Renting – Apartments or Privately Owned Rentals

When making the decision on whether to rent from an apartment community or private owner, there are a few subtle differences to consider.

Private rentals are homes or condos owned by individuals who, rather than living in the homes themselves, have decided to rent them to the public. The owners may act as landlords, collecting rent and dealing with maintenance issues on their own, or they may hire a 3rd party management company to handle day to day tasks for them.

There are some nice advantages to renting a privately owned home or condo. In general, these homes are less expensive from a dollars per square foot perspective. They also tend to be less densely occupied than apartment communities, where homes are often stacked four high with shared walls on 2 sides. Many private homes have their own pool, yard (typically maintained by professionals), attached garage or other unique features that many apartment communities just can’t provide.

On the other hand, security deposits for these homes tend to start at one full month’s rent capping out at as high as two full months’. Maintenance issues may or may not be handled as quickly as you’d hope, and there’s always a possibility that you may move into a home that the owner loses to the bank. This final fear is a serious one and in these days, perhaps the best reason to work with an agent on finding you that private rental, rather than fishing through newspaper and Craigslist ads by yourself. As a diligent Orange County real estate agent, I and my team do our best to research homes before our clients sign a lease. We look for obvious red flags indicating trouble before we finalize.

Apartment communities are typically owned by large corporations and have varying levels of amenities and services.

If you like the idea of having a community pool and spa, maintenance and customer service professionals on site, activities to attend, and a fitness center within walking distance, finding the right apartment community may be perfect for you. Many qualified renters can even get away with a $300-$700 security deposit, though those less qualified could still find deposits as high as 2 months’ rent.

There are trade offs. Often these communities are significantly more expensive for their size than private rentals. With such a dense population you should be extra cautious about safety and security. You may end up with a neighbor who is extra sensitive to your footsteps or television volume…or worse yet, you may get the neighbor who insists on blaring the stereo at all hours!

This final point is incredibly important. When it comes to renting from someone, whether it’s a private individual or a large corporation, it’s important to understand what they are trying to accomplish.

Most private owners want their dream tenant. They charge a fair rental price and expect to be paid on time, every time. They also expect their tenant to be cooperative and respectful to their neighbors. With that, they are happy and will likely do all they can to make sure their tenant remains happy. It’s a win-win. If they think raising your rent will drive you out, they’d much rather keep your rent where it is in order to keep the win-win.

Most Orange County apartment communities are owned or operated by large companies who are responsible to shareholders, a board of directors, and investors. They are expected to show YEAR OVER YEAR PROFIT. While they too would like to have great tenants who pay on time, they are forced to be more aggressive in raising their rents and will often let you walk away in order to move in someone new willing to pay the higher price tag. Apartment communities focus is more on dollars and cents. Working with a private owner often has a much more personal feel.

-Brian Donlyuk

8 Responses to “Renting – Apartments or Privately Owned Rentals”

  1. Nicole
    May 24, 2012 at 12:03 PM


    We are looking for a 1-2 bed privately owned apartment/condo/townhouse/house. We must rent privately because we own an EXTREMELY FRIENDLY pitbull, but I’m sure as you know there are breed restrictions with every apartment complex. Our budget is between $1400 and $1500/month and would like to stay in the south orange county area. Can you help?

    • May 25, 2012 at 3:19 AM


      You’re in a tough spot. For many owners the word “pitbull” is an immediate deal breaker, regardless of how friendly the dog is. Other owners may consider allowing your pet, but when your application is side by side with another, you will almost certainly lose out. Add the fact that there tends to be a lot of renter competition in the price range you’re looking for and it’s not really a recipe for success.

      If I were you, I would try this. Use the search tool to look for homes meeting your criteria that have been on the market a while – like 45+ days. Make sure under Property Type you select “Residential Lease (All),” fill in your price and size criteria, then use the field near the bottom, “Days on Market” to filter out fresh listings. The reason I would do this is because homes that have sat on the market likely have owners willing to be the most lenient. Then start inquiring. It may take a lot of phone calls, but you should find someone willing to give it a go.

      I don’t recommend trying to hide the pet from a potential landlord. It may help you secure the lease, but you could very quickly find yourself facing an eviction for housing a non approved pet. Remember, neighbors, gardeners, and repairmen, will always be around with the latter two on the landlord’s payroll. If they spot anything out of the ordinary, they almost certainly will report back to the owner. It’s just not worth it.

  2. William
    February 1, 2013 at 5:25 PM

    Hi Brian. Just wondering what me and my girlfriend can do to rent. We are first time renters. We both make combined 75k a year. Bad news is my credit was screwed up by school and losing my job in 2007. We have money now to pay double the rent for a deposit. What’s the chances we are aprriber to get an apartment ?

    • February 4, 2013 at 2:30 PM

      Hello William. Poor credit does not immediately disqualify you. The fact that you’ve saved up enough to place a double deposit is a huge help. Most apartment communities should be able to work with you. Renting a home from a private owner is also an option. But their willingness to accept less than perfect credit will vary from owner to owner. Send me an email about where you’re looking and what your criteria is and I’ll be happy to help.

  3. allie
    February 2, 2013 at 3:13 PM

    Hi, looking for a three bedroom under 1900. Can u help

    • February 4, 2013 at 2:31 PM

      Hello Allie. I’ll be happy to try. Send me an email with where you would like to move and we’ll go from there.

  4. June 13, 2013 at 11:35 PM

    Hi Brian, I am looking for a 2 bedroom in the city or Orange. I need to stay under $1700. I was hoping to find a owner owned for rent situation. I have an unlawful detainer on my credit from 4 years ago that I just found out about. For the past 4 years I have rented a condo and the owner is selling it. He will give a me a glowing reference. Can you help? I have to move by July 12th. He have me a 30 day notice. However, I have come to find out that he actually is required to give me a 60 day, but I want to get this process over with. Thank you kindly.

    • June 13, 2013 at 11:45 PM

      Hello Joanna,

      We can definitely help youout. I will email you to discuss further.

      One thing I wanted to note, though: It’s true, there is a 60 day notice requirement if the exiting tenant has lived at the property longer than a year. However, if the owner is selling the home to someone who intends to occupy the property as their primary residence, he likely is only required to give a 30 day notice.

Leave a Reply

Allowed tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>