Pay Less Rent

In life, everything is negotiable, including your rent. Many renters might tremble at confronting the dark landlord ogre, but with a little research, some tips on negotiating, and a little moxie, you can stand a fighting chance at trimming your monthly rent check:

  • The landlord will quote what he says is “the market rate,” but do your own research. Compare rental rates using sites like Rentometer, and Craigslist. And then hit the pavement and talk to the neighbors! Nothing beats good human intelligence. They can give you inside scoops that will never show up in a database. You can also talk to your local tenant’s counsel for more rental rate info.
  • Check the falling and rising rent trends at What The Neighbor’s Pay.
  • Highlight your pluses.
  • Bring your backup data to bring out if the landlord’s offer is higher than market rate
  • Negotiate a lower rate for signing a longer lease.
  • Be ready to haggle. If they landlord can’t budge on price, try for concessions like free parking.
  • Always be prepared to walk away. If you have no other options, you have no negotiating power.

Have you ever haggled with your landlord for lower rent or concessions? How did it go? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

How To Negotiate Your Rent in 2010 | A 10-Step Guide [Software Advice]

Comments

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  1. Hoss says:

    As an investor (ok, landlord), I’d suggest following these steps BEFORE moving in. Times are tough for investors too. (I haven’t increased rent in four years. If your circumstance is different, by all means…)

    • AnonymousCoward says:

      That’s great, but in some (okay, a lot) of locations, rents have fallen. My brother was in a situation where he rented a place, signed a year lease, and then rents fell about 10% during the year he was there. When the lease was nearly up, he went around and looked at places he found on craigslist, with the intention of showing the landlord comps to get his rent lowered.

      He ended up finding a place for the same price that was so much better that he ended up moving, so I can’t tell how the negotiations would have gone.

  2. jacques says:

    That may work for certain situations, but remember that some landlords are renting because they can’t sell a vacant house and need to try to cover the mortgage payments.

    I’m losing $300 a month (or more), but just signed a 2 yr lease instead of raising the rates on my tenants.

    • johnrhoward says:

      Why a landlord is renting shouldn’t be a concern of the tenant. Their only concern should be getting the best deal. If renters wanted to worry about a mortgage, they wouldn’t be renters.

      • mythago says:

        Right, but I think jacques’s point was not that you should feel sorry for the landlord; it’s that the landlord may not be in a financial position to lower your rent.

        • EBounding says:

          Offered to pay my landlord for a year up front in exchange for lower rent. He was thrilled. Saved $1200 and got a month free.

          • sonneillon says:

            I did that before with 6 months. If you’ve got the cash it’s a great way to drop the total cost.

    • AnonymousCoward says:

      You losing money on your mortgage is not my problem as a tenant. (and yes, I’ve been a landlord in the same situation. It sucked.) It’s really about supply, demand, and whether or not the tenant can get something comparable for less money elsewhere. You’ll lose even more money if the tenant moves and the place is empty.

  3. Supes says:

    I was dealing with this today with Equity Residential. Incredibly annoying.

    My lease ends about 60 days from now so I need to give notice. But I got a new job in a new city that starts about 90 days from now.

    Obvious solution is to add one month. Problem is, the one additional month adds an absurd $1700 to the monthly rent, out of my price range (there’s no state laws preventing this, sadly). They simply won’t budge on it, so I’m being forced to move twice, despite offering $500 above what I’m paying now for the extra month. Sigh…

    • JayCor says:

      Maybe I’m just slow today, but why do you need to move twice? Can’t you just move to the new city a month early? Use the down time to get settled in your new area, deal with cable/internet/electric, get your new driver’s license, find a decent grocery store, etc. — hell, even just take a vacation and try out new bars and restaurants and such.

      • Supes says:

        Because I have a current job, and they want me to stay till Mid-September. And I have a very good relationship with them so there’s no reason to burn bridges.

        Plus the new city is New York, so I’m not quite sure I can afford to spend a month there without being paid.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          Would it be cheaper to move everything into a storage unit and check into a motel for the month? Maybe you could put everything into a storage unit and bum on friends’ couches until you can move, but that might involve a lot more planning and/or friends.

