differences between a landlord vs. property manager
Although landlords and property managers perform some of the same duties, they are not the same.
- Landlords are property owners — A landlord owns the property you are renting from. A property manager is hired to manage the property you are renting.
- Property managers take care of the day-to-day management — Just because a landlord owns property doesn’t mean they’re skilled at managing it. A landlord will generally hire a property manager to take on the responsibility of screening tenants, promoting the property, collecting rent, handling maintenance requests and other day-to-day interactions that landlords may not have time for, or be unwilling to do.
Responsibilities of managing a property as a landlord or property manager
The responsibilities of managing a property don’t change, whether you rent from a landlord or a property manager. Whoever is managing the home must still carry out the following:
- Promoting the home for rent — This includes setting a price and advertising the home on different platforms (e.g. creating a listing on rental property sites).
- Managing rent payments — Creating a system for collecting rent with the tenant, plus adjusting the cost each year as is legally allowed.
- Managing tenants — Finding and screening tenants, setting lease agreements, managing maintenance requests and move-outs.
- Understanding the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) — There are laws that govern the relationship between the landlord and tenant. Landlords and property managers need to be aware of how these laws apply to the properties they own and manage.
Renting from a landlord
When renting directly from a landlord, your expectations should be slightly different than when renting with a property manager. Here are some points to keep in mind:
- A direct line of contact — When renting from a landlord, you’re communicating directly with the owner of the property. There are both positives and negatives to this arrangement.
- On the plus side, you have an opportunity to build a strong landlord/tenant relationship which might result in your landlord being more willing to help you when maintenance requests come up, or be more open to small renovations to personalize your space. The more you can demonstrate care for and interest in preserving the value of their property, the more likely you are to have a solid relationship.
- On the other side, it’s their property, and it’s easier for them to take complaints personally. It’s also likely that your landlord has a job outside of managing the property, so resolving requests could take more time. And if for some reason you don’t get along with your landlord, your time renting may be more challenging.
- Easier to negotiate with — Because landlords own the property, you may have some more wiggle room when it comes to negotiating terms of your lease during the application period. They will consider your budget along with the connection they feel with you as a person (or group of people) and might be willing to make compromises based on these gut feelings. Including a personal note in your application, talking a bit about yourself and why their property would be a great fit, can be helpful when you’re working directly with a landlord.
- Lease agreement — If you get a lease agreement directly from a landlord, expect it to have some very specific rules. Again, landlords own these properties, and although they depend on renters to generate revenue, their focus is on the home itself. A landlord has likely sourced the lease agreement from a third party (like a lawyer or online resource) and then personalized it to cover any concerns they might have, such as your ability to host parties and what renovations you can make to the home. Read more about what to look for before signing a lease agreement.
- More flexible with how they receive rent payments — This is another possible advantage when dealing directly with landlords. They’re usually more open to different options for receiving rent payments, including the potential for paying rent with a credit card through a service like Get Digs. Learn more about how Get Digs works.
Renting from a property manager
Property managers tend to be more professional and less personal. It’s likely they’re managing several properties (or are part of a property management company overseeing many properties), so this is their full-time job. Here are some points to keep in mind when renting from property managers:
- They are expert middle-men — Property managers understand what it takes to deal with renters and manage a property. They’ve been given the authority to make most decisions regarding the collection of rent, maintenance requests and handling most other situations that may arise. You likely won’t be able to create the same connection with a property manager as you might with a landlord, but you can expect an upgrade in the level of service and professionalism.
- Property management is their job — While it’s possible that property managers have another job, it’s more likely that managing properties is their main focus. That means they’ll be more responsive to requests and have stronger relationships with electricians, plumbers and other service professionals to address your maintenance needs efficiently. It can also mean that they are less personable in addressing those needs. They are managing a property that is not theirs in return for a fee. Their job is to make sure things in the property run smoothly, not necessarily to build a relationship with renters.
- More rigid when screening tenants — While a landlord may consider factors about your personality and whether or not they feel connected to you as a person, property managers are far more pragmatic. They generally follow a standard process for screening tenants and will be more focused on assessing your application based on the standard documents you provide: your credit history, your references, and your current employment situation.
- Less flexible with how they receive rent payments — On the topic of paying rent, property managers are usually less flexible in how they accept rent payments. Rent payment is generally accepted by cheque or through bill pay. Bill pay means you add your property manager’s bank account to your online banking as a bill and set recurring bill payments for your rent each month. It’s worth asking about paying by eTransfer (opening you up to more flexible rent payment options like Get Digs), but is generally less likely.
When it comes to finding a place to live, you may end up dealing with a landlord or a property manager. Understanding the roles of each will help you to understand and appeal to their interests, and hopefully build a positive relationship.