Ask The Apartment Experts: What’s The Difference Between Property Manager and Landlord?

Landlord and Property Manager

What Is the Difference Between a Landlord and a Property Manager?

While in theory the terms could be used interchangeably, most often a property manager works for a professional management company and a landlord is more likely a private individual who owns and manages buildings on their own. This definition is by no means set in stone. Read more…

Washington DC apartment hunters have so many options when it comes to where to live. As you are sorting through what situation will work best for you, something you should consider is what type of landlord you are comfortable dealing with.

The question we’re tackling today is: What’s the difference between a private landlord and a property management company?


Property management companies can be larger corporations with a corporate office and then an on-site team or property management companies can be a division of a real estate firm. Sometimes they build and manage the buildings. They may own the buildings they operate, or they can manage on behalf of a third party.

If you live in a building run by a property management company, all your transactions are with the property management employees; rent payment, maintenance requests, neighbor disputes, etc. are all handled with a property management representative.

A private landlord owns the space you are renting. Sometimes, if they hold more than a few units, they have employees. However, if they only own one or two apartments, it’s likely that they also have a regular ‘day job.’


Policies and procedures

Typically, property management companies use a standard lease across their properties and for the most part, enforce blanket policies and procedures. These consistent standards allow for more consistent training of their staff and often protect them from fair housing violations.

Typically, private landlords are writing their leases and policies and procedures. Where this can come in handy with the private landlord, is the potential for shifting policy. For instance, often, a property management corporation will restrict certain dog breeds at all of their buildings. A private landlord likely has a bit more flexibility in what breeds they will allow, especially if you are willing to pay a higher pet deposit.

Flexible policies also come in handy for those who are credit challenged. The application criteria for property management companies are strict and most will not waiver. Again, this unwillingness to bend policy is grounded in their desire to treat everyone equally. However, a private landlord can have more lenient criteria regarding credit scores, especially if you have excellent rental history.



Most property management companies have on-staff maintenance technicians. If you are living in a larger building, there is most likely on-call emergency maintenance available at all times. For more routine maintenance, your requests are submitted to the management office and handled reasonably quickly.

With a private landlord, they may handle smaller maintenance issues themselves but have to contract out for the intricate work. Also, because the contractors are not on the landlord’s staff, someone will have to be at your apartment when they come to do the job…not exactly convenient.


Technology and Convenience

Speaking of convenience, property management companies offer an impersonal but streamlined process. You can transact your rental payments, submit maintenance requests, and often even sign your lease online.   Due to the cost involved in offering this service on a one-off basis, private landlords are not likely to offer any of these conveniences.


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