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How to Find For Rent by Owner Apartments

By: Davina Ward
July 9, 2021

You’ve likely come across the term “for rent by owner” during the process of finding an apartment. These apartments may not look any different from a traditional apartment rental unit, but there are key differences between the two.

It's essential to know the difference between traditional apartment rentals and those listed as “for rent by owner.” We've got you covered!

This guide will explore apartments “for rent by owner” — explaining what they are and what you should know before renting them. Let's get started.

What Are “For Rent By Owner” Apartments?

Apartments that are “for rent by owner” are units rented out by the property's owner.

These units are distinct from those that are typically found in apartment complexes and communities, as those apartments are usually rented out and managed by an apartment management company rather than the property's owner.

“For sale by owner” apartments are most commonly found in multi-family houses, duplexes, or single-family homes. Additionally, you don't need to work with a leasing agent to rent a “for rent by owner” apartment. Instead, you’ll work directly with the landlord and communicate with them throughout the rental application process.

Be aware that renting a “for rent by owner” apartment unit is distinct from subleasing an apartment or renting a condo. Although the concept is similar, renting a condo usually requires the renter to abide by HOA bylaws, maintenance is handled by professionals, and condos are typically located in more modern buildings with amenities.

How to Find For Rent By Owner Apartments

Finding a “for rent by owner” apartment unit isn't difficult, but you'll have to be deliberate about your search. Here are a few ways you can find “for rent by owner” apartment units.

Rental Listing Sites

You can find “for rent by owner” apartment units on Apartment List. Simply start your search by outlining your preferences, get matched with apartments that fit your needs, and read your favorite listings' descriptions to determine which ones are “for rent by owner.”

You can also find for rent by owner apartments on other major rental sites, though major sites don’t often advertise these units in the same way that larger property management company-run units are.

Browse Your Preferred Neighborhood for "For Rent" Signs

“For rent by owner” apartments can usually be found through less formal avenues. But, don't worry, it's nothing sketchy! You may just have to take a stroll around the neighborhood you're interested in and keep an eye out for "For Rent" yard signs.

Social Media and Craigslist

If you prefer to keep your search digital, check out social media platforms and Craigslist. Facebook housing groups and Craigslist's "For Rent" section are a great way to find vacant “for rent by owner” units.

Landlords choose to advertise on sites like Facebook and Craigslist because they are free, they are targeted, and they work. Better yet, you'll likely be able to contact the landlord directly within the Facebook Messenger service.

(Pro Tip: It may be a good idea to do a little Facebook spring cleaning if you decide to go this route. Things you share with your family and friends may not be things you feel comfortable sharing with your potential landlord!)

Pros of For Rent By Owner Apartments

There are tons of benefits to renting a unit listed as for rent by owner. However, these benefits may not be clear upfront. Here's a breakdown of the most significant benefits to renting a “for rent by owner” apartment.


As your relationship with your landlord in a “for rent by owner” apartment unit will likely be more personal than with that of a property management company-run unit, there's more flexibility involved. This is especially true if you have rented with the same landlord for an extended period and have been an outstanding tenant.

You'll be dealing with a person, not a conglomerate. Depending on your landlord's personality, you may find yourself met with leniency and flexibility regarding things like month-to-month leases, credit checks, pet-friendliness, and emergencies.

Potentially More Affordable Rent Rates

Depending on your landlord's financial goals, you may benefit from lower rent prices when opting for a unit that's “for rent by owner.”

For one, you're unlikely to be buying into a unit with tons of amenities, such as pool access or on-site gyms. Additionally, there are usually no fees to pay to third parties such as leasing agents, property management companies, or landscaping services.

They may pass these savings down to the renter, which can be exceedingly helpful if you're renting in a city with a low cost of living. You may also be able to negotiate the cost of rent down by opting to handle lawn care, shoveling, and general repairs on your own.

Easier Communication

When your primary point of communication is your landlord, submitting a maintenance request can be as simple as sending a short text.

You won't have to wait for your email or phone call to go through the property management company that manages yours and hundreds of other units.

Perfect for Low Credit Renters

An owner-landlord cares deeply about who is renting their property because they own it.

As 59% of all rental properties have a mortgage or similar debt, your landlord is most likely looking for someone reliable who can pay rent over a longer period.

So, while your financial history will play a significant role in your tenant candidacy, your landlord will also heavily consider your current financial state and reliability.

This is a perfect solution for someone renting with low credit or no rental history.

Cons of For Rent By Owner Apartments

On the other hand, there are some disadvantages to renting a unit listed as “for rent by owner.” It's important to consider these drawbacks before settling on one of these listings. Here are the cons of renting an apartment that's “for rent by owner.”

Amenities Are Scarce

If you're a fan of lux living, then you might think twice about renting an apartment that's “for rent by owner.” You're not going to find the scores of apartment amenities that you would in a larger apartment community or complex.

That said, it's entirely possible to rent a home with a pool, though somewhat unlikely. It's more likely that you may rent an apartment with common amenities, like A/C or an on-site washer and dryer.

If you're renting a unit in a multi-family home, you can speak with your landlord about putting gym equipment in the basement.

You'd be surprised what deals you can work out with your landlord if you're a good tenant and have a good relationship.

Maintenance Requests May Be a Sore Spot

While it may be easier to make a maintenance request by contacting your landlord directly, there's no guarantee they will handle your request quickly. (Looking at you — garage door that's been stuck open for two weeks.)

In some cases, your landlord may be limited by a third party's schedule. In others, they may prefer a DIY approach to maintenance which may not always be the best approach. Either way, there's always something to be said for having a handyman on staff.

Harder to Find

“For rent by owner” apartment units are typically harder to find, as large rental listing platforms don’t typically advertise them. Using these platforms generally makes the apartment hunt easier for both landlords and renters.

That said, if you have to resort to less formal means of finding a “for rent by owner” apartment, prepare for some inconvenience and a lot more effort put into your search.

Your Landlord May Live On-Site

This practice is relatively common, especially in multi-unit houses. In this setup, landlords typically collect enough rent to cover their mortgage payments and potentially property taxes to reduce their housing costs down to zero.

That said, while your landlord benefits in this scenario, not many renters would like their landlord living upstairs. Even the most conscientious renter may be nervous about playing music too loudly or inviting friends over with the landlord so nearby.

Questions to Ask Your Potential Landlord

If you're looking to rent a unit that's “for rent by owner,” you'll have to go in with the same preparedness as you would in any other rental situation.

It's a good idea to bring a list of questions that address relevant topics and concerns. You can and should ask your prospective landlord these questions before moving forward to rent the apartment.

That said, it can be challenging to know what to ask your landlord before signing a lease. To help you get started compiling your list, here are a few essential questions to ask your landlord before signing a lease.

  • How do maintenance requests work?
  • What is the typical timeline for a maintenance request to be addressed?
  • Will I be responsible for covering the utility bills, or are the utilities included in the rent?
  • How do I pay rent?
  • Are there any house rules I should know about?
  • What is the guest policy?
  • What's the pet policy?
  • What is the parking situation?
  • What are the lease length options?

Final Thoughts

Renting an apartment from an owner-landlord isn't all that different from renting an apartment under a property management company. However, there are some significant differences that you should consider before making a final decision on the matter.

That said, it's important to start with your apartment preferences and work your way up from there. That way, you'll find a selection of apartments that meet your needs first. Afterward, you can filter to find one that best suits you.

Take our quiz to help you find your dream apartment, whether it's “for rent by owner” or otherwise!

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Davina Ward is a contributing author at Apartment List and freelance writer specializing in real estate and digital marketing. She received her B. Read More
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