How to Negotiate to Lower Your Rent

1. Get to know your landlord

"Understanding who your landlord is will help you gauge how successful your conversation will be," says Mark Hakim, a real estate attorney at Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas LLP.

"In most circumstances, a small 'mom-and-pop' landlord might be more open to negotiating," he explains, "whereas a large management company might not."

My landlord owns just one building, which she and her partner paid off in 2016. They are very responsive and always act quickly to fix something if it's broken.

I've only been their tenant for about a year, but I often make an effort for small talk whenever we pass each other in the hallway. This can go a long way in establishing a friendly relationship.

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5. Experiment with the lease terms

Offering a different move-out date, extending your lease term or reworking the end of your lease term to fall during high season (spring or summer) are some of the ways you may be able to play with lease dates and terms that might be attractive to a leasing manager.

Is Paying More for a Nice Apartment Worth It?

The old adage goes, "you get what you pay for" but sometimes that isn't necessarily true. An upscale apartment with amenities may be desirable but it isn't probably necessary. Finding a clean, safe (meets all the building codes) apartment in a neighborhood you like is a better reason to pay more if you can afford it.

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.

Cut Your Expenses

When all else fails, you can always cut your costs the old-fashioned way. Here are a few old-school ideas to trim your housing expenses.

11. Downsize

Ask your landlord if they have a smaller unit available. If you currently occupy a one-bedroom, for example, you could save a few hundred dollars per month by moving to a studio.

Again, you’d have to take on a slight move, but it’s easy enough to relocate within the building where you currently live. Plus, there are many advantages to downsizing your home beyond lower rent payments, including lower utility bills and less cleaning.

2. Consider the time of year

For property managers, timing is everything and there are seasonal trends in the moving and rental industry. In other words, think about the broader supply and demand trends during any given season.

If it’s the end of the month, vacancies are high and you’d be willing to leave if you don’t get what you want, that could be a time when a manager is more likely to be amenable to your offer. However, if you don’t have an alternate place to move ahead of time, you may not want to start negotiating rent until something else is lined up.

As a rule of thumb, winter is usually a good moment to broach the topic, as it’s harder to find tenants during that time of year. Summer is peak rental season, so you’ll need to be a little more persuasive if you’re trying to negotiate rent during the peak moving season.

Be Flexible

Instead of looking for an apartment with granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, your definition of "nice" could be amended to simply mean a place that is free of major maintenance problems, insect infestations, safety issues, and bad neighbors.

You're unlikely to find a shiny new dream apartment for a bargain-basement price. However, you might be able to find a solid place if you can overlook some things that will have minimal impact on your overall quality of life. Things like shabby carpets can be covered with area rugs and an ugly building exterior shouldn't be considered problematic when apartment hunting on a budget.

3. Subleasing

A sublease involves the tenant renting all or part of the property to another tenant. This can be helpful to renters with spare bedrooms or to college students who have no need for their apartment during summer months. However, check the terms of your lease carefully first, as many landlords prohibit subleasing in order to maintain better control over who occupies their units.

How to Save on Rent

1. Get a Roommate

This one is obvious, and it will save by far the most money. The average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in the U.S. in 2021 is $1,663. The average cost of a two-bedroom apartment in 2021 is $1,934. Divide that second number by two and it’s $696 cheaper a month. Multiply that by 12 and that’s a huge savings. And that doesn’t include shared expenses like utilities, kitchen supplies, toiletries and groceries.

2. Negotiate When You Renew a Lease

Landlords want to keep good tenants. It costs them money to move you out and bring someone else in. That means you have some leverage.

Research similar apartments in your area and come in with a number in mind. If the landlord won’t budge, tell them you’re going to look elsewhere. If you’ve been a good tenant, they’ll want to keep you.

Word of caution: Know who you are dealing with. Independent landlords have a lot more wiggle room than property management companies. Maybe they have multiple renters in the complex and aren’t willing to make concessions, so try to sweeten the deal by offering something in return.

3. Pay Upfront

Offer to pay the entire lease or at least a few months upfront for a discount if you can afford it. The landlord may cut a deal to have cash in hand, but it’s only an option if you have enough savings to cover and then some. You don’t want to rack up credit card debt because you emptied your bank account to save a few dollars on rent. The savings would be lost to credit card interest. And if you do pay upfront, make sure you pay the money back into your savings each month.

4. Sign an Extended Lease

What a landlord wants is stability. You can give it to them by signing for a year-and-a-half or two years instead of six months or a year. The longer the lease, the lower the landlord should be willing to go.

5. Give Up Your Parking Space

If you don’t have a car, you don’t need a parking space. Offer to give it up in exchange for discounted rent. The landlord would be able to sell the space to another tenant, who might need extra parking.

6. Look for Apartments in the Winter

Landlords have a tough time finding renters in winter. It’s cold outside in most of the country and people don’t like to leave their cozy homes. Vacancies can go on for months, and landlords lose money with each month they’re not collecting rent.

Rents increase in the summer. Some of that has to do with the weather, and a lot of it has to do with the school schedule. College graduates flood the market during this time of year, and high school graduates enter the market in college towns. Families with children in elementary school will wait until the school year is over to make a move to ease their children’s transition to a new school.

