How To Get Lower Rent

I ended the last post by stating:

Not everyone will get lower rent. Some people will be suckered into paying higher rent. Not me.

I am going to tell you how to get lower rent. First, let me share my background on this topic. While still in San Diego, I negotiated $50 a month off a proposed rent increase. Then in 2009, I was able to get management at my Seattle apartment building to offer me a 5% reduction after first presenting me with a 3.5% increase. Later I was able to get another 10% reduction, but I left for a better deal. I have also helped several friends get their rent lowered.

Just this past month, I was advising a friend who was about to receive a monthly rent increase of $75. He was not in a position to move. He had too much stuff and not enough savings to put down a deposit on another apartment. I told him he had to bluff. The landlord needs to believe that you will move before they make a concession. My friend did exactly what I advised and was able to get his rent lowered by $25 a month. He turned a $900-a-year increase into a $300-a-year reduction. And he was bluffing. Had he really been able to move, I would have advised him to go for a greater reduction.

How Do I Get Rent Reductions?

  1. I am an excellent tenant. I pay my rent a few days early every month. I’m quiet and I treat the management with kindness and respect.
  2. I am fully prepared to move at a moment’s notice. I own very little. I’ve got enough savings to pay new deposits and rent a van. I’ve even got all the boxes I’ll need. I keep them broken down and under my bed.
  3. The MOST IMPORTANT reason is that I ASK FOR A LOWER RENT. If you don’t ask for lower rent, then don’t expect it to be offered to you. The worst-case scenario is that they say no.

Being Ready To Move

Although I have no problem bluffing during negotiations, it can make some people uncomfortable. The best way to build your confidence during rent negotiations is to be in a position to walk away. Sell or donate anything that is weighing you down. Have collapsed boxes and packing tape ready. I help all my friends move, so when I call on their help, I know they got my back.

How To Ask For a Rent Reduction

Step #1: Be Sweet – Get them on your side.

Getting them on your side is something you’ll be doing in every encounter with rental management. Always be polite. Never be confrontational. Be respectful. Remember names. This is something you will do on an ongoing basis. Don’t engage in community gossip.

I start negotiations by saying that I really like where I’m living and I don’t want to be forced to move. Don’t put rental management into a defensive position. Get them on your side.

Step #2: Be Smart – Provide reasons why the current rent or proposed rent increase will not work for you.

I once came in armed with data on the rents for every building within 2 blocks and said the rent increase was not justified and in fact should be lowered. I got the reduction. Once I even found a Craigslist posting for a similar unit in the same building with a lower rent.

It doesn’t have to even be comparable rent. It could be you had your work hours cut. Maybe your “brother” has offered a place for you to stay. The important thing in this step is to let them know that you’ve got other options. I even tell them that I don’t own much, so a move wouldn’t take long.

Step #3: Be Tough – Ask them to reconsider the rental rate.

Reiterate that you like living there, and you don’t want to be forced to move, but the rent offer is not acceptable. Then ask them to reconsider the rent. Unless you are dealing directly with the landlord, this request will get passed on from rental management to the owner. This is why it is a good habit to Be Sweet to the people in the rental office.

The rental price is not the only point of negotiation. If you are month to month, a landlord may request you sign a one-year lease to get the rent reduction. This is a good thing. Negotiations have begun. Now you can negotiate the length of the lease. They may offer $75 off a month if you sign a one-year lease. You could counter by saying 9 months at the $75 reduction or how about a full year with $100 off?

Final Words

Some landlords will not negotiate. It may be a foreign concept to them, but it never hurts to practice. Being ready to move is always the best defense against rent increases. Although this post was about rent specifically, the advice can be used to negotiate gym memberships, cell phone plans, and other purchases.

By the way, I think every good tenant should negotiate for lower rent, not just those in financial hardship. Commercial real estate leases are negotiated all the time. Why not reduce your monthly expenses if all you have to do is ask?


Add yours

  1. It’s worth asking. But it may also be location specific. We haven’t had to lower the rents at any of our places in the last few years. We charge a reasonable rate, and have very happy tenants.

    And when we get vacancies, they fill very quickly.

  2. @Nick – Of course. Every situation is different. If I were your tenant and the rates were reasonable and the units filled up fast, I’d be in a weak position to negotiate. If it were a larger complex with vacancies that I saw running specials, I’d be in a much stronger position. I should have added something about accessing realistic expectations. Maybe I’ll do a part 2? 🙂

  3. I saw this article on lifehacker today and thought I’d provide a link to here since your information is so much more useful.!5795246/how-do-you-avoid-a-rent-increase

  4. @Dhammy – Thanks for the compliment. The LH article does seem a little thin.

    Follow up article with more meat on the bone.

  6. Looking to avoid a rent increase. What would be an acceptable donation for you to review my letter that I will write to them and make suggestions on changes?

  7. @Heidi – I’m actually heading away for a trip for 10 days, so I’ll be unable to help.

    The fact you are asking for lower rent is the most important thing. Most people don’t. Don’t beg. Be respectful and let them know you are willing to move, although you would prefer not to.

  8. I was a victim of my own success. I found out that my high rise was raising everybody’s rent by 10 percent. My lease is up January 31, 2012. Thus, my exceptionally good deal of $1500.00 was going to $1650.00. People are moving out right and left because they aren’t willing to pay 10 percent as an increase in rent. The management here reads the trade publications Michael talks about and they just believe whatever they’re told. Nobody raises rents that much in one year without losing a lot of business. They just don’t know their own market.

    Although I had negotiated for a renewal at the same rate, (with no answer so far) it became very clear to me over the past two weeks that there’s no way in hell I can sustain living in this high rise because they obviously intend to raise rents anywhere from 5 to 10 percent every year. That means even if I got the sweetheart deal this time, I would still be priced out in the next few years.

    So, I went back to the complex I used to rent from. It’s in the Village Apartments in Dallas, the complex is The Dakota which is owned by Lincoln Property Co. These guys know the rental business really well, they take care of the property and people exceptionally well. While there are increases every year for tenants, they’re very reasonable, that is anywhere from $10.00 to $25.00 more a month. That’s a big difference from the $150.00 increase per month I was facing.

    My old apartment which is the same size as this one, and beautifully organized, as apartments go, (built in 2008) is available in January 2012 for $1110.00. I had gone to the Dakota this morning just to see whether or not I could fit into a smaller unit not knowing that my preferred plan had just become available. I couldn’t pass up that deal so I put down a deposit and e-mailed the management where I live now, to let them know they didn’t need to further consider any special deals and that I would give notice. Michael, I think you’re whole approach to this topic is really well thought out. And the crux of the matter is you really have to be prepared to move if you want to serve your own long term financial interests. The difference between the raised rent and the rent at my new apt. is $540.00 a month.

    The lesson I’m trying to pass on here is that you can be a victim of your own success. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the rate I pay now was way way below the asking price and I guess they were just desperate at the time they signed me up. So, a great deal may turn out to be not such a good deal in the long run if, despite assurances, they raise your rent sky high within a year or two.

    I fretted over this decision for several weeks and I think I was really stressed out and depressed. Finally I decided to just be a man and do what was necessary. I’m at the point where I am able to hire movers (I pack everything in boxes) and that’s expensive, but if you can afford it, it’s very convenient since all your stuff gets to your new place within a few hours that same day and positioned where you want it. I already hired a mover and started making plans for the Jan. 20th move. So, if a deal looks to good to be, even in apartment deals, it probably is. Frankly, I should have known better.

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