How to Negotiate Rent
May 18, 2021
Some things in life are non-negotiable. Surprise—how much you pay in monthly rent is not one of those things. Most renters don't realize that rental prices are negotiable. The reality is you can, and you should negotiate your rent. The key is knowing how. Whether you're negotiating a new lease or renewing an existing lease, here's how to convince your landlord to lower your rent.
Politely and Professionally Starting the Conversation
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 apartment rent, 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 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 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 apartment 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.
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 rent is much higher than comparable units, you have some wiggle room for negotiations with your landlord.
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
Instead of making rental negotiations personal, use the apartment rental market as the basis of your conversation. For example, avoid talking about financial troubles that strain what you can afford for rent. Instead, talk to your landlord about your findings so you can back your request with solid research.
Understanding 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 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 vacancies.
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 secure a new apartment or other rentals.
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 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 provide better or additional 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.
Thinking outside the box doesn't just involve what's in it for you during a rent negotiation. Think about how your landlord could benefit from reducing your 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 marketing vacant apartments, and this is 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.
How to 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 its terms
A strategy for negotiating your rent could be offering to pay more than one month at a time. That puts more money into your landlord's pocket. You might also consider committing to a longer lease, which is also beneficial to your landlord.
Why Negotiating is Worth it for Tenants
Even though it might not feel like a comfortable conversation, it's worth trying to negotiate your rent. If the negotiations go well, you can put the extra funds into a savings account, splurge for indulgences like coffee on the way to work, or spring for a little something to spruce up your apartment.
About the author
Jenn Greenleaf is an editor and professional writer with a focus on business, health & wellness, lifestyle, and, of course, real estate. When she isn’t writing content, articles, and blog posts, you’ll find her behind an easel or camera. In addition to being a freelance writer, she is a mixed media artist and amateur photographer who sells her work online and in art galleries.