Should You Rent from a Private Landlord?

“For rent by owner,” reads the sign. You know what it means, but do you really understand what renting from a private landlord entails? Check out the pros and cons of renting from a property owner instead of a management company to figure out if a “for rent by owner” apartment is right for you.

PRO: Faster and Friendlier Service

We’ve all experienced customer service situations where we’re treated like cattle instead of customers. It’s no fun being herded from one rep to another!

There’s a strong chance you won’t face this issue with a private landlord. Since private owners often have a limited number of rental properties, they have fewer units to fill and fewer tenants to keep happy — which means more attention and time for you and your maintenance issues!

CON: Limited Landlord Resources

Fewer rental properties result in less resources, which means your landlord might not be able to help you as fast as a property management company.

Unlike a full-service leasing enterprise, a private landlord is unlikely to have an on-call handyman or a full-time courtesy patrol, so your noise complaints and maintenance requests will take longer to resolve. After all, the revenue of a single tenant’s (your) rent probably isn’t enough to pay for a security guard, a handyman, and a concierge!

So when you consider apartments for rent by a private owner, also consider your patience for unresolved sink leaks and flaky electrical outlets. And before you sign the lease, make sure you clear up any important questions or doubts you have about the apartment.

PRO: Less Red Tape

Renting from a private landlord can mean dodging a lot of the red tape that property management companies require for record-keeping and insurance purposes.

For example, let’s say you are halfway through your rental period when you decide you want to:

  • Get a pet
  • Paint the bedroom walls royal blue
  • Break your lease and move out of state

When you’re renting from a private landlord, you can probably re-visit lease clauses prohibiting you from doing any of these things. For example, a private landlord is more likely to make an exception to their no-pets rule for your new pit mix than a leasing company, which has to hold all its tenants to the same standards!

But don’t assume you can adopt the entire animal shelter and then tell the property owner. Before you make big decisions such as getting a pet or painting your rental unit’s walls, pick up the phone and ask for their permission.

CON: Potentially Less Professionalism

Since private landlords don’t have bosses, business partners, or investors to report to, you may encounter apartment-related obstacles that leave you with nowhere else to turn outside of finding a new place. (Looking for a new apartment is always an option, though.)

A few extra layers of red tape can be a good thing. It can mean there’s a thoughtful and measured approach to any tenant’s request for a lease change.

PRO: Broader Selection

Including private landlords in your apartment search expands your pool of potential new homes. In competitive markets like New York City, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley, this can make a big difference in how much rent you end up paying. Plus, having a good relationship with your rental property’s owner might help you stave off yearly rent increases faced by other renters in your city.

CON: Difficult Markets Remain Difficult

In high-demand markets, adding properties for rent by owner to your apartment search might not help bring your rent price down. Not only are many people scrambling for places to live, but the demand drives up the cost of living for everyone! Cities where the demand for rental properties (and cost of living) is lower, will always have better deals, whether you choose to rent from a property management company or not.

PRO: No Background Check … Maybe

Because they have fewer resources, some private landlords may not run background checks on potential renters. If you have a previous eviction, a bruised credit score, or another sticky situation on your record, this might help you secure a place more easily.

CON: Heightened Focus on Legal Compliance

On the flip side, a private landlord may go overboard when trying to protect themselves from the legal and financial liabilities of renting their property. For you, this increased focus on legal compliance might mean in-depth background checks, expensive security deposits, and inflexible lease terms.

PRO TIP: Using ApartmentSearch

Whether you’re looking for apartments that don’t do background checks or just trying to find the cheapest studio near your office, there’s no need for you to feel like renting through a private landlord is your only option! Browse apartments by rent, amenities, and more on ApartmentSearch to find your happy place.