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20 Property Management Terms You Need to Know

No matter what industry you go into, it’s important to learn as much as you can about it. But, when it comes to real estate and rental property management, there’s a lot to keep in mind. So, read along as we go over some of the most common real estate and rental property management terms for all industry professionals to know.


Contents of This Article:

Why Do You Need to Know Property Management Terms?

Whether you’re a landlord, property manager, tenant, or interested in buying real estate, it’s essential to become familiar with standard real estate terms. Additionally, if you’re looking to become a landlord or property manager in Northern Virginia, you must have some industry knowledge before diving in. 

That said, several different categories of real estate and property management terms are important to know. Therefore, this article will cover some basic real estate definitions, rental property terms, management terms, and some financial terminology. 

Basic Real Estate Terms and Definitions

Starting off, here are some basic real estate terms and definitions. These are important to know if you’re new to the industry or want to learn more about investing in real estate.


  • Real Estate Agent
  • Multiple Listing Service (MLS)
  • Investment Property
  • Property Management Team
  • Long-term/Short-term Rentals

Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent is a licensed specialist who helps people buy or sell properties. A real estate broker will ensure all real estate transactions are lawful, paperwork is correct, and funds are adequately documented. Generally, real estate agents earn a commission from their sales based on the property’s price. 

Multiple Listing Service (MLS)

The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is a platform real estate agents and brokers use to find properties in specific geographical areas. When a licensed real estate agent lists a property for sale, they add it to the MLS database for other agents and brokers to review. Then, buyers’ agents can search the MLS to find properties for their clients. 

Investment Property

An investment property is one that’s purchased to earn a profit or return on investment. For instance, investment properties can be long-term or short-term commitments, allowing you to earn income by housing tenants or flipping the property for profit. 


Property Management Team

A property management team helps manage all aspects of a rental property business. Property managers act on behalf of the landlord and help with various tasks, including marketing, tenant screening, maintenance, rent collection, and more. Additionally, they help with hiring contractors to perform work at rental properties. Generally, property managers are paid a service fee, that’s a percentage of the monthly rental amount. 

Long-term/Short-term Rentals

As mentioned before, investment properties can be long-term or short-term commitments. A long-term rental is rented out for long periods of time. For instance, a single-family home with a 12-month lease agreement. On the other hand, a short-term rental could be a vacation home or Airbnb that’s only rented out for a few days or weeks at a time. 

Common Rental Property Terms

Knowing some basic real estate terms is one thing, but knowing more about rental properties is essential. So, here are some standard rental property terms and types of rental properties you may see on the market. 


  • Single-family Rental
  • Multi-family Housing
  • Duplex
  • Condominium
  • Commercial Real Estate

Single-family Rental

A single-family rental is a single-standing property built for one family. Investors who own single-family rentals own the property and the land it sits on. 

Multi-family Housing

A multi-family rental is a residential property that has several rental units within it. For example, some multi-family rentals may include apartments, condos, duplexes, or townhomes.



A duplex is a single rental property split into two separate living areas or apartments. Additionally, each tenant has their own private entrance to their portion of the house. 


Condominiums, or condos, are individually-owned properties within an apartment community or complex. Only the individual unit belongs to the owner, and all common areas and amenities are equally owned by the people that live there.  

Commercial Real Estate

Commercial property is used for business or work-related purposes instead of living space. Generally, landlords rent commercial real estate to businesses or tenants to use for income-generating work. 

Important Rental Property Management Terms

Now that we’ve gone over some different types of properties and what they mean, let’s get into some property management terms. After all, kowing these terms and definitions is important if you’re a landlord or property manager, as each of them is vital to your everyday tasks. 


  • Tenant Screening
  • Security Deposit
  • Vacancy Rate
  • Rental Maintenance
  • Eviction

Tenant Screening

The tenant screening process occurs when a landlord or property manager looks into a prospective tenant’s credit history, employment status, rental history, and more. Screening is a vital part of the rental process and helps property managers and landlords find tenants that will fulfill the lease agreement terms. 

Security Deposit

A security deposit is a one-time payment made by tenants before moving into a rental property. The purpose of a security deposit is to protect landlords against property damage and ensure tenants meet their financial obligations per the lease agreement.

Vacancy Rate

Vacancy refers to an unoccupied rental unit. The vacancy rate is the ratio of empty rental units to the total number of units owned by a landlord. 


Rental Maintenance

Maintenance is a general term for the activities it takes to keep rental properties in good condition. For example, rental maintenance includes emergency repairs, inspections, small repairs, pest extermination, and more. 


Eviction is the legal process in which a landlord removes a tenant from a property due to lease violations. Some common violations include nonpayment of rent, extensive property damage, or illegal activities. Evictions must be done per local, state, and federal laws. 

Contracts and Legal Terms to Know

Finally, if you’re managing rental properties, you have to ensure your properties and practices are legal and compliant. Here are some important real estate contracts and legal terms to know. 

  • The Fair Housing Act
  • Property Management Agreement
  • Squatter’s Rights
  • Landlord Insurance
  • Termination Letter

The Fair Housing Act


Fair housing laws, under the Fair Housing Act, prohibit housing discrimination based on religion, race, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability. For example, discrimination may include different terms for certain tenants, any type of harassment, limiting privileges or facilities for some tenants, and more. 

Lease Agreement

A lease agreement is a legally binding contract between tenants, landlords, or property managers. Generally, a lease agreement outlines all the expectations, terms, and conditions of renting a property or apartment unit, and it’s a crucial part of the renting process.  

Squatter’s Rights

A squatter is an unauthorized tenant that unlawfully lives in a rental property. However, squatter’s rights allow someone to continue living in a property without the owner’s permission if they don’t receive a formal eviction notice. Additionally, in some states, squatter’s rights allow an unauthorized occupant to take legal possession of the property as long as they meet certain criteria. 


Landlord Insurance

Landlord insurance is a special policy that helps protect landlords against the financial risks of renting properties and provides personal liability coverage. For instance, most landlord insurance policies cover the entire rental property and everything inside it.

Termination Letter

A termination letter is a formal notice sent from a landlord or property manager to inform a tenant that their lease is expiring and won’t be renewed. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure your termination letter includes all necessary information, like the lease end and date, the reason for termination, and instructions on the move-out process. 

Why You Need Property Management for Your Rentals

Before investing in real estate, learning as much as possible about the industry is important. Now that we’ve gone over some of the most important rental property management terms, you’ll want to keep them in mind while working with tenants, landlords, or contractors. 

Rental property management is crucial for busy landlords that don’t have time to tend to each property. Whether you need help marketing rentals, tenant screening, maintenance, or collecting rent, a solid property management team can help you accomplish it all. 

Need More Advice? contact us today!

If you’re looking for an excellent property management team for your rental properties, look no further than Bay Property Management Group. We offer comprehensive management services in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Northern Virginia, and Washington, DC. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help your rental business succeed!