How to negotiate a lower rent

Even at this time of high demand for rentals, a good tenant can sometimes negotiate a better deal. But success requires being smart, as well as being a good tenant.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Mar 1, 2013 2:41PM

© Kelly Redinger/JupiterimagesFor those of you looking to rent your first apartment (or rent for the first time in many years after giving up homeownership), we have a tip: Rent is negotiable.

 

It’s especially negotiable when it’s time to renew your lease and you have paid your rent on time for 12 months and otherwise been a good tenant.

 

While rising demand for rentals has given even the best tenants less leverage, it may still be possible to negotiate lower rent, improvements or, at least, a smaller rent increase.

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"Landlords are looking for good tenants who pay their rent on time, take care of their rental unit, keep noise levels down and stay on good terms with the neighbors and property-management staff," Kari Taylor, director of rental insights at Rent.com, told U.S. News.

Beginning landlords sometimes don’t realize the value of a good tenant, until they’ve had a bad one. But good landlords understand that even a routine change in tenant often costs a month’s rent, meaning that reducing the rent for an existing tenant might still net the same amount of money.

Ellen Smith, writing at The Huffington Post, includes eight tips for negotiating a lower rent and includes a copy of the successful letter she wrote to her landlord that resulted in a smaller rent increase.

 

U.S. News’ Daniel Bortz also has eight tips for tenants seeking to negotiate a better deal when it’s time to renew a lease. Among them:

  • Know what the going rate is for rent in your neighborhood. If you can point out that you could move to a comparable apartment and pay less, that could be persuasive.
  • Ask the landlord for guidance. Rather than threaten to move, just mention that you could save money if you did move and ask the landlord what he or she thinks.
  • Explain any mistakes you made during the year. If your rent payment was late once, explain why it happened and what you’ve done to keep it from happening again.
His final suggestion – to threaten to write a negative review on Yelp – drew some opposition from his readers.
"If anything, it is the tenant who has more to lose if the landlord is unwilling to give a favorable reference," Ray Schmitz wrote. He suggests instead asking the landlord what it would take to buy the unit, which he believe signals both financial sophistication and seriousness.
 
Have you negotiated a better deal with a landlord? If you’re a landlord, what would persuade you to give a tenant a break on a planned rent increase?
Tags: rentals
 
36Comments
Mar 9, 2013 7:32PM
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I should also have remembered to mention the cost increases for insurance, heat and electricity...I havnt made an insurance claim in twenty years...but about six yrs ago changed insurance companies because the premiums kept going up...and the insurance company appeared to think that they held some position of authority over me.....I saved over $4000per yr by shopping around. Electricity is like banking...as now being part of the government and they ask for and get rate increases every year....lately in the 12 to 14% area....and the government thinks that they must rubberstamp that as often as they can. Remember that even though most tennants pay for electricity that there also is a portion that the landlord pays.
Mar 9, 2013 7:09PM
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I am a landlord for a good number of apartments and it is truely amusing(and often discourging) to hear what many of the public thinks works. I try to keep my rents at the low end of the range demanded by equal apartments. I also get many people who say that my apartments look much better than others at a higher rent. I do not negotiate because I know what the market is and I am never trying for the highest rent possible. I guarantee that I will not raise the rent for at least a year...and I often dont raise it for three or four years. Increased costs often are the triggers for increased rent amounts. City services keep going up as cities try to bolster their income by charging much more than their costs to pay for city spending for other things. They pad the bills for garbage, water, sewer, fees etc. beyond reason...to pay for whatever they want to spend. The taxes for schools has gone sky high. The cost of building schools has gone from 10mil to 20mil to suddenly 50mil and now 100mil. While renters keep voting for these most expensive schools and dont connect that it will cause their rent to go up....Also the property tax continues to increase. The county people seem to think that they must supply government with a higher and higher level of taxation to serve every want of government.

