How to negotiate rent with a landlord

How to negotiate rent with a landlord

1. Its a tough market for landlords. Use that to your advantage

Now is a great time to sign a new lease, Allia Mohamed, CEO of openigloo, a startup that gathers public information on New York City buildings and landlords to help renters make their housing decisions, tells CNBC Make It.

"Before [covid], things were a bit different," Mohamed says. "People would offer more money to secure an apartment before someone else. Now, there's more options on the market and renters have choices."

While negotiating might have once landed your application in the reject pile, it is now something landlords will engage with, particularly in cities that saw large chunks of their populations flee to the suburbs.

"I think pre-pandemic, landlords didn't expect you to negotiate, especially when there was a line of people waiting for an apartment," Mohamed says. "In these conditions, negotiating your rent is so common that almost everyone is trying to do it."

Renters who want to renew their current lease have the most leverage, Mohamed explains, because landlords would rather avoid foregoing rent while they clean, paint and do repairs on an empty unit.

"Assuming you're a good tenant and you pay your rent on time, the landlord should be trying to keep you in the apartment," she explains. "Being in that position gives you a little bit more leverage than normal."

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Research the property’s value

Consider if the rent is beyond the actual worth of the prevailing market. Research rent rates by talking to other landlords or neighbors in the area. Knowing average property prices and frequency of rent hikes in the neighborhood may give you leverage.

Inquire about benefits

Negotiate for more, not always to save more. A few options could be a better parking spot, a higher floor unit in a complex or a parking spot in a garage for a home. Consider and ask for what you desire.

How Willing Is the Landlord to Negotiate?

Before you get too far in, it’s best to ask the landlord or property manager the likelihood of negotiating rent. If they have a firm stance that the rent is set in stone and there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it, then it’s probably best you cut your losses and stay on good terms with this person, considering they have control of whether or not you get approved for this lease (or get to renew your current lease).

However, if you find that your landlord or property manager is swaying towards the side of leniency, then get to negotiating! Not too quickly, though. You’ll need to do some digging before things get too heated in this great debate.

Do your research and prepare supporting documents

Research the rental market

Research the rental market

Your achievement as an ideal tenant may not be enough to sway a tough property owner’s mind when it comes to rent negotiations. Another tactic that may work is comparing the rent you’re paying, or will pay, with other units in the area.

Spend a little time researching your local rental market and pull comps of units like yours with a lower price tag. This evidence can prove your rent is getting too high to remain appealing for the area. If you could find a similar or better unit for less than so could anyone else.

It’s best to lead with why you’re a good tenant who is deserving of a little break but backing it up with actual examples of price. This can show that you understand the value of your property and are willing to have a real conversation about rent.

Prepare a rental resume

A rental resume can give a new property owner clarity into what type of renter you are.

It can also remind your current property manager why they should keep you around. A solid rental resume should include information about you, including:

  • Credit score
  • Work history, including confirmation of current employment with income details and a contact for your employer
  • Education background
  • Information on pets and/or roommates
  • Rental history
  • Referrals or letters of recommendation

You may also want to make a note that you’re happy to provide extra documentation to confirm you financial status upon request. Being open and honest about who you are as a renter and what your current situation is can help put your property manager at ease. This makes them more comfortable and possibly more willing to talk about discounting the rent.

Click to download sample renter resume PDF

Click to download sample renter resume PDF

Click to download sample renter resume Word Doc

To expand on what your property manager sees on paper in your rental resume, it’s OK to brag a little about the qualities that make you a good tenant. Rent negotiation is a one-sided request. You’re asking your property manager for something without giving something back.

As a good tenant, which not everyone is, this approach helps you point out why it’s in your property owner’s best interest to keep you in your apartment, even if that means lowering the rent a bit. Certain highlights to hit when talking about yourself as an outstanding tenant include that you:

  • Always pay rent on time
  • Receive no complaints from neighbors for inappropriate behavior
  • Maintain a clean interior and exterior of your apartment
  • Address maintenance issues quickly and properly
  • Follow all apartment building rules

As your property manager recalls the value and respect you feel toward your apartment, they’ll most likely become more willing to negotiate.

The bottom line

Can you negotiate rent? Absolutely. But your chances of success depend on things like the current rental market in your area, how long the property has been on the market, and how willing you are to walk away. Negotiating rent can help you save money while ensuring that you get the best value — but you need to be prepared. Decide in advance how much you’re willing to spend and prepare a short logical argument for why your price is fair. Be ready for a couple of rounds of counteroffers, and be aware that someone else might rent the property at full price before you finish negotiating.

7 Ways to Fight Rent Increases Rent Negotiation Tips

Looking at whether or not negotiating rent with a property management company is worth it, or how to ask for cheaper rent? I’ll give you a running start with the tips below. 