          • Supes says:

            Right now the plan is to hire moving and storage people to hold onto my furniture and sublet a furnished room for a month. Not perfect, but it’s the best I can figure out.

            Considered couch-surfing…. but while I think I could get away with it for a week or two, for a month I felt like I would be imposing too much.

            • chargernj says:

              well if you think you would be imposing then offer the person you would be staying with a little compensation. After all, you won’t be paying rent that month anyway.

        • Not Given says:

          Negotiate with both the old and new companies to cover at least some of the costs of both moves. If they really want you to stay a month past your lease maybe they can make it worth your while.

    • idiosynch says:

      Supes:

      This is still technically ‘moving twice’ but you might be best off with a ‘residence’-style hotel instead of a one-month lease somewhere. Courtyard, Residence Inn, etc. for a month. Move your stuff into a Pod, and have them store it for a month?

      Sucky situation, though…. :

    • Supes says:

      For what it’s worth, I thought I’d update my tale of woe with an uplifting ending. Today, at 5:45 (the leasing office closes at 7, and today is exactly 60 days so I needed to give notice), I got an e-mail saying they would allow us to stay for only a $700 increase. Not great, but much much better than the $1700 originally.

      I have no idea what brought on the change. This morning they were steadfast, and now they were actually reasonable. I did email the corporate HQ, so perhaps someone heard my plea? I might never know, but thanks Equity Residential!

  4. areaman says:

    And then hit the pavement and talk to the neighbors! Nothing beats good human intelligence.

    If it’s a battle of intelligence it’s pretty easy to get a win vs landlords and apartment managers. They’re usually people who somehow ended up there (like the people of Fresno).

    And sometimes these people only have the one tool in their tool belt, the my way or the highway tool. Can’t reason in that case.

  5. NarcolepticGirl says:

    I think this would only work (maybe) if you were about to rent from a private owner and not from a company.
    When I lived in Boston and had roommates, I had really low rent in decent neighborhoods so I never even thought of asking for a lower rent. Plus I never even met any of my landlords.

    • AnonymousCoward says:

      In a slow market, even big companies can be negotiated with. I did it in the late 80’s. I asked the local manager, and they already had some deal that they were authorized to offer. It’s always worth asking.

      • NarcolepticGirl says:

        Well, with the townhouse we’re renting now the managment company had a deal that the first was month free. But It was advertised so i don’t think that counts.

  6. scgirl_212 says:

    Also, if you rent from a complex that is owned by a company, there almost never is room to negotiate, since the company sets the prices and the office has no real control over the cost of rent.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      This is true, so you can focus on the perks instead. I think overall, we probably pay about what others pay for an apartment of comparable size, or maybe just a little more, but we also get a lot of amenities that other apartments in the area don’t have, and we’re talking about really important ones like pick up service from the subway and package delivery. It seems trivial, but we really like that the UPS and Fedex delivery people don’t have any access to our apartment building, and all the packages have to go through the front desk.

      One of the things people forget to do is look outside the price – look at the value of what you pay.

    • areaman says:

      Ya, and I hate the way they deliver the message too. “We have to do what the computer says.”

    • phrekyos says:

      Sometimes you can. I rented from Archstone, paid like $1365/mo for a year, then they wanted to raise it to over $1500. Without asking them, I went and found a better place closer to work. When I submitted my move out notice, they said they were willing to negotiate, but I had already signed the lease at the new place so I didn’t bother asking them how much.

  7. Murph1908 says:

    I approached a landlord when the complex I had lived for 2 years was running a special to attract new tenants. They were offering 2 free months on a year lease. I asked for the deal when it was time to renew. Despite being a model tenant and paying ontime every month, no dice.

    I asked for one month. No dice.

    So I moved into a nicer place closer to work.

    • qwickone says:

      I hate it when landlords pull this. I can understand why they wouldnt just come out and tell you that you can get the same deal, but I don’t understand why they don’t honor the deal if you request it.

