Can You Negotiate Rent?

By Brian O'Connell · May 30, 2023 · 9 minute read

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Can You Negotiate Rent?

If you’re wondering whether you can lower your rent, the answer may be, surprisingly, yes in some situations.

The prospect of bargaining down your rent may sound futile or intimidating. But, thanks to a little research and a well-planned approach, it may be possible to land a better deal.

The odds of successfully lowering your rent will probably depend on a few factors, including how much comparable rentals in your area cost, the value you represent to your landlord, and the general state of the economy and the rental market.

To decrease the awkwardness of haggling and increase your ability to sweeten your deal, you may want to try one or more of these clever and effective negotiating techniques.

The Benefits of Negotiating Rent

The obvious payoff of reducing your rent is more cash left over at the end of the month.

But you may also want to consider the longer term benefits. Let’s say you’ve successfully negotiated your monthly rent down by $100.

It’s nice to have that extra $100, of course. But over the course of a year, that monthly savings adds up to $1,200.

Let’s say you applied that $1,200 yearly savings to paying down credit cards or a student loan debt (rather than paying the minimum).

You might be able to save significantly on interest payments and also boost your credit score (which could help you save money in the future by helping you to get loans and credit cards with better terms).

Recommended: What Credit Score is Needed to Rent an Apartment in 2023?

Or, you could funnel that monthly $100 saved into a high yield savings account and start building a downpayment on a home (if you’d prefer to own vs. rent) or an emergency fund, or working towards another savings goal.

If you were to invest an extra $100 into your 401(k) retirement fund or other retirement savings each month, it could yield a significant income stream decades from now. (If you’re already contributing to these accounts, be aware of the annual limits.)

In addition, by learning how to negotiate, you’re also developing a lifelong skill of standing up for yourself and cutting better deals as an experienced negotiator, which could pay off in other areas of your life.

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Timing it Right

As eager as you may want to cut a good deal and do so as quickly as possible, it can be wise to time your approach to maximize your chances of success.

That means negotiating at the right moments, when your landlord may be more amenable to cutting a deal.

Those times might include:

•   The end of the month, when other tenants may have vacated the property and your landlord may enjoy the stability of a long-term tenant.

•   90 days or so before your current lease expires. That’s enough time to offer to sign another lease, but only at terms favorable to you. If you’ve been a good tenant, and the market is soft for new tenants, your odds of renegotiating a lower rent may be stronger.

•   At the beginning of the calendar year. Typically, winter is a slow time for property rentals, especially in the colder climates when moving is more difficult, and it may be harder for landlords to find new tenants. Stepping into the vacuum with an offer to stay another year–at a lower monthly rental price– might give you some new-found leverage.

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Knowing What the Competition is Charging

To help build your case when approaching your property owner about a rental reduction, it can help to know the lay of the land.

If you can prove that you could live more inexpensively in a nearby rental based on local housing trends, your landlord may be more inclined to grant a discount, rather than lose your business to the competition.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to do a little digging, consider the cost of living, and comb through online listings to find out the rents of comparable units or properties in the area.

Perhaps a similar one-bedroom apartment for rent has an amenity that’s not offered at the apartment you’re currently in or considering. You might point out how these factors make the landlord’s current rental terms somewhat higher than the going market rate.

When you speak to the landlord, it may help to have a printout of comparable apartments that are slightly lower in rent and, if the unit has been unoccupied, have this information on hand as well.

You may also want to check what other apartments in the same complex or rented out elsewhere by the same landlord currently cost. This can help keep you from overpaying for an apartment and may also help you negotiate a lower rent.

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Offering a Lump Sum

If you can afford it, adding a lump-sum payment (say, three months of rent upfront) may strengthen your bargaining power and boost your odds of reducing your overall rent payment.

That’s because many landlords prefer having rent in hand and not having to worry about late or no rental payment from tenants.

What’s more, offering an upfront, lump-sum payment is one way to show a landlord that you’re serious about being a solid tenant.

A landlord may be more amenable to doing business with a tenant who is willing to go the extra mile.

