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How to Negotiate Rent

JG

By Jenn Greenleaf

May 18, 2021

Updated on Aug 07, 2023


Some things in life are non-negotiable. Your monthly rental rate is not one of those things. Most renters don't realize that they can negotiate their rental price. Of course, depending on how tight the rental market is, negotiating rent can be a challenge. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Whether you're negotiating a new lease or renewing an existing lease, here's how to convince your landlord to lower your rent.

Keep the Conversation Polite and Professional

The right way to start the conversation about reducing rent is politely and professionally — not aggressively. The first thing you must remember is you're having a conversation — not an argument. That means, when negotiating your rent price, you must remain calm and keep things unemotional.

Decide how you are most comfortable initiating the conversation, be it putting the request in writing or scheduling an in-person meeting. Ultimately, it's best to meet with your landlord face-to-face. However, that might not always be possible.

Start by letting your landlord know that you don't want to insult them and that you understand they are running a business but that you would like to discuss a reduction in rent. This approach helps avoid putting your landlord on the offensive. The last thing landlords want to hear from anyone is that they're unfair about how much they're charging. It's also best to make sure you're not catching your landlord or property management company off-guard. Remember — if your landlord is angry, they're less likely to be agreeable.

If you enter rent negotiations believing you can get rock-bottom prices, that'll decrease your chances for success and increase frustration levels for everyone. A successful negotiation is one in which both parties feel like a winner.

Know the Market: How to Conduct Research

Ensuring that the reduction you're asking for is reasonable involves doing your homework. That starts with researching the market. Before attempting to negotiate rent, spend some time looking at how your apartment compares to other units or apartment buildings in your area. You might also hear this research referred to as comps.

"Comps" is a term that real estate investors use when referring to comparable rental listings. They use this information to compare and identify the value of investment properties compared to others in the market. You can make similar comparisons when researching rent and the market value of your apartment.

As rental markets rise and fall, so do prices for apartments and other rental units. Start researching by searching online for apartments similar to yours in your area. If you discover your current rent is much higher than similar apartments, you have some wiggle room for asking your landlord for a lower price.

While it's challenging to find rental units that match up to yours exactly, you can still quantify the following:

  • Current rentals offering the same or similar square footage as your apartment
  • Amenities that are available for competing rentals that you currently do not have
  • How other rentals compare regarding neighborhood safety, public transportation, school district ratings, access to entertainment, and access to businesses

So, for example, if you have a one-bedroom in the West Village neighborhood of New York City, start looking up other apartments of the same size on your same street or on close-by streets. However, if you live in a luxury apartment in the neighborhood, don’t try comparing your rent with that of a similar-sized unit in a rundown, independently owned building.

Instead of making rental negotiations personal, use the apartment rental market as the basis of your conversation. For example, avoid talking about personal finance troubles that strain what you can afford for rent. Instead, talk to your landlord about the market rate and the similar apartments you found so you can back your request with solid research.

Understand the Right Time for Negotiations

There's a right and wrong time to do everything. You may feel strongly about starting these negotiations immediately. However, successful rent negotiations begin with timing. If you don't time the negotiation right, you're reducing your chances for success.

The best times for rent negotiations:

  • If you're a new tenant, the best time for negotiations is before signing your lease.
  • At the month's end, when landlords are searching for new tenants.
  • Between two and three months before your current lease expires.
  • If you know you want to stay in your rental, landlords might negotiate when they know they don't have to find another tenant.
  • During the winter months, which are notoriously difficult for landlords to fill empty units.

Why is winter the sweet spot when figuring out when and how to negotiate rent? Most people don't like dealing with ice and snow when moving. Instead, they'll wait for pleasant weather to start apartment hunting.

Learn How to Think Beyond the Rent

Even if your landlord refuses your request for a rent reduction, there's still room for negotiations if you are trying to save money. If your landlord won't reduce your rent, here are examples of amenities you can ask for instead:

  • Appliances: If your apartment already comes standard with a range and refrigerator, but it lacks a dishwasher, dryer, and washing machine, you could ask your landlord to furnish these appliances.
  • Better or increased parking: You might have one parking spot or a guest parking issue. Instead of reducing your rent, your landlord might throw in better or additional free parking spaces if the neighborhood allows it.
  • Pet rent: If you're paying pet rent, you could ask your landlord to reduce it or waive it altogether.
  • Professional cleaning: If your rent is non-negotiable, you could consider asking your landlord to throw in professional cleanings like carpet cleaning, window cleaning, extermination, and more.
  • Upgrades: You may be a long-term tenant and, during the time, found that the apartment could benefit from upgrades. That could include new faucets, a better showerhead, energy-efficient thermostats, kitchen appliance upgrades, and more.

Offer to Help — What's in It for Them?

Thinking outside the box doesn't just involve what's in it for you during a rent negotiation. Think about how your landlord or property manager could benefit from giving you a lower rent in exchange for specific services.

Here are some examples:

  • Administration: Some landlords are great at communicating, but they lack paperwork and organizational skills—if you excel in this area, you could be a valuable asset.
  • Cleaning: Are you willing to clean a vacant apartment to prepare for a new tenant's move-in date? Or would you consider cleaning up leaves, washing windows, or power washing siding?
  • Maintenance: Do you have skills like replacing faucets, plowing or snow blowing, cleaning pools, and other property maintenance tasks?
  • Marketing: Does your landlord have difficulty leasing and marketing vacant apartments, and is this a skill in which you have experience?

When you look at rent negotiations as a give-and-take process involving you and your landlord, that opens up more opportunities for success.

Talk Yourself Up with a Landlord

Here's where you benefit from describing what makes you a desirable tenant. If you have a track record of being a good tenant, you can offer referrals during negotiations.

Signs you're the kind of tenant a landlord is looking for include:

  • Paying rent on time and that you're willing to communicate maintenance issues
  • Your professionalism and your penchant for treating the property like it's yours
  • Not keeping odd hours or constantly issuing complaints about other tenants
  • You're not a noisy tenant (no drums!)
  • Not letting someone live in the unit who isn't on the lease
  • Your willingness to renew your lease and follow the lease terms

Pay More Upfront and Commit to a Longer Lease

Another strategy for negotiating your rent is offering to pay more than one month at a time. Paying more upfront puts money in your landlord's pocket sooner, and may lead them to give you a lower monthly rent payment. You might also consider committing to a longer lease, which helps them avoid the costs and headaches associated with finding a new tenant. Offer to sign a two-year lease if you can, and see if they’ll give you a lower rate.

Why Negotiating is Worth it for Tenants

Even though it might feel like an uncomfortable conversation, it's worth trying to negotiate your rent. The best time to start negotiations is before you sign a lease for a new apartment or before you sign a lease renewal, but you may also see a higher chance of success in the winter months, when landlords tend to have a harder time filling vacancies. Just remember to do your research, ask for a reasonable deduction, and keep the conversation professional. You may just end up paying a little less rent per month. Before you begin negotiating, check out our Answers to the Top 5 Rent Increase Questions on every renter's mind.

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