    • alaron says:

      Same here. I was paying 1050, and an equivalent apartment was renting for 895. I asked for a reduction twice, in writing. No response. I moved. Not sure why the landlord wouldn’t want me as a tenant, but whatever.

    • whogots is "not computer knowledgeable" says:

      We’re dealing with something similar at my fiance’s complex. They usually give him a small rent hike and one free month every time he re-ups, so his annual rent increases imperceptibly. His lease will renew right about the time I move out there, and if we get a larger apartment in the same complex, they won’t give us the free month.

      We’ll be single-income, and I ended up saying, “Look, if somebody bet us $1360 (the total difference in rent including the free month) that we wouldn’t stay in this one-bedroom, we’d take them up on it, right?” So now we’re going to cram into the 1br until the lease ends in February.

      Screw corporate landlords. I am such a spoiled rotten duplex denizen.

  8. ElleAnn says:

    Like anything else, you get what you pay for. Negotiating for lower rent- especially for a mom and pop rental- might mean that the landlords have less money to spend on snow removal, lawn care, repairs, getting credit reports to screen your potential new neighbors, etc. Our landlords are a young couple who bought our 3 unit building thinking it would be a cash cow, and after 2 of the apartments were vacant most of the winter, they started having issues paying for heat and water. Our rent is low for the square footage… I’d almost prefer if they raised it $50 or $100 and then were 100% reliable about paying for the utilities. The gas was turned off once this spring- if that happens again we’re out of there.

    • Big Mama Pain says:

      Yes! My roommate’s aunt owned the condo we lived in, and we were paying ridiculously low rent because she had owned the place for decades. But because of our low rent, my roommate “felt bad” for asking her to repair legitimately broken things, or things that were run down. I even tried to tell him that keeping up with repairs and cosmetics would help her in the long run, no dice. After renting the condo for six years, she decided to sell, and it cost her a small fortune up front to even get it in reasonable condition to show it.

    • lennox11432 says:

      because screening potential neighbor’s credit reports GUARANTEES good neighbors, amirite?

      • ElleAnn says:

        Well, it makes it slightly less likely that your neighbors will not pay their rent and your landlord will get behind on the mortgage and utilities during the time it takes to evict them and find new tenants… which isn’t a good situation for anyone.

  9. mythago says:

    Also, carefully look over your lease. Not all leases are in compliance with the law. If your landlord has charged illegal fees, or it turns out your apartment falls under some kind of rent control ordinance, you may be able to get your rent back to normal levels. (Though I would strongly suggest your first approach to the landlord be one where you assume that it was an honest and ignorant mistake that they would want to correct, not “you ripped me off, asshole”.)

    • frank64 says:

      I had an issue with this. A new guy bought the triple decker I lived in and wanted me to sign a lease that contained a late fee. I told him this was not legal and provided him with the print out from the state website. He said, he didn’t believe anything from the internet and threatened to kick me out. I told him fine, that I would put the money into escrow until we went to court. He said just pay your rent on time. He was mad though. Good thing, because he didn’t like fixing things and I needed to withhold rent to get some things fixed.

      The real problem here is many people buy rentals who don’t know what they are doing, and don’t even have any common sense people skills. I know one person who moved out because the landlord wouldn’t fix the things they had agreed too. The next tenants were crack heads and one killed the other in the apartment. Landlord had a lot to deal with and he could have avoided it just by keeping the quality tenants. In some cases you get what you ask for.

      • mythago says:

        Very true. Sometimes, though, well-meaning landlords use preprinted forms or find something on the Internet or operate off word of mouth, and if you can point out to them that they’re in the wrong they’ll change.

        • frank64 says:

          Not mine! He had a chip on his shoulder, and later made points about how I REFUSED to sign the agreement( I did, but crossed out the illegal part). Telling him it was illegal and thus enforceable went right through him. I told him I could have signed it because it wasn’t enforceable. I could have, but figured not agreeing to it would nip the potential problem in the bud.

  10. Dutchess says:

    I tried this about 8 years ago when I rented my last apartment before buying. The landlord refused to budge so I moved out. Rents were falling everywhere in my area and they were trying to raise our rent by $150 bucks a month on a $1200/month rental.

