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7 Ways to Negotiate Rent with a Difficult Landlord

7 Ways to Negotiate Rent with a Difficult Landlord

As a landlord for nearly 10 years, one thing still amazes me—tenants never negotiate.  Not once have we had a prospective tenant ask for a lower rent.  They either pay the rent we are asking or walk away.  The same is true for existing tenants who renew their lease.

Even as rents rise, tenants do not negotiate.  Recent reports show that rent prices are up 4.2% on average around the nation, especially in higher demand metropolitan areas.  Higher prices and higher demand for rentals, however, doesn’t mean you have absolutely no wiggle room when negotiating rent. In fact, many landlords are more open to negotiations than you’d think.

With that in mind, here are seven tips for negotiating rent with a potentially difficult landlord:

1.  Ask

Many people dislike negotiating.  That’s why buying a car is so painful for many and why Carmax’s no-haggle pricing is so popular.  So don’t negotiate.  Instead, ask for a lower rent.  It may seem like semantics, but changing your mindset from negotiation to a simple conversation about the rent can help you initiate the conversation.

The script is easy.  “I’m looking at a number of apartments in the area today.  Is $700 the best you can do?”  The worst that can happen is a landlord who won’t budge.

2.  Think Small

Large apartment complexes run by management teams – rather than directly by a landlord – may not have power to negotiate rental terms. They’re given a form lease to fill out, and they’re told the rental rates for each year. They just can’t be as flexible as smaller operations, where the owner is likely to be directly involved.  With smaller operations, you’re more likely to be dealing with the person who has the authority to strike a deal.

With that said, if you come across a larger apartment complex that obviously has lots of unrented units, try to negotiate. In this situation the owner and management team will want to get those vacancies filled as soon as possible, even if it means negotiating on prices.

3. Research

With tools on the internet like Zillow, it’s easy to see the rent for apartments and single-family homes.  Use these tools to see what similar homes or apartments in your area are renting for right now. The research will serve two purposes.  First, it will enable you to find potential properties within your price range quickly.  Second, you can use the data you uncover in your discussions with potential landlords.  You can be sure they know the rental market, and the competition may help you land a lower rent.

4. Sign a longer-term lease

One of the worst things for a landlord is tenant turnover. When a tenant leaves, landlords incur three expenses they’d rather avoid:  (1) repairs to the property, (2) advertising costs to find a new tenant, and (3) lost rental income.  It’s the perfect storm that landlords love to avoid.

So by signing a lease that’s longer than the typical twelve-month lease, you can probably negotiate for lower monthly rent payments. Even larger apartment complexes will give breaks on longer leases.

The other advantage to a longer lease is that you’ll have more time before you need to re-negotiate rent. Most landlords try, at least, to raise the monthly rent with every lease renewal. With a longer lease, you can avoid that as long as possible.

5. Improve the property or community

If you’re currently in your rental and are preparing to renegotiate lease renewal terms, try this tactic: make yourself as valuable as possible.  This could mean doing some landscaping around your home to make it look nicer, taking care of a pesky maintenance issue on your own, or being a good neighbor in your community. If you can show a landlord that you’re a valuable, helpful, responsible tenant before you start negotiating rent, you’ll buy yourself more leverage.

6. Market Yourself

Landlords are concerned about two things with potential tenants—(1) will they pay the rent on time and (2) will they treat the property well.  You can give the landlord confidence on both counts by how you present yourself when you visit the property and, believe it or not, your credit score.  Landlords run background checks and your credit as part of the application process.  A good credit score goes a long way to convincing the landlord that you are a good credit risk and will be responsible with the property.

This is also where William Paid can come in handy.  Landlords love to know that they’ll get paid on time.  By setting up automatic rent payments from your bank account or credit card through William Paid, landlords have more confidence that they’ll get paid timely each month.  And if you use a credit card with rewards, you can build your credit and get some cash back at the same time.

7. Negotiate more than rent

When you’re entering negotiations with your landlord, don’t just think about actual rent money. This may not be completely negotiable, but you may be able to negotiate for other things. For instance, ask for free storage or covered parking space if your complex offers that, or ask the landlord to put a fresh coat of paint on the apartment.

You could also offer more in exchange for lowered payments. For instance, offer to take care of your own minor maintenance problems, or even to shovel your own snow, in exchange for lowered rent. Ask the landlord to lower or eliminate the security deposit or the pet fee.  Be creative, and more possibilities will come to you.

Negotiating can be a little scary in a culture where we don’t do it often. But you could save yourself some serious cash by being willing to negotiate rent – even with a difficult landlord.

Rob Berger is an attorney and the founder of the popular personal finance website, Dough Roller

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