Considering a Longer Lease

If you particularly like the house or apartment you’re renting, you might consider offering the landlord a longer lease in exchange for lower rent payments.

If, for example, a landlord is offering a 12-month lease to a new tenant, at a fixed monthly rental price, and you agree to extend that lease to 18 or 24 months, you might be in a stronger position to ask for a rental discount.

All things being equal, landlords tend to favor tenants who’ll be around for the long haul, and may be more likely to green-light a lower rent for a longer lease arrangement.

Recommended: Can You Pay Rent with a Credit Card?

Cashing in on a Referral

Landlords typically loathe empty apartments, so if you can help fill a rental unit with a referral or two, it might put you in a better negotiating position to ask for a rental price deduction for helping out.

Rental unit owners usually have to pay for classified ads to lease their open units. In addition, landlords often have to put some sweat equity into showing units, chasing down tenant leads, and vetting potential lease applicants.

By bringing your landlord good, qualified, and stable tenants, you may be able to become a valuable asset for your landlord, and help build a more robust case for a rental deduction in the process.

Not Just Focusing on Price

Yes, the primary goal in a rental negotiation is to bring the price down.

But in case that conversation proves fruitless, you may also want to consider some other perks or benefits you could ask for in lieu or a rent reduction.

Some ideas:

•   A prime parking space (especially in urban areas)

•   New appliances and/or fixtures in your home or apartment

•   New or larger storage space

•   “First dibs” on better apartments or homes in your complex, once they free up

•   A waiver of fees and charges on things like gym memberships, parking privileges, community rooms, water or trash removal, or other services and amenities

•   Extra parking passes for guests

•   Allowing you sublet for the summer (if you plan to be away)

•   One or two months free

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Giving your Landlord a Heads-Up and Being Polite

Nobody likes to be ambushed on financial matters. That’s why you might have more success if you call your landlord well ahead of when you need to sign the lease and politely let them know that you’d like to discuss the terms of the lease, and are wondering if they would be open to a price reduction.

You might then suggest having a meeting (in person tends to be best, since it can be harder to say “no” to someone when you’re sitting face-to-face) some time in the next week or two.

This gives your landlord some time to consider the situation while also giving you some time to build your case.

In addition, giving your landlord some lead time shows you’ve put some thought into the matter. It also shows you respect your landlord’s time and schedule.

Keep in mind that you have a right as a renter to negotiate rent, but being diplomatic and respectful to your landlord will likely yield a better result than being aggressive.

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Highlighting Your Value as a Tenant

When you do meet with your landlord to negotiate the terms of your lease, it can be helpful to make a good case for keeping you on (or bringing you in) as a tenant.

For example, you might want to have a record of all your on-time payments or any history of providing referrals for this landlord.

You may also want to mention your willingness to extend your lease, that you’re courteous to other tenants, keep the property in good shape, and any other points in your favor.

Any and all of these factors could help persuade your landlord to give you a better deal.

Getting Your New Rental Agreement in Writing

Once you’ve successfully negotiated your rent downward or otherwise improved the terms of your lease and have a verbal agreement, it’s a good idea to get the deal in writing.

Having both parties sign off on the new rental agreement provides you with document proof that you have a new deal in place, in the event there is any misunderstanding down the road.

💡 Quick Tip: If you’re faced with debt and wondering which kind to pay off first, it can be smart to prioritize high-interest debt first. For many people, this means their credit card debt; rates have recently been climbing into the double-digit range, so try to eliminate that ASAP.

The Takeaway

While rental leases may appear set in stone, they’re more flexible than many tenants think, especially if the rental market is soft in your area (meaning more rentals than renters).

Whether you’re applying to rent a new apartment or signing a new lease on your current rental, you may be able to negotiate a better price if you’re able to show two things: that the rent is higher than similar units in the area, and that you are a model tenant who pays rent on time.

It’s also a good idea to come to the table with some alternatives to a rent reduction (in case your landlord is firm on price), such as a better or free parking space or new appliances.

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