I also will never rent to the person who spends his time telling me over and over how bad landlords have been to him. I always rent month to month and tell renters that if they are unhappy, that they should move to a place where they think they will be happy. Many of the unhappy renters will continue to be unhappy wherever they live...and I dont want to hear it. Many renters appear to believe that they must have some holy right to be negative at every opportunity. I am very happy with 95% of the tenants...but, there is always that 5%.

I charge enough rent to make a reasonable return and I do not negotiate. I know where my  rent amounts fit in the local market.

I try to stay out of my tenants business and lives...and prefer that. Tenants generally do not want constant attention from their landlord.

Mar 9, 2013 6:58PM
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What if the landlord is behind on key aspects of maintenance.  Say the roof leaks in the kitchen and the phone line is inoperative.  Further, less say that the landlord routinely sends staff into the unit without any notice.

It seems like in such a scenario, which is like for like with my present situation, that the tenant is in a position to "negotiate" lower rent.

Any tips??

Mar 9, 2013 5:02PM
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Well I pay my rent on tome and our Unit owner will not listen to reason when some of our Lady renters file a complaint about the maintenance man looking through the windows and bathroom window while they are dressing or shower. He does not believe us and refuses to take action against the matenance man. Almost every woman in our units have filed complaints against him including the manager who got fired for filing her complaint. Our rent is $475.00 a month and I heard today that when our leases run out that he was going to go up to $525.00 a month. He does not want  Code office to come and check anything and he gets mad when someone calls the Law out here for anything. I sure wish we could find a way to get him over a barrel where he will have no choice but to acknowledge that the people are not lieing and do something about our peeping tom of a matinence man.  Any sugestions??????
Mar 9, 2013 3:36PM
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"Landlords are looking for good tenants who pay their rent on time, take care of their rental unit, keep noise levels down and stay on good terms with the neighbors and property-management staff," Kari Taylor, director of rental insights at Rent.com. 

Not necessarily. With 30+ years experience, never had a landlord who appreciated that everything in my unit was fixed without charging him/her/them. Even when timely with the rent, landlords have little empathy for renters. It is amazing how many bitch about parking and other immaterial things.
Mar 9, 2013 10:51AM
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Beside paying your rent on time, showing pride in your rental unit is imperative.  For example, keep a really nice looking, well decorted patio.  Keep the entrance clean and attractive.  This is especially helpful if you have a unit that is near the office or in another high profile location.

 

Stick around to help clean up after parties or get togethers that management holds for tenants.  Write thank you notes after paties or for staff who goes the extra mile (such as quick maintenance response).  If there is a regional manager (management company) over your apartment manager, occasionally drop a line there to pass along sincere compliments and appreciation for a job especially well done.  Stay on very friendly terms with staff in general.  Generally create no major disturbances at the complex and try to get along with everyone.

 

This has always helped me negotiate for upgrades, especially at rental renewal time.  New closet doors, new appliances, new tile in bathroom, etc. It also has kept rent from being raised over a period of years and got me first dibs on a  prime location transfer.  I have never been able to negotiate a rent decrease though.

Mar 9, 2013 9:58AM
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I just negotiated a lower rent on our apartment.  We've lived here for one year and have always paid our rent on time.  We're quiet and keep the apartment clean and well maintained.  

Our complex was recently purchased by a new management company.  I checked the prices they were advertising for our complex on their website.  I called the office stating I was a possible new tenant and got a quote that was 265 dollars cheaper than the rent we were offered in our renewal letter.  

Armed with that information I went down to the office and asked for a lower rate.  The manager initially stated that the offer was the offer and I could take it or leave it.  

Once I pointed out that her own office had quoted a cheaper price and their advertised rates were lower, plus how much money they would lose if we moved out and they agreed to a much more reasonable rate, in line with their advertised prices.  
Mar 9, 2013 8:31AM
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I've rented all my adult life. I've tried to negotiate a reduced rent by offering to pay for an entire year upfront with a 10% discount (denied). So, the next best thing is to write 12 rent checks (one for each month) and mail them to the management company all at once. That way, they have my rent right on time.  I ask for the longest lease term they offer, too.

