A property management company or a private landlord. Which is best?
With all of the potential risks you face with a rental, it's important to make the right decision.
I have lived in places owned by each. My first off-campus year was in a house with a couple as the landlord and owner. This year, I live in a large apartment building, 675 Richmond St., where the property owner is a mystery.
Since everything is dealt with through a property management company, the owner remains unknown, but it has the added benefits of a workout room, fancy lobby and a buzzer system for extra security.
Property management companies, like Exclusive Rentals, the MARQ, London Property Corp and the CHC Student Housing, make up a large majority of available student rentals. They have a lot of units with student-friendly locations that can make looking for rentals a one-stop-shop.
While the management of my rental is very impersonal, so far all problems have been addressed with ease. For example, one day I came home to a broken fridge — a nightmare for a broke student who just went grocery shopping. Luckily, a call to my rental company’s emergency line had the fridge repaired within two hours.
However, other students aren't fans of property management companies. Angie Hu, a third-year foods and nutrition student, said her and her friends have had poor experiences dealing with uninvested landlords.
“[These companies] are the biggest companies in London,” Hu said. “We had mice in our house, and our landlord would not deal with it; he would not respond to us.”
Hu recommends private landlords after making the switch and having a much better experience.
Aejah Blesh, a second-year biology student renting a family-owned property, agrees.
“I have really great landlords that would just come and fix any problems,” she said. Blesh said her unit had ants a few weeks ago, and after contacting the landlord, they immediately sprayed the house with no difficulties.
Private landlords can also be more flexible, which is not something large companies typically offer. Whether you need to take care of your cousin’s cat for a week or if you are late on rent with a reasonable explanation, family-owned businesses tend to be more understanding.
However, that's not to say that private landlords do not have their downsides. Since they own the property, you may find them too be overbearing and overly cautious about damages.
In my second year, I was verbally granted use of the fifth bedroom for storage even though we only had four bedrooms occupied. Upon move in, however, our landlord had a very different interpretation of what she had promised, and it took some time before we were able to use the fifth bedroom as agreed upon.
With several pros and cons for each, you may still be wondering which is the best. The answer comes down to what is more important to you. If you are looking for a big fancy place with amenities, then property management companies may be the choice for you. If you favour a more personal experience, then go with the private landlord.
Treat the house tour from your landlord as if it is a blind date; make sure you like them and that they like you. It will come in handy. I promise.