How to Negotiate Your Rent

Tips for Securing a Lower Monthly Payment

Real estate agent showing a property
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You’ve found the ideal apartment to call home, but the rent doesn’t quite work for your budget. Or maybe it’s time to renew your lease and the proposed rent increase is too high.

In this unsteady financial climate, it’s sensible for renters to secure lower rental rates to keep more money in their pocket. You may need the extra funds to cover basic needs if you’re laid off or furloughed as a result of COVID-19. The money saved on rent can also be used to build an emergency fund that can cover unexpected expenses, like medical bills, if they come up.

But should you negotiate your rent when scoping out a new place or renewing your lease? You have a right to ask for a better price, and you can get results if you negotiate the right way. 

Can You Negotiate Your Rent?

Florida-based realtor Peggie McQueen with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Ellie and Associates told The Balance that you should always ask for a better deal. However, it’s important to be strategic with your approach to avoid rejection.

“Give the landlord a reason to want you to rent their property,” McQueen said in a phone interview with The Balance. “Sell yourself on why you’re the best potential tenant, and they’re more likely to hear you out. Reassure them that you are responsible, have a positive rental history, and will properly care for the unit over time.”

If you prefer to let a professional negotiate on your behalf, consider hiring a tenant’s broker to do the legwork for you. 

How Much Could It Save You?

It depends on how much of a discount you’re able to negotiate. If the landlord agrees to reduce the rate by $150, you will save $1,800 over a 12-month period. This figure increases to $3,600 if you sign a 24-month lease.

What if you don’t have much leverage and can only get a $75 discount? Still, you will save $900 over a 12-month lease, or $1,800 over a 24-month lease.  

When to Negotiate Your Rent

New tenants should negotiate before signing their first lease. Visit the property toward the end of the month when landlords are actively searching for new tenants to get the best deal.

If you’re an existing tenant and you want to renew your lease for another year, it’s best to negotiate your rent a few months before your lease expires. This gives you time to negotiate a lower rental rate or relocate.

Negotiating as a New Tenant

For new leases, ask about promotional offers for new residents. Some landlords may offer free rent for the first month or waive the application fee. This amounts to substantial savings if you’re in a pricier market, like New York, where the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,476.63.

You can also pocket a hefty amount of cash in more inexpensive markets, like Arkansas and Iowa, where the average monthly rent for the same number of bedrooms is $759.03 and $920.27, respectively.

New Jersey renter, Cheneral Freeman, told The Balance via phone that you should inquire about incentives the minute you step foot on the property.

“I asked about rent specials for new tenants right away, and they offered to waive my security deposit and give me two months of free rent, prorated over the lease term, if I committed to stay for 18 months,” Freeman said. 

If you have the money, you could also offer to prepay your rent in full before occupying the property in exchange for a discount. 

Negotiating as an Existing Tenant

For existing leases, request a meeting with the landlord to discuss rental rates. Try to meet in person as it’s much harder for the landlord to say no if you’re sitting across from them than over the phone. Before the meeting, conduct research to get an idea of the average rental rate in the area. If the rent increase is far more than the market value, present your findings in the meeting to give yourself bargaining power.

The landlord may also work with you if you've been a responsible tenant. You can highlight your positive payment history and how you’ve maintained the property during your stay. Bring copies of your payment receipts and images of your unit to back up your claims.

Also know that you can negotiate amenities if you live in a large community. Ask the property manager about transferring to an apartment with upgrades. If you pay for storage or gym access, request that they waive the fees. Giving up a parking spot is also an option to get a discount if you don’t have a car.

If you’re dealing with a property manager that won’t budge, inquire about an extended lease to lock in a lower rental rate.

Some will offer a discount if you commit to 18 or even 24 months instead of the standard 12-month lease. As a last resort, communicate your intention to leave if the landlord doesn’t work with you. This strategy may work during the winter months when the demand is sometimes lower for rental units.

Leases that end in the summer are also desirable to landlords since it’s a time when many tenants relocate. Tell the landlord you will vacate the unit toward the end of the summer to make your offer more appealing.

When you reach a figure that works for both parties, confirm the new rate in writing. Send an email and kindly request a response along with an updated lease renewal offer reflecting the lower rate. If you don’t get a response within 48 hours, follow-up with a gentle reminder until you receive an updated lease agreement that reflects the discounted rental price.

Key Takeaways

  • You can negotiate your rent to save hundreds or thousands over the lease term.
  • Be respectful and remain calm when communicating with the landlord.
  • Inquire about promotional offers available to new tenants if you’re signing your first lease. 
  • Remind your landlord that you’re a good tenant that pays on time and maintains the property when negotiating the rental rate. 
  • Offer to sign an extended lease in exchange for a discount on rent.

Article Sources

  1. Apartment Guide. "2020 Mid-Year Rent Report." Accessed Sept. 18, 2020.