All that makes for an increase in demand, which equals higher prices. Look for apartments in the winter and offer to sign an extended lease that ends in the summer. That ensures the apartment hits the market at a good time for the landlord when you move out, and the landlord gets some stability in the meantime. They’ll be willing to work with you for those tradeoffs.

7. Private Rentals

A private rental is a property owned by an individual or family as opposed to a corporation, as is the case with most large apartment complexes. A private rental could be a house, apartment, or even a guest house separate from the main property.

Private landlords may be laxer when it comes to application fees or deposits. They don’t have strict corporate guidelines to adhere to. This means they may be more willing to negotiate rent amounts or overlook past evictions that could bar you from renting elsewhere.

However, every landlord will be different. Some may go as far as to complete background checks out of pocket. Be upfront about your situation and expectations to avoid any inconvenient surprises down the line.

8. Consider a New Location

This can be one of the most cost-effective ways to save money on rent. Big cities like New York and Los Angeles are attractive and expensive, with one-bedroom apartments in 2021 going for an average $3,684 and $2,689, respectively. If you need an urban vibe, but can’t afford those prices, consider emerging cities like Oklahoma City ($711) or El Paso ($915).

9. Offer to Work for the Landlord

If you know your way around appliances or plumbing, you can offer repairs to your landlord in exchange for a discount on rent. Each time something breaks down, your landlord has to pay someone to fix it, so he or she may be willing to work with you instead if it saves them time or money. Don’t be discouraged if you’re not particularly handy, you don’t need any special skills to mow a lawn or trim hedges.

10. Referral Fees

Ask your landlord if they offer tenant referral fees. Some landlords will offer you money in exchange for referring a new tenet. This is more likely to work with the larger apartment companies since they would need to have an excess of vacancies before offering you money to help fill them. A private lender with one or two properties probably won’t offer you much or anything for a referral, but it never hurts to ask.

Highlight your strengths as a tenant

If you’re looking for a new place, make sure to inquire about rent concessions. Rent concessions are benefits offered by the landlord to tenants such as move-in specials. You can also show you’re financially stable by offering the landlord a few concessions, such as paying a few months of rent in advance or signing on for a longer lease which saves the landlord money in turnover.

In the case of a rent increase, you should remind the landlord what a reliable, responsible tenant you’ve been. If you’ve always paid your rent on time, are courteous to other tenants and have kept the property in good shape, make sure your landlord knows it. It can help prove your worthiness and give them an incentive to keep your current rent.

When to ask for a rent reduction

You can request a rent reduction at any time, but your landlord will take you most seriously when you are renewing your lease because you’ll have more leverage right before the lease ends. You can also work other sticking points, like pet fees and the security deposit, into the discussion when you negotiate your rent. Quiet, clean tenants are tough to find, so chances are the landlord wants you to continue renting! Use our sample rent reduction letter during the negotiation process when renewing your lease. If you make a good case, the landlord will be more likely to lower the monthly amount.

However, If you’ve fallen under an unexpected financial hardship, as many have with the spread of coronavirus, ask for a rent reduction as soon as possible. Showing that you’re planning ahead for the next month will make you appear more reliable and display you’re working to fix your situation.

Another option when negotiating rent is to ask for a temporary reduction. If your work has halted during quarantine, you may need a little rent relief during this time. Ask your landlord if they would be willing to reduce your rent for these couple of months until you can get back on your feet again.

Why Should You Negotiate Your Rent

If you're thinking, "Why should I even negotiate rent in the first place?" the answer is pretty obvious. You can potentially save a lot money. In a country full of cost-burden renters, savings can be very beneficial.

However, negotiating rent can go beyond monetary benefits. Let's dig more into what negotiating your rent could mean for you.

Freedom

Even if you’re saving as little as $50-$100 a month, that can pay out to a good-sized chunk of $600-$1,200 saved over the course of 12 months. Some people can even save up to $200 a month, $2,400 in an entire year! Talk about (significantly) increased financial freedom!

Better Relationships

Saving on rent not only leaves you more money to spend how you’d wish but can also improve your relationship with your landlord or property manager. If done respectfully and calmly, negotiating your rent can be a great way to remind the landlord that you are a good tenant, and open up a stronger and more open line of communication.

Better Value

If you are concerned that you’re not getting the value for the amount you’re paying, carrying out a negotiation can be a great way to ease your mind by finding out what options are available to you and working out a win-win situation.

5. Renew a Yearly Lease

Landlords are desperate to find and keep model tenants who pay rent on time, play nice with neighbors, and keep their units in good condition. If you’re on a month-to-month, leverage that good standing with your landlord by offering to sign a new one-year lease in exchange for a small reduction. Vishnevsky says this would be most effective in cases where you’re currently paying above-market rental rates.

Final Thoughts

When it comes down to negotiating your rent, there's really only one rule: Keep the humanity.

Remember, your landlord or property manager is a person too. Keeping this at the forefront of your mind will help you create a much more effective plan, help you come up with ways your plan can benefit your landlord, and give you a greater sense of purpose and confidence going into your conversations.

Good luck negotiating!

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