    I tried to explain to them if we move out and the apartment was vacant for 1 month they would lose most of the gains they made from raising the rent. The didn’t believe me so I moved out.

    That aparment sat empty for 8 months. Serves them right!!!!

  11. Daverson says:

    The only thing that sucks worse than being a tenant is being a landlord. The best thing I ever did was sell my 4-family house and buy a single-family.

    The income from rentals was never, ever worth the hassles of being a landlord.

    • mythago says:

      It’s worth it if you are diligent and can have a reliable property management firm handle things – otherwise, yep, I’d never do it. And I say that as somebody who occasionally handles landlord-tenant cases for tenants.

  12. reddbettie says:

    This mainly works for private renters but not properties owned by larger management companies.
    I work in property management and rent is just not negotiable with my company.

  13. Sarah of Get Cooking says:

    Signing a longer lease has never been a good deal where I am (upper west side, NYC). The longer the lease, the more they seem to want you to pay. It’s like they can’t wait til you move to put someone else in. They don’t realize that the longer you stay, the fewer renovations they have to make, the more steady income they make, the less time the apartment is vacant and they have to pay brokers to find a new tenant.

    I would have loved to sign a longer lease if only to avoid having to re-sign every year, but the 2 year lease has a 6% rent increase, while the 1 year only has a 3% increase each time I sign it.

  14. exconsumer says:

    I tried this, but my landlord did not budge. We started looking and found an apartment 300 dollars a month cheaper. It’s great. Not that everyone shouldn’t do this, but your landlord my not be all that reasonable, and you’ll have to be willing to find a new apartment and leave him with his empty rooms.

  15. elizabeth33 says:

    I wish tools like “What the Neighbors Pay” would be more specific about where their numbers come from. My husband and I just spend the past three months searching for a new apartment, and I consider myself a near-pro in the true cost of housing in our city for a middle-income family. The so-called “average price per month” listed on WTNP was drastically below the prices we found — at least if we wanted to live somewhere with walls! I think a search on Craigslist and on one of the major apartment sites will give you a better idea of what to expect when renting.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I agree. I looked at my area, and overall, the highest rents shown by WTNP are about $300 LESS than what I know my friends pay. And you’re right – there’s a huge variation in the quality of apartments we’re talking about. I can get an apartment for $900 a month in my area – IF I want my home to be burgled, my car to be stolen, and my home to be infested with roaches and rats. No thanks.

      • womynist says:

        In order to get the actual Fair Market Rent that is determined each year by HUD, go to:

        http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/fmr.html

        You’ll be able to search your state, county or metropolitan area to get the only true accurate figure. Any Landlord who charges more than the Fair MArket Rent (FMR) is breaking the law.

        • mythago says:

          Why do you say that? HUD does not oversee all landlords nationwide. It is true that a landlord who receives funds from HUD (say, under Section 8) is limited in the rent they can charge, but what HUD says is fair market rent has nothing to do with what a private landlord can charge.

          • pecan 3.14159265 says:

            Yeah, and given that HUD does relate directly to Section 8, HUD oversees what is basically low income housing – none of which I actually qualify for, so I don’t think HUD controls rent for anyone else.

        • pecan 3.14159265 says:

          I imagine this doesn’t really apply to rental companies, only to individual landlords. Certainly I’ve seen many, many rent prices as higher than FMR.

  16. maddypilar says:

    Two years in a row I have gotten a rent decrease. I moved in at a time when rents were high and none of my neighbors are paying as much as I am. There has been a lot of turnover and apartments take at least 2 months to fill.

  17. DRcxz says:

    I did this quite successfully at my last place. Their renewal offer was the same rent plus $200 credit and free carpet cleaning.

    I did research ahead of time and found the current published rate (slightly higher than what I was already paying), their specials for new tenants, and the local vacancy rates. I chose to visit after work and brought my research and copy of the renewal offer to the office. I met with the manager explained that I would like a better offer to renew. I stated my case based on higher vacancy rates in the area (meant other places were willing to deal) and the cost to recruit new tenants (the apartment would be vacant for a period as well as the cost of labor and supplies while the apartment was cleaned/pained for the next tenants. I also pointed out that they were offering new tenants the first month free – approx $1200 value).

