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Can you negotiate rent for an apartment?
You can often negotiate rent for an apartment. Many landlords are flexible about rent and willing to strike a bargain with the right tenant.
The only way to know is to ask. Talk to the landlord and politely inquire whether the rent is open to discussion. If they say no, you’re no worse off than if you’d accepted the published amount, but if they say yes, you could save yourself hundreds or even thousands of dollars over the course of your lease.
How to negotiate rent: 6 must-follow tips
There are six steps you need to follow when you negotiate apartment rent. (The same steps also apply if you want to negotiate rent for a house.)
1. Do your research
Before you open the negotiations, research the average price that similar units are going for in your neighborhood. This will give you an idea of what you can reasonably ask for.
You should quote a number on the lower end of the range you found. The first rule of negotiation is to aim for a bigger discount than you actually hope to get, then haggle to meet somewhere in the middle.
Don’t worry about your landlord taking offense. As long as your price isn’t too far outside the neighborhood’s range, they’re unlikely to end the discussion then and there. If they do, you probably want to walk away anyway. People who get offended by negotiation usually make difficult landlords.
2. Be clear about the price you want and the concessions you’re willing to make in exchange
Unless you’re the world’s greatest tenant or there’s a surplus of available properties in your area, your landlord might not say yes to a bargain just because you asked.
Come prepared with concessions that your landlord might appreciate and you can live with. For instance, you could:
Offer to prepay several months in advance
When you sign a new lease, you usually have to pay a security deposit equal to a month or two of rent. This upfront payment gives your landlord financial security. If you offer to pay more when you sign, your landlord might be willing to offer a discount on your future rent payments.
Commit to a longer lease
Landlords typically ask tenants to commit to year-long leases. If you’re willing to sign on for a longer period, like 18 months or two years, offer that in exchange for cheaper rent.
Longer leases are attractive to landlords because they save them from having to find new tenants, which is expensive. In many neighborhoods, replacing a tenant can cost upwards of $1,000 or even $2,000, so it’s reasonable to ask for a discount that will save you at least that much over the course of your lease.
Suggest a referral bonus
If there are empty units in the building where you’ll be renting, you can offer to recommend the property to your friends. Propose that if anyone signs on to rent, you’ll get a referral bonus in the form of reduced monthly rent.
Make a deal to reduce amenities and maintenance services
Sometimes, offering to use fewer amenities or declining certain services can help you strike a deal on rent. For example, you might offer to:
- Give up your parking space or storage room
- Do your own trash and/or snow removal
- Decline community amenities (e.g. pool or gym use, pet services, etc.)
You can also commit to making smaller repairs yourself rather than filling maintenance requests. Just be clear about which repairs you’re agreeing to do. You shouldn’t take responsibility for anything that could be a safety hazard if performed incorrectly, including anything related to the wiring or plumbing.
3. Sell yourself as a great tenant, but back it up with documentation
Anyone can claim to be a top-notch tenant, and most people will if they’re trying to get a deal on rent. Landlords are much more likely to believe your claim — and approve your request for lower rent — if you can back it up with proof.
Provide any documentation that you have that demonstrates your track record as a tenant. Possibilities include:
- Receipts showing a record of on-time rent payments
- A reference from your previous landlord
- Past leases that include your rent responsibilities
4. Contact your landlord or property manager
Once you have your documentation ready, the next step is to have a discussion with your prospective landlord or property manager. Negotiating rent tends to work best when you do it in person, but if that’s not possible, you can do it via a video call or over the phone.
Contact your landlord and set up a discussion. Present your requests confidently, but be respectful and be ready to compromise.
It’s best if you know in advance what concessions you’re willing to make and what the highest price you’re willing to accept is. If your initial offer is to pay $1,000 instead of $1,300 in exchange for doing your own snow shoveling and lawn mowing, would you accept $1,150 plus the responsibility of doing hammer-and-nail repairs yourself?
5. Explain how the landlord will benefit from reducing your rent
Landlords and property managers are there to do business. Be explicit about what they stand to gain from accepting your offer.
As we’ve said, if you’re offering to commit to a longer lease, point out that not having to look for a new tenant will save your landlord money. You can also call attention to your solid renting history and point out that new renters can be risky, which means that you can provide years of peace of mind if they accept your offer.
You have a better shot at bringing down the rent on a unit if it’s somehow flawed. For example, maybe it’s right above the dumpster or the next-door neighbor has a dog that barks all day. Your willingness to live with those issues and be a great tenant could easily be grounds for a discount.
Of course, to make that argument, you need to know everything possible about the unit. That’s part of why you should visit the apartment and look around carefully before you sign a lease.
6. Follow up with the agreement in writing
If your negotiation succeeds and your landlord agrees to reduce your rent, it’s crucial to follow up with a brief email. Confirm the agreement and thank your landlord for hearing your requests.
Always check that they’ve updated the lease before you sign it — don’t rely on a handshake deal.
When to negotiate rent
If you want to negotiate, it’s important to choose the right moment in the rental application process to bring it up.
You don’t want it to be in your first or second email about the apartment. You don’t even want to bring it up when you take your first tour. You want to wait until you and the landlord have both established interest.
There are two times when it makes sense to negotiate rent:
1. Right before signing a new lease
The best time to negotiate is right before you sign the lease, during the pre-signing process. At that point, the landlord has approved your application and they’re ready to move forward.
Pre-signing is when prospective tenants go over lease terms. You can easily take this moment to point out the amenities you won’t be needing and suggest a lower rent in exchange.
2. When you’re about to renew your current lease
Even if you’re already in an apartment or house, you can renegotiate rent when your lease expires and you renew it. If you do, start the conversation a few months in advance, but no more. That way, your landlord will be ready to talk about renewal but it won’t feel last-minute.
If you’ve generally been a solid tenant — meaning you’ve been friendly, responsible, and tidy — you have a decent shot. Emphasize your solid payment history when you bring up the possibility of a lower rent next year.
What to do if your landlord increases your rent
If your rent is increasing next year, you’re not alone. Rents tend to rise 3% each year to keep up with inflation.
You can sometimes negotiate rent increases. It usually isn’t possible to eliminate them entirely, but you might be able to at least bring yours down.
Before you approach your landlord about the issue, consider the situation carefully. Ask yourself:
- How committed are you to staying in this rental? Are you willing to move if your landlord doesn’t approve your request?
- Is the rent increase reasonable, or is it unusually high?
- If it’s high, is that price justified by any improvements or renovations your landlord made in the past year?
- Can you afford the new price without a discount?
- Are you willing to make any concessions, like denying certain services or signing a longer lease, to keep the price down?
Ultimately, the choice is yours. No landlord can force you to stay and pay a higher rent. But if they refuse to reconsider, you have to choose whether to accept the new cost of living there or find a new place.
Weigh the pros and cons. Consider what you’d gain and lose by staying or moving. Think about how your landlord might benefit if you stay, then point to those benefits if you decide to negotiate.