1. Make Sure it Meets Apartment Rent Increase Law

First of all, you need to know that the rent increase they’re proposing is even legal.

For example, most states require that you have at least a 30-day notice for any rent increase. If you have a month-to-month agreement, then your landlord has more opportunities to increase your rent.

But with most one-year rent agreements, they can’t raise the rent until the end of the term (though check your lease to make sure there isn’t language in there allowing a rental increase mid-lease).

Your rent increase must be received in writing. And the rent increase cannot be retaliatory, or discriminatory.

2. Get Leverage in Numbers

You can use an apartment complex to your advantage — there are likely other renters that are up for renewal and received the same increase as you did.

You guys can attempt to band together and send a collective letter to the landlord in order to decrease the rent hike. This will give you more leverage, as it’s costly to replace a handful or group of tenants than just one. And ideally? They don’t want to replace ANY tenants (well, as long as they’re good renters).

3. Add a Roommate to the Rental Agreement

Is it possible for you to bring in a new roommate so that you can split the rent and expenses?

I came into a $325-per-month rent situation when I was added to a lease on an apartment during the first year after college. In Florida, I was able to sign onto the last five months of someone’s lease to pay $625 a month in rent versus the $995 I ended up paying each month when I lived alone afterwards.

If you are interested in sharing an apartment with someone who is already on the lease (or the other way around), then first check the lease contract for the maximum occupancy limit and any possible clauses limiting this. Next, speak directly with your landlord.

Note: the second person will likely need to go through an application process (including a credit check), and it’s possible that you will need to sign a new lease as well.

4. Wait Until the Lease Expires and Negotiate

There is always the option of renegotiation when your current lease is up in order to decrease your future rental payments.

Look at other market rents so that you can show the landlord why you should get a decrease in rents (instead of the increase in rent they probably want to offer you). Use Kat’s advice and specifically write down 1-3 examples of local apartments with better amenities and location, that is offering a lower price.

They’ll see you put in the research, and will take your request more seriously.

5. Lock in a Lease Longer than One Year

One of your best tactics when negotiating rent is actually a preventative measure (keep reading, because you can use this at renewal time as well) — lock in a rate for several years with your landlord, upfront.

I know, I know. Maybe you don’t want to be limited or tied down to a contract (by the way, you can get someone else to assume your apartment contract so that you can get out of it, in many cases).

But, if you pay your rent consistently and are reliable renters, your landlord will love nothing more than to lock in income for 2-3 years instead of just 6 months to a year at a time.

SO, the next time they raise the rent, ask them to lock in the previous rate (or even lower), and in return, offer to lock into a 2-3 year contract.

This also works wonders when you’re looking for how to negotiate lower rent before signing a lease. But a word of caution: you haven’t lived in this apartment yet, so you might not want to lock it in for a few years without the experience on your side.

6. Work Around the Apartment Complex or House

Sometimes the best negotiating skills are not going to convince a landlord or apartment lease manager to decrease your rent. So, I’ve got two more suggestions for you.

The first is to actually offer up your services or skills around the apartment complex for a rent discount.

I recently watched a television show about a couple who was living on the streets. They eventually found an apartment to rent for free; what did they have to do to get it?

The husband needed to work 20 hours per week for the landlord for free.

Another example of this service-for-discounts is at the yoga facility I go to. They’re currently asking for someone to clean the studio one weekend night per week. Guess what the payoff is? Unlimited classes whenever you would like to attend. That’s worth up to $500 a month!

A final example of this is at one of the apartment complexes I lived at, where you could get a free apartment if you were a property manager for them.

These examples carry various levels of commitment, and show that there are ways to arrange for a decrease in rent (or free rent all together) for offering your services. If you work in IT, perhaps you can offer your computer expertise to a common area. If you live in a house-apartment, perhaps you can take over the lawn care for a discount.

You never know unless you ask.

Another way you can lower your rent bill, even after you sign the lease? Find renters for the apartment complex.

Timing Is Everything

You’ve heard this one before – timing really is everything. It’s important to time your negotiation wisely and know how much leverage you have when it comes to negotiating your rent. If the landlord or property manager is eager to rent the apartment – probably because the rental market isn’t ideal – then you have a pretty good chance of getting your way in the negotiation. Whether you’re renewing your lease or signing a new one, it may be the case that the landlord is willing to lower your rent rather than risk losing a tenant and having to look for a new one. However, if it’s prime renting time (during the late spring and summer months), then you may be out of luck.

This is the time of year when rental costs skyrocket (a bit dramatic, but you catch my drift), versus the winter months when you’ll find lower rents and move-in specials (can you say waived pet fees?). As long as you know the situational limits, come prepared, present yourself well, and time the situation correctly, you may just find that you can negotiate your way into paying less rent! Best of luck, my fellow renters.

Published March 15, 2019

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