    I gave them what I believed was a fair counter-offer that asked for a rent credit equivalent to the free month offered to new tenants spread out over the next 12 months. I also asked for an additional $100 off the first month and the carpet cleaning mentioned in the renewal. The manager let us know she felt the offer was fair but would need to get approval from the corporate office. I contacted her 2 days later to follow-up and she let me know the offer was approved.

    In summary:
    Their offer – approx $260 in concessions to renew
    My accepted offer – approx 1360 in concessions

    • mythago says:

      Sounds like they were a smart company that figured out keeping a good tenant (you) was a better deal than trying to get a new tenant for more.

  18. colorisnteverything says:

    This only works if the place you are renting is not highly-desired. The place I have leased for fall is a really popular spot for grad students, with the owner/manager living on site. It is well maintained and really desireable for people who are quiet and like to keep it that way. Thus, they have an 80% return rate on average. No room for bargaining there, really. There’s a waitlist. However, one of the more pricey places in town has a pretty frequent turnover rate and they were willing to bargain.

  19. frank64 says:

    I always try to negotiate going month to month at the end of a lease. So far it has worked, but I have not looked at places where the landlord didn’t want to do it. I told my present landlord that I had been at my former place over 5 years BECAUSE it was month to month. I am now under an agreement where I just have to give only 60 days notice. I think not having a lease actually keeps me at a place longer.

    If I move in in May, I know the chances are only about 1 out of 8 I would want to move out in an upcoming May. It helps to be a good tenant, so they would want you to stay.

    As far as rent increases, he has not raised rents since I moved in and says he doesn’t see where he will have too. The only thing is he has a provision where we pay any property tax increases. This seems fair, because what most landlords do is use it as an excuse to raise rents higher than the actual tax increase. It all works for me. I feel lucky, I have a good place with a good landlord and good neighbors.

  20. sheriadoc says:

    When I moved into this apartment in Alaska we were told the rent would be $935/mo and all new tenants would be paying that price when they moved in. (We knew some current tenants and they were paying $850/mo.) Well, when the people we knew moved out, we discovered the new tenants were paying $850/mo too. My boyfriend went to the management office to ask why we were basically lied to and was told “if you don’t like it, you can leave.” We were very good tenants too, and paid rent on-time every month. So, we moved out after a battle with management after they turned all double douche on us.

  21. subtlefrog says:

    We recently renegotiated our rent. We looked around at the neighborhood one day and realized that half the street was vacant. We hit Craigslist and Westside Rentals, a pay service that most landlords here in Los Angeles go through, and looked at comparable properties in our area. It was clear that we were paying about $200/month too much.

    Our landlord is a guy, not a company, so we called him up with a list of things that we would like fixed, and told him what going rate was like in the area, and that we’d like to drop our rent by $200. He asked for time to look around and compare, which seemed fair. A couple of days later, he called back, and agreed, simple as that. I think he realized in this market that even over time, at that rent, he’d save money because it was pretty likely to sit vacant for a while, not to mention the effort of re-renting.

  22. Osi says:

    I pay 1150.00 a month for my rent. Been here for 3 years with no raises. The landlord owns a over 16 houses and renting all of them. He seems to only rent to families with children only.

    Unfortunately, we’ve notice that there is a huge turn over on renters who leave the place like a mess, and leaves. Thus rent goes up every time he has to rent out a house again … lucky for us, our rent never goes up. He says we are the best hes’ had in decades and want to keep us. :) Lucky us. I guess we are responsible!!!!

    Bad part is .. We own a house in California that is being rented out just barely enough to pay for it’s mortgage and for the rental company’s services. So we’re sorta SOL ;)

  23. iDuckie says:

    I don’t think this will work with big company apartment complexes. Maybe smaller ones and individual landlords, but I know if i went to my apartment manager and said “The average rent in Austin for a 1 bedroom is $701, and the average for a 2 bedroom is $857, lets find a happy medium (I have a 1.5 bedroom)” I’d be laughed at.

