What is the Difference Between a Landlord, Property Manager, and Rental Agent?
Landlords: A landlord is the owner of a house, apartment, condominium, land or real estate which is rented or leased to an individual or individuals, who are called tenants (also a lessees or renters). Landlords are responsible for maintaining the property by making appropriate repairs, maintaining habitable conditions, and ensuring the tenant's implied covenant of quiet enjoyment (i.e. the landlord will not access the apartment without reasonable notice). Some landlords do not live on or near the property and often hire property managers to maintain their rentals. Landlord cannot charge a fee if a tenant rents through them.
Agents/Brokers: Leasing agents are professional sales people who market vacant apartments, generate interested prospects and conduct tours. Once they find a prospective tenant, they negotiate the signing of the lease agreement. For their role in marketing and showing a property as well as getting a lease signed, they can charge a "commission fee," "finder's fee," or "agent fee" of up to one month's rent. This fee is either paid in full by the tenants, the landlord, or split between both depending on the market. Currently, almost all tenants will either pay the full fee or split the fee with the landlord. Only licensed agents working with a brokerage firm can charge a fee. You can lookup an agent/broker license on the Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure website.
Property Managers: Property management is the operation, control, and oversight of real estate they they do not own. They take on the responsibility for maintaining the property, leasing apartments, collecting rent and paying bills. Although some property managers do the work themselves, they also hire outside contractors when necessary. The property manager may be responsible for taking care of the property even when there is no tenant. Property managers typically get paid a portion of the overall rent by the landlord for their services. Property managers cannot charge or collect a fee from tenants when they sign a lease.
Listing Agents/Property Managers: Some licensed real estate agents/brokers also work as property managers. They advertise units, find potential tenants, show the property, and take care of the lease agreement paperwork. They can charge an agent/broker fee for this service, as long as they are licensed and working as a broker or as an agent with a brokerage firm. In these situations, you will often find that the agent will charge a half-month fee, where the tenant pays one half and the landlord pays the other. They then stay involved as the property manager, typically collecting a portion of the rent from the landlord for their services.