Can you negotiate a rent decrease? While rental leases may appear set in stone, they’re more flexible than many tenants think—so if you’re renting and you think your rent is too damn high, it’s definitely worth speaking up.
Negotiating rent with a landlord might seem like a hard battle to win, but it’s entirely doable if you can prove two things: 1) the rent being charged is higher than similar units elsewhere, and 2) you’re a model tenant who pays rent on time. Such negotiations can be done whether you’re applying to rent a new apartment or just want cheaper rent where you currently reside.
Here’s how to negotiate rent and help your landlord realize you’re worth the sacrifice.
Can you negotiate a rent decrease? How to discuss rent before you move in
Can you negotiate the price of a rental before you move in? As a prospective tenant, it’s a bit harder to persuade a new landlord to accept lower rent, since you two have no history together. A competitive market counts here: Landlords who’ve been struggling to fill apartments will be far more open to rent negotiation than most. If they’re desperate, they’d probably rather strike a deal than watch another perspective tenant search for homes for rent elsewhere.
Here are some ways to stand out.
- Prepare a stellar application. “The best way I’ve seen renters negotiate rent is to be an amazing applicant,” says Glenn Carter, a real estate investor at Condo.Capital. That means submitting your application quickly and including tax returns, proof of employment, and references from previous landlords saying you pay rent on time. “This will show potential landlords you’re diligent and will treat the property well,” Carter says. You may even offer to sign a longer lease, such as a two-year lease, to make the deal even more attractive.
- Show a high credit score. If possible, also bring a recent document showing your high credit score, which indicates you reliably pay your debts on time. “As a landlord, I would accept lower rent from a dependable source,” says Boston landlord Steve Silberberg. People who pay their credit card bills and make other debt payments are more likely to pay their rent on time, too.
- Gather rental statistics. Comb through online listings to find out the rents of comparable properties in the area. Also research how long the property you’re interested in—or similar real estate in the area—has been on the market. When you speak to the landlord, have a printout of comparable units that are slightly lower in rent and, if the unit has been unoccupied, have this information on hand as well. Perhaps a similar one-bedroom apartment rent has an amenity this unit does not, for example. Then point out how these factors make the landlord’s rental terms above a reasonable market-rate price.
- Suggest a realistic rent reduction. Be sure to have a realistic rental price ready based on your research. Don’t start the negotiation with a lowball offer, but let your first rental offer be one your landlord can haggle with you on. Make your case in a nonconfrontational way. Say something like, “I love this place and am looking for a long-term commitment. Unfortunately, my personal finance budget is X. Would you be willing to meet that in exchange for signing a longer lease?” Another option might be to ask for a free month, instead of a lower rate.
How to negotiate a rent decrease as a current tenant
Can you negotiate rent as a current tenant? Yes, and you’ll actually have more leverage—that is, if you’ve paid rent on time and otherwise proved to be a good tenant.
Here’s how to negotiate rent when you’re already living there.
How to ask for a rent reduction
- Time it right. Start the conversation shortly before your lease renewal is due. Begin by saying you’re not thinking of getting a new place but rather want to continue renting—for the right price. Then state the facts: You like your current apartment, but you’re seeing cheaper monthly rents elsewhere.
- Point out the benefits of your staying. Remind the landlord that keeping you as a renter saves him the hassle of listing a vacancy, showing the apartment, screening applicants, and losing potential rental income while he looks for new tenants.
- Offer something in return. Ask your landlord what he wants in exchange for a lower rent—a longer lease commitment, higher security deposit, or prepaying a month or two—to make your request fit his needs.
- Demonstrate you’re a model tenant. Frame your reduction in rent as a return on investment, because you have a stellar payment record and value as a tenant. Remind your landlord you pay rent on time, keep your place in good condition, and help your neighbors. “If less reliable tenants miss even a half-month’s rent during their lease, that translates into a loss,” says Silberberg. “I recently accepted $150 less per month on a year and a half lease for very stable renters, instead of a year lease with less stable tenants.”
- Point out repairs. You may also want to tactfully bring your landlord’s attention to anything in your unit that’s worn out or needs painting. Then suggest that the current condition of the items in question merits a proportionate reduction in the rent price. You can also offer to repair or replace these items yourself in exchange for reduced rent.
- Suggest a temporary reduction in the rental price. If you suspect your landlord won’t budge on a permanent reduction in rental rates, consider suggesting a temporary reduction instead—say, a break for a few months during off-peak seasons when it’s harder to rent places out, or when the rental market is slower. “I’m most open to price negotiations anytime between November and January,” says landlord Domenick Tiziano of AccidentalRental.com. “If I have a vacancy, a good candidate has a pretty good chance of talking me down a few bucks.” For a $900 property, Tiziano will consider a $50 reduction but only for a six-month period.