    I love my apartment complex, and I don’t want to move out, but I’m terrified my rent is going to skyrocket to here I can’t afford it, and I can’t afford $1200 to switch to a smaller apartment (pet deposits plus apartment transfer fee.) This is a good list, but it needs to come with a warning that its not feasible for large rental companies.

    • mythago says:

      I dunno, at our last apartment, it was owned by a Big Company and my spouse managed to get them to cut the rent by a third over the course of a year. I thought he would get laughed at, too, but they took at hard look at the plummeting housing market, considered that we were good tenants who paid on time, and agreed. It’s worth risking a laugh.

  24. KyBash says:

    When a new tenant moved in across the hall, I was snoopy enough to ask about their rent. No surprise that it’s more than 50% higher than mine. The cheapest apt. in the building across the street is almost exactly twice what I pay.

    Frosting — my apt. is the only one with a fireplace and French doors.

    I don’t have to do any real research to know that I’m getting the sweetest deal in town.

  25. outoftheblew says:

    My current renter is the only one who asked if I was firm on the price. I was initially asking $xxx, but no one was interested once they found out the price (I had researched that it was in line with similar properties in the neighborhood) … actually, some weren’t interested because it’s only a 2-bedroom, too. But if no one rented it, I was going to drop the price by $100. He’s the only person who asked if I was firm on the price, and my reduced price was what he was budgeting for. He’s been a great tenant, too. When I was a renter, I never thought to ask if someone was firm on the price.

  26. solipsistnation says:

    Apostrophe misuse alert!

  27. nkash001 says:

    At the last apartment I lived at, I was able to bring my rent down to $899 from $1092. Doing your research and getting quotes from other complexes in the area pays, believe me! Especially given the way the economy is now, your landlord loses out big time if you leave. Remember that as you go in to negotiate!

  28. paulthegeek says:

    For many landlords, long-term tenants are worth their weight in gold.

    In 2005 my wife started Law school and we knew we didn’t want to move for 3 years. So we found a nice place and asked the landlord if he was willing to discount the rent if we signed a 3-year lease. Having us locked into a long-term lease appealed to him and ended up being worth $75 off the monthly rent, AND got us on friendly terms with him and his wife over the course of 3 years. They were great landlords, and I like to think we were model tenants.

    So we lived in a comfortable 3br ranch house in a nice neighborhood for $675 a month instead of $750 (granted, this is in central KY.) We even re-upped for an additional year after my wife passed the Bar. We bought a house last July and moved out of the ol’ place, but we are still good friends with the landlords. In fact, we had a minor plumbing emergency on our first day in the new house and he was the first person I called for advice.

  29. ospreyguy says:

    We became 1st time renters in May (owned for seven years) and I haggled like I was buying a house. The guy wasn’t too happy but we ended up with mutually agreeable terms. I really liked the place and location so one thing I had put into the lease that made the landlord happy was a clause that I could extend the lease at any point if all parties agreed. To the landlord it was like a 2 year lease and for me if it turned out bad I wasn’t stuck there 2 years.

    I also upgraded a lot of things like ceiling fans, towel bars, kitchen sink faucet, and others. All little things that I was use to in a nice house I owned but isn’t standard in a rental. I offered to leave it all as well making his place nicer.

    What I got for all this was great condo in a great location with an attached garage (AWESOME), new carpet, and paint for about $25 cheaper than the average WITHOUT a garage!

    The key is to show some benefit to the landlord. If you are a handy person (like me) fix the little stuff around the house and call your landlord and say “hey just wanted to let you know the toilet was running so I swapped out the flapper and float…” May cost you $10 but the landlord may have had to hire a plummer and cost them $100. They will love you for that! When the lease comes up for renewal you have a little more power to either keep rent steady or maybe get a discount.

  30. TheWillow says:

    we asked for a 10% rent decrease last year and they gave us 16%. Our complex is awesome (of course, my roommate thought we should go back and ask for more because his is a pinhead).