For Rent by Owner Apartments: How to Find Them 
You’ve likely come across the term “for rent by owner” or privately owned apartments while finding an apartment. Around 72.5% of units you’ll come across are private landlord listings, making it essential to know the difference between traditional apartment rentals and for rent by owner properties. We've got you covered!
While private owner rentals may not look any different from traditional apartment rental units, there are two key differences. This guide will explore “for rent by owner” rentals— explaining what they are, how to find them, and what you should know before renting them.
For Rent by Owner Listings Guide
What Are For Rent By Owner Apartments?
For-rent-by-owner properties, also known as private owner rentals, are rental units that the property owner leases directly, rather than apartments that property management companies rent. 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 differs 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.
How to Find For Rent by Owner Homes and Apartments
Searching for a private owner rental is different than typical apartment hunting. You'll have to be deliberate about your search. Here are a few ways to find privately owned apartments for rent near you:
Private Owner Rentals on Listing Sites
You can find for rent by owner apartments on rental listing sites like Apartment List. However, you may not immediately be able to tell the difference between a for-rent-by-owner apartment and one managed by a company. So keep your eye out in the property description on listings for certain clues:
- Many listings created by management companies, though not all of them, will include the name of the management company on the listing
- Companies that manage houses will often watermark their images
- You can use our messaging system to contact the landlord and inquire about the management of the property
For Rent by Owner Inquiry Template
Hello! I am writing to express my interest in the apartment available at [Property Address] as I believe it would be a great fit for me. I am particularly interested in renting directly from the owner, and I wanted to inquire whether your property is privately owned. If you are the direct owners, I would greatly appreciate receiving more information about the terms, rental rates, and any specific requirements you might have. Additionally, I would be happy to provide you with any necessary information or references to facilitate the application process. Please feel free to contact me via email at [Email Address] or by phone at [Phone Number] to discuss the leasing options further or to schedule a viewing. Thank you for considering my inquiry.
If you prefer to keep your search digital, check out social media platforms to find your next apartment. Facebook housing groups are good tools for finding private landlords.
Landlords choose to advertise on social media platforms because they are mostly free, they are targeted, and they work. In addition, you'll likely be able to contact the landlord directly through the Facebook Messenger service.
Browse Your Neighborhood for "For Rent" Signs
For-rent-by-owner apartments are often found through less formal avenues. You may just have to stroll around the neighborhood you're interested in and watch for "For Rent" yard or window signs.
Websites for Vacation Rentals
You may not find a 12-month lease here, but vacation rental websites are a great place to find private landlord rentals that are set for short-term or monthly use.
Contact Your Network
Asking around your network is a great way to find your next home. However, as mentioned, these rentals are not often found on typical apartment listings. In addition, private property owners are likely looking for one renter, so they don't have the same advertising needs as a large apartment complex.
Benefits of Private Owner Rentals
There are many benefits to renting a unit listed as for-rent-by-owner. Here's a breakdown of the most significant ones.
Houses for Rent by Owner
Apartment complexes usually don't sell their units, so rent-by-owner rentals, including single-family homes, condos, or privately owned townhomes, will look a bit different. Depending on your situation, these may be perfect. For example, dog owners looking for a backyard may prefer a rental townhouse to an apartment in a large building.
If you have a low credit score, privately-owned apartments for rent may be a better option than larger complexes, as you’ll have more open lines of communication and less rigid credit requirements.
Potentially More Affordable Rent Rates
A large amount of private rentals don't feature amenities, such as pool access or on-site gyms, so the rental rates may be lower. You also likely won’t pay fees to third parties such as leasing agents, property management companies, or landscaping services.
Private owners renting their apartments may pass these savings, which can be helpful if you're renting in a high-cost-of-living city or on a tight budget. You may also be able to negotiate rent down by opting to handle lawn care, shoveling, and general repairs on your own.
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.
Drawbacks of Private Owner Rentals
It’s also important to note that if you rent from private owners, there are disadvantages. Here are the cons of renting an apartment “for rent by owner.”
Lack of Amenities
If you're a fan of luxury apartment living, you might think twice about private-owned apartments for rent. You won't find the scores of apartment amenities that you would in a larger apartment community or complex.
However, you should still find a rental home with standard amenities like A/C and an in-unit washer and dryer.
Prolonged Maintenance Requests
While making a maintenance request by contacting your landlord may be easier, 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 rental homes are harder to find, as owners don't often advertise on large apartment rental platforms.
That said, be prepared to put much more effort into finding private apartment rentals. Condo and rental houses are generally scarce, so take a walk around your neighborhood for "for rent" signs. Also, contact your local network to see if anyone is renting out their space.
Landlords living on-site are relatively common, especially in duplexes or triplexes. In this scenario, your landlord will collect rent from the additional tenants to cover the mortgage payment.
That said, while your landlord benefits in this scenario, not many renters would like their landlord living upstairs. Even the most respectful renter may be nervous about playing music too loudly or inviting friends over with the landlord nearby.
Questions to Ask a Private Owner Landlord
It's a good idea to bring a list of questions to your potential landlord that addresses relevant topics and concerns. Before moving forward with any private rental properties, ask your prospective landlord these questions:
- How do maintenance requests work?
- What's the typical timeline for a maintenance request to be addressed?
- How many bedrooms and bathrooms?
- 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's the guest policy?
- What's the pet policy?
- Where do I park my car?
- What are the lease length options?
- When's the move-in date?
- Is the location bike-friendly and walkable?
Make Your Move: Start Apartment Hunting with Apartment List
Renting an apartment from a private 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.
It's important to start with your apartment preferences and work your way up from there. That way, you'll find a selection of private owner rentals that meet your needs first. Ready to find the perfect place for you? Take our quiz now and discover the best options that match your preferences!