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Renting 101: Private Landlords (For Rent By Owner)

If you’re considering renting in a community that is a “for sale” community with individually owned homes, it will be different than renting from a typical rental community.  Check out a few of the pros and cons here before deciding what’s best for your household.

WHAT’S AVAILABLE: There are as many types of homes as there are types of households, so surely you can find something to fit your household.  Although in this category you will find condos which are similar in style, space, location and ammenities to apartments, you will also find many town home and single family home options.

Pros:

  • Easy to find larger homes ~ ie homes with more than 3 bedrooms, “extra” rooms like a family room or in home office, or a private yard.
  • Some homes offer things like a private pool,  a place to keep your horse, a driveway where you can keep your boat, a 3 car garage, etc. for households with those less common needs/wants.
  • Personal relationships go far…. if you need a special accomodation, a private landlord might be able to work with you.
  • They will usually pay your Tenant Agent.
  • They often offer longer leases…. it may be possible to get a 2 or 3 year lease through a private landlord.
  • Most homes are located among other homes which are usually occupied by the owners… this results in a more stable and better maintained neighborhood.
  • If you want a home in a rural location, it will usually be something privately owned.
  • A privately owned condo that is otherwise similar to an apartment in space and location may be priced lower than a similar apartment at a rental community.

Cons:

  • Requires an appointment to see the home.
  • May have to work through a REALTOR or work with the owner directly.
  • Individual owners who own less than 4 units and do not hire a REALTOR or professional management company to assist them in the leasing/management process are NOT subject to fair housing laws… so they can legally discriminate based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion, national origin, age, handicap, and familial status.  I am not saying they should or that they will, but they can.  (Note:  If the owner is working through a REALTOR or professional property management company they MUST comply with Fair Housing Laws, and so must the agent.)
  • May take several applications before deciding on one.
  • They usually only have one (or one similar) home so once it’s unavailable, it’s unavailable… they can’t just offer you another.
  • Security deposits are usually higher than with rental communities.  The standard is 1 months rent, but they can ask for 2 months rent as deposit.
  • Private landlords can set basically any qualifying criteria they want.  Usually they are looking for the cream of the crop in renters…and income of at least 4 times the rent and excellent credit.  For anything less they may not be able to tell you in advance if you’re likely to be accepted… so you may end up paying multiple application fees, which are non-refundable, just to hear no thanks.
  • It’s rare for a private landlord to be able to process your application and move you in the same day.  I would anticipate it would take at least a week to get approved through a private landlord.
  • As soon as you’re approved they want you to sign the lease and pay your move in monies, and once that is done there is no turning back.  You’re on the hook for the lease term.
  • You may be expected to perform routine maintenance like changing HVAC filters and mowing the lawn.
  • The landlord does not have on site maintenance personnel, so if something breaks you may have to be very involved in coordinating contractors, being at home to meet someone and you may even have to pay a deductible for repairs.
  • Leases rarely offer an early termination clause, so if you need to break the lease, you are likely to be responsible for paying through the end of your lease term.
  • Some leases have clauses allowing the owner to move back in the middle of the lease, so you may have to move sooner than you expected.
  • Many landlords do not accept any pets.
  • Many landlords do not accept Section 8 assistance and/or any type of corporate billing or insurance billing for rent.  They expect you to pay your rent yourself, and on time.

I recommend this type of arrangement for people with larger households, people who have previously owned their own home, who prefer longer leases, or who have unique needs and desires, and who can easily meet the qualifying criteria.

Is this the right arrangement for you?  Check out the listings for homes for rent here.