Also, if you have any sort of talent when it comes to interior/exterior design, don't be afraid to offer suggestions on how you think small changes could increase the property value. 

Mar 9, 2013 7:27AM
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In the video - Suze Orman says many renters underestimate the cost of buying a home. Here's what you need to know.  She says that, "Here's the problem, your rent is a thousand dollars a month.  Now you have a mortgage payment, a thousand dollars a month.  They go, Oh, I can afford that!  Thousand dollar rent, thousand dollar mortgage.  WRONG, it is a mortgage payment, it is property taxes, it is property insurance..."

She is partially correct..  I both own a house in Florida, which I rent out and I am current renting a place in Missouri (reason is a contract job).  For my Florida house I calculated in the cost of everything that she mentioned. i.e. even maintenance for the lawn, AC unit, painting, carpets, etc.  when I decided what I would charge my tenant.  For the place that I am renting, do you think that was not calculated in as well.  But, again, please note that I said that Suze Orman was partially correct.  Most mortgage / bank require a percentage of the cost (total cost of buying the home) to be paid up front.  If that percent is less than 20% then PMI is added - an additional cost.  Without being too long winded here.  There are many things to look into when buy a home.  As is said - there are "hidden cost" to home ownership!  Having a good realtor is VERY important (and no, not my profession).  I have learned from past dealing though.

I hope that this has helped someone out there.

Gary Hicks
Mar 9, 2013 7:16AM
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JIAAA
In 16 years, your rent has only been raised $60???? That is an increase of about 1/2 of 1%/year. Most properties need at least a 1 1/2% to 2%/year just to keep even with increases like insurance and taxes let alone maintenance.
I have a duplex and have been hit with an increase this year in insurance, with no claims, that amount to $37.50/unit/month. I have no way of raising the rent that much next year, but will raise a little each year to make up the difference. If renters take care of my rentals, I take care of them and do my best to keep them year after year. When something goes wrong in a unit, I have it fixed, if not the same day, then the next or ASAP.

Mar 9, 2013 7:04AM
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As a landlord, I love a good tenant.  A good tenant to me is one that pays the rent on time, keeps the property in good condition by letting me know as soon as possible that something needs repair, is trustworthy, respectful and courteous, and shows me that they care about me as a person, like I care about them.

  My goal is to be good landlord, and I find it easier to be one if I have tenants I like from the start, and they like me.  I find that that way, I get repairs done quickly, I know they are comfortable, and the property is being taken care of.  All in all, as a landlord, my tenants and property tie for number one priority.  If they're late with the rent once in a while, I don't mind because I like and trust them, and I know that we will work it out.  Bottom line:  I need them as much as they need me, and I don't want to forget that.

