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Landlords and Property Managers: What’s the Difference?

Property management company repairing plumbing inside a condo

If you’re a renter, you’ve dealt with landlords and may have encountered a property manager or property management company in your travels. But what’s the difference between a landlord and property manager? Do they perform the same duties? Are they one in the same? And how does it affect your tenancy or how you communicate with them?

For anyone who’s ever pondered those questions, here are a few distinctions, points, and some terminology you should know.

1. Property Owners
These are the folks that own the building, house, or property. If they decide to rent or lease their property, they become landlords. Some are highly involved in the process, and others choose to hire others to do the work for them. Property owners are the ultimate authority because they own the real estate. If the owner decides to hire a property manager to take care of business for them, you might not ever meet them. This is often the case when the owner lives out of the area.

2. Landlords
As mentioned above, landlords are also property owners who’ve chosen to rent or lease their property. Landlords take a more hands-on approach to managing and maintaining the property. They will be the ones responding to complaints and coming to repair things inside and outside the unit. You will, most likely, meet them and know them. A landlord can be an individual, a couple, a family, or a business, but the distinction is ownership. A landlord is the actively involved owner of the property who leases or rents to another person or entity.

3. Property Managers
A property manager is a person or entity (company) that is hired to handle the task of managing the rental property on behalf of the landlord, or property owner. Some of the things they will tend to include repairs, collecting rent, managing contractors, and maintaining the property. They also handle the process of showing, renting, and turning over rental units, which may require interviewing and screening prospective tenants, and showing rental units.

Property managers that are single entities or couples often live on the premises and are provided a rental unit as part of their compensation. Multi-building or commercial properties may have a company taking care of the management and have an office in the building with several employees.


Key Differences Between Landlords and Property Managers

One of the most significant differences between landlords and property managers is ownership. The landlord owns the building or property, while the property manager works for the landlord.

The property manager, however, acts on the owner’s behalf and has the authority to make decisions based on that relationship.

In some cases, property managers may oversee several properties. These could be apartment buildings, duplexes, multi-family buildings, townhomes, or commercial properties. In this scenario, it’s possible to have several people working under the property manager to ensure consistency and efficiency across all properties.

The property manager could work for a single owner who owns several properties, or they may work for several owners. They could also be part of or run a property management company. This type of business model earns income by keeping a percentage of the rental income, so it’s in their best interest to maintain high tenancy rates. Some property managers opt for a salary instead of a percentage of rental income for taking care of collections, evictions, and everything else involved with the rental process.

When owners have a property manager working for them, they might not need to do much of anything except for approving major expenses.


Landlord vs. Property Manager: What Does It Mean for Renters?

Relationships are important in every aspect of life. If you’re the type who likes to know the people around you, you may find that having a property manager is more business than personal.

For example, because they are acting on the landlord’s behalf—and getting paid to do so—they might be a little more rigid in how they go about things. So, little things that might not be an issue with a landlord, like the rent being a day late or having a friend park in the wrong spot overnight, might be a big deal. Or it may not be.

You can usually expect a high level of efficiency when a property manager is involved. They will respond to complaints and take care of repairs quickly, and in the case of larger property management companies, they may have contracts with some of the top service companies in the area.

Yes, landlords can be responsive and proactive but it also may be difficult if they don’t live close by. It may take them longer to respond to repair requests or get service people to come out when you need them. If they have jobs, which many do, you’re at the mercy of their schedule and might not get around to dealing with your request for several days. Keep in mind, however, every person and every circumstance is different. You may have a fantastic relationship with your landlord, and they might be so pleased to have a great tenant like you that they will bend over backward to ensure you are well taken care of.

In discerning the differences between landlords and property managers, it all comes down to two points.

First, there’s the matter of ownership. Landlords own the property and may also manage it, while property management companies work for the landlord, act on their behalf, and carry out the same duties.

The second difference is convenience. And while this point is undoubtedly up for discussion—given the individual landlord, their location in relation to the property, and your relationship with them—you can almost always rely on a property manager to be there for you 24/7. You can ask your property manager to take care of pretty much anything for you, and they’ll jump on the task immediately. In contrast, you might have to wait for your landlord to respond, assess the problem, and arrange for remediation.

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