Dear Decaturish – Looking for a ‘real’ landlord

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt September 26, 2014
An artist's rendering of The Place on Ponce project at 315 W. Ponce in Decatur. Image provided by Carter USA.

An artist’s rendering of The Place on Ponce project at 315 W. Ponce in Decatur. Image provided by Carter USA.

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Dear Decaturish,

I’ve recently started reading your blog and I wanted to say ‘thank you’ for all your hard work! It’s one of the best news sources I’ve found in Atlanta so far.

Please find below an open letter of sorts to Decatur landlords. I’m not sure if this has a place in your blog, or if you might know how I can find an answer to my query:

Dear Landlords Of Decatur,

I am currently apartment hunting in downtown Decatur. I’m looking for a nice place within easy walking distance to the MARTA station. I’m married to Mike, both in our 40’s with no kids or pets. We are open to looking at all kinds of places but would prefer at least one bedroom. We have a healthy budget, good credit, references. Three months remain on our current lease but I’ve started looking early as I saw last year how the rental market dries up in winter: we arrived in Atlanta in December were lucky to find the place we had. So I’m putting feelers out, hoping to get on a few landlord’s radar or maybe line something up ahead of time.

As I search I find that most rentals on offer (even on Craigslist) seem to be rented by, or through, a property agent. Being originally from London (me) and San Francisco (Mike) we are used to renting directly from the building owners. We would much rather have the opportunity to rent from a human being than a leasing ‘entity’. The place we have right now is managed by such a leasing group and our experience has been, let’s say, underwhelming. We’ve both had good living situations in the past where we rented a unit attached to our landlord’s house, as well as in buildings that were family-owned.

Does that type of rental exist here in Decatur? If yes, how do I plug into that community of people? Is there an online listings board that individual landlords favor? Or is there a physical noticeboard somewhere around town that I should look at or leave a ‘wanted’ note on?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


Alison Ruth Schmitt

About Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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  • Jessamine13

    I am a “real person” landlord who managed my own properties for over a decade. After far too much time spent hounding tenants for rent (and I was nice – too nice – one still owes me over $6,000) I had to switch to using a property manger for my sanity. I had three evictions last year because for some reason, people don’t feel they need to pay their rent before making the payment on their leased BMW (or just up and moved in the middle of the night).

    Sometimes, behind the “property manager” there is a real human owner that you could ask to meet or somehow communicate with if you asked the property manager to connect you. I am still very involved in my rental property and know my tenants, but I do not get the 11:30 calls on a Sunday night about a leaking frozen pipe – my property manager does. They have a network of repairmen on hand to get there asap and fix the problem much better than I ever could. I would be dialing numbers and waiting for return calls that may or may not come and certainly not within the hours that my property manager could get something resolved. I have also experienced, from the tenant side, the “real person” landlord who took over a week to fix an electrical issue (sparks were flying out of a light fixture) because he “didn’t want to get ripped off” and spent days – days I had to take off work and be at home – sending people over for estimates.

    So, there are pros and cons to both, and pros and cons for owners to manage their properties or hire someone. Having a “real person” landlord does not always mean instant responses to issues and concerns. Best of luck on your search!

    • GeorgiaPeach

      Hi Jessamine, thanks for describing your experience. I’m sorry you’ve had such tricky tenants and I do understand why many owners use a property manager. Our current experience renting from an ‘entity’ has been very disappointing: a poorly maintained, shabby building with even small maintenance requests met with an attitude ranging from indifference to hostile. I contrast that with my experiences in the past renting from individuals where the unit had been looked after because the landlord was personally invested in the building, even living there themselves. As a couple we are a great fit for that kind of landlord as we treat our home with respect and make it nice, as well as pay rent on time and hold up our end of things. As with all situations in life, when like is matched with like, harmony usually ensues. Thus that’s the kind of living situation we’d like to find!

      • Jessamine13

        You can try this site: It’s not as publicized as Craigslist to, there may be some “owner managed” options.

        • Robyn

          This is a great suggestion, thanks!

      • Diane Loupe

        I am also a “real” landlord, and I spent a LOT of time showing my place. Also, Emory has an off-campus housing board to seek out. I’ve also been the target of scam artists…people who say they’re from another country and want to rent my place. If you respond favorably, they want to send you a check for more than the rent, you send them the rest back, the original check is bad, you’re scammed. Rentals in Decatur are scarce and landlords can be picky.

  • Ldysnow

    You can also research a property on the county records website. It will tell you if it’s owned by an individual or an “entity,” and you can research the entity, etc. I did this when new people bought our apartments, and I was having issues with the new management company. (My story involved threats to turn them into GREC before I was done, but the research before hand is invaluable.)

    • Ldysnow

      GREC = Georgia Real Estate Commission. All property managers must be licensed by them, and they don’t play around when complaints are filed. (Though they do take a few months)

  • Jared van Aalten

    Craigslist has a nifty search feature that lets you filter out words. For example, under the apt/housing category, search “Decatur -apartment -condo”. This removes the most likely candidates for properties controlled by property management companies, and you can add as many phrases as you’d like. There are lots of houses in Decatur rented by owners (I’ve lived in one), though the closer you get to the square the harder it will be to find. Another option is driving around the area and looking for “For Rent” signs in the yard. Those tend to be rented by owner, though it’s still possible they have a property manager or real estate agent as the middle man, which is not always a bad thing.

    • GeorgiaPeach

      Thanks for the tip, Jared. I am in ‘spot the For Rent sign’ mode as we speak!

  • Robyn

    I’ve been searching high and low for properties in and around the City of Decatur since May to rent. It is amazing- 1. how little inventory there is for a condo/townhouse or house, 2. how many listers/agents don’t reply to inquiries and how many stop following up out of the blue. I am in the same position financially/credit wise/reference wise (but I do have a small dog) and can’t believe how hard it’s been to find a non-apartment. I was really considering the Place on Ponce until their prices came out. The quality of finishes (based on the renderings) imo doesn’t warrant $2500 for a 2 bed. I’m disappointed in the whole process needless to say.

    • GeorgiaPeach

      Hi Robyn, I sent in the original letter. I sympathize with your frustration: there is not a lot of choice. I’m looking close-in to the MARTA station and I’m guessing that people who have secured rentals near there tend to hang on to them as it’s such a great location. I agree, the newer developments seem overpriced for what they are. We moved here from San Francisco where rentals are sky high and yet I’ve noticed units in Atlanta and Decatur that are not far below SF prices, which I was completely unprepared for!

  • GeorgiaPeach

    Thank you!

  • Jack Regan

    Real estate agents have access to rental listings on the Multiple Listing Services. These will be privately owned houses or condos. That said, there are generally very few available inside Decatur city limits. Some of the condos like the Renaissance are at the rental cap set by their HOAs. Apartments occasionally are listed at 335 W. Ponce or the Artisan. There is currently a huge 3 bedroom available in the Artisan for $3500 per month. It is the ONLY rental listed in 30030 today.

  • Robert Butera

    Keep in mind that leasing agent doesn’t necessarily mean property manager. I own a rental condo and use a leasing agent to find me a tenant and do screening – I just don’t have time for that. But once signing time comes, the tenant is dealing with me. So if you see a condo or house via an agent, it is *possible* that there is a human, and not a property manager, at the other end.

    I also manage it because I live less than 100 feet away …

    But your bigger issue is indeed that the supply is low – why all these apartments are being built.

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