Mar 9, 2013 6:44AM
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We are becoming a society of renters because housing is so expensive.  Even celebrities are constantly moving in and out of neighborhoods.  It's just they can afford homes easier than most of us.  If you watched the video above it was correct about the TOTAL COST of owning a home vs. renting.  I have done both and I choose renting over owning.  When I owned my home it was a literal 'sinkhole' for money.  Constant upkeep and repair.  When I finally sold it:  I lost $30,000 off the original price I paid for it ten years earlier after putting an additional $10,000 in the home for maintenance.  Never again.
Mar 9, 2013 2:53AM
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If I rent any properties out, I want top dollar. People **** the place up and leave. 
Mar 8, 2013 11:55PM
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My lease just ended and my landlord sent me a letter with terrible grammer and poor spelling saying he is raising my rent due to maintence fees. I could understand this increase if he actually fixed anything. For the first 6 months that I have lived there my oven has been broken . After enough complaints he finally replaced it with an older oven which seemed to work for a bit, yet two of the stove burners were broken. Later the oven started to spark and the oven portion was not working properly. After not notifying me that he was going to finally come to fix it (6 months later). I find myself waking up to him drilling downstairs in the kitchen working on it without my knowledge. Not mentioning the other repairs that are still needing to be done, lets just say I have decided not to stick around since my lease is up and am happy to report that I will be moving to a better place!
Mar 2, 2013 12:05AM
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The apartment in which I live now with my wife is one bed/bath. owned by a mega company who owns several apartment complexes in multi states and we occupy this since 1997,16 years to be exact.Each month pay our rent on time in addition to other charges for water, trash and covered parking to the landlord, besides all other utilities bills to the utility companies.We never clash with or complain about our neighbors.Keep the apartment in neat,clean condition. Rent has gone up from 550 to 610 so far and keeps rising every year at renewal time.Every year I have to beg not to increase the rent or give some sort of concession or incentive for renewing the lease.But never get any favorable response.Being aged,retired with fix income, do not have that much of strength and resource to find another apartment and move out so can save some,we just keep on renewing our lease,year after year.In all of these years we had the carpet changed just once.And even if we decide to move out I bet that the management would never bother to ask for why now or what they can do that we remain their tenant.Because of the high demand for the rental property they care less about you and more about their profit.Well anyway,the life on Earth is for the limited time so we too can say who cares it's just temporary stay here.

Mar 1, 2013 9:00PM
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Any tenant who wrote a negative review that wasn't true would be evicted, and an attorney would be consulted regarding libel.  The truth shall set you free.
Mar 1, 2013 8:11PM
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As a tenant who has rented for nearly 30 years, all I ever ask is a fair shake. If I have a maintenance or nuisance isuse from another tenant, I only ask that you respond to it. I want to live in a nice place so I'll keep it clean, I'll pay the rent on time, and I'll be a quiet tenant. You'll rarely know I'm even here except when the payment from me arrives. I'll appreciate you as a landlord, if you appreciate me as a tenant.
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I WAS A LANDLORD UNTIL THE BEGINNING OF THIS YEAR WHEN I SOLD THE HOUSE. I ACCEPTED A LOWER RENT (DISCOUNT MONTHLY)  FROM MY TENANT WHEN I RENTED THE HOUSE TO THEM ON THE CONDITION THAT THEY PAID IT ON OR BEFORE THE DUE DATE AND IN CASH (NO CHECKS TO BOUNCE). I HAD THEM THERE FOR THREE AND A HALF YEARS WITH THE RENT ALWAYS BEING PAID AS WE AGREED. THEY WOULD HAVE LIKED TO BUY THE HOUSE WHEN I WANTED TO SELL IT BUT, THEY JUST SIMPLY COULDN'T QUALIFY. THEY REALLY WANTED TO STAY THERE.
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Florida legislators gave property insurers permission to cancel all muliple unit properties. I own 4 units and occupy one of them.

 

This permission by the state caused my inurance rates to go from $1800.00 to $4000.00 a year. Since I only rent out 3 units, I could not possibly pass this on to my tenants.

 

Due to the economy being the absolutely worst in Florida in my city and county, I had lowered my rents 3 years ago.

 

Talk about a no-win situtaion!!

 

I am 77 years old, have one of the best properties in my city, but Yikes! It is costing me my life savings to own this property. I have $700,000 invested in it and it is now assesed for taxes for $108,000. Talk about being "under-water".

 

I have tried to modify the mortgage (lowering  the 7.25% interest) to no avail. Thank you PNC.)

 

I absolutely do not know what to do next. I have wonderful tenants who are also my neighbors. I raised each rent $25.00 a month. They all stayed!! But I cannot do  it again this year.

 

I have been a landlord in this town for 51 years. How sad to end it this way!!

 

Indeed my two greatest joys were when I lost a tenant because they bought a home. And when a tenant rented their first apartment from me and I could teach them their teants rights!!

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