VOLUME 3RRenegotiating the Rent RateBy Nikki DavidsonWhen tenants prepare to sign a new lease, they may assume the price quoted by a landlord isn’t up for debate. In reality, rent can be just as negotiable as the salary or benefits package that comes with a job offer. A reduction of hundreds of dollars off the monthly payment could be warranted.

There are several actions potential tenants can take to increase their odds of getting a better deal. However, persuading a landlord to drop the price can be tricky.

This article will discuss why landlords sometimes grant rent reductions and the best way to ask for a price cut without jeopardizing a potential dream home.

Know the Neighbors and Their Rental RatesRent is dramatically increasing in almost every city in the country. According to Apartment Guide’s October 2021 rent survey, Florida tenants can expect to see a 39% increase in their rent while Texas residents are projected to see a 9% increase. That could translate to an asking price of several hundred dollars more per month for some rental situations.

However, in the off chance that tenants can show the price the landlord is asking for is no longer competitive to other units in their respective areas, they might have a good argument for a rent reduction. A tenant would have to prove this by providing examples of similar units on the market priced for significantly less.

Renters should also consider the current demand in the neighborhood. Are there many places available, or is the desired unit one of the only options? How long has the rental been on the market? Are there other interested applicants ready and willing to pay the total asking price?

Asking for a price reduction for a unit with a waiting list of eager potential tenants will likely hurt a hopeful renter’s chances of securing the in-demand pad.

Why Appliances or Amenities May Help With Rent ReductionIn some cases, renters who are looking to extend the lease they signed in 2021 may be hit with sticker shock when they find the rent is now significantly higher than it was when they moved in. There are no rent stabilization laws in Florida or Texas that would prevent a landlord from doing this, nor are there limits on how much landlords can legally raise the rent each year.

After actually living in the space, tenants have a secret weapon though. They know if an essential utility works or an advertised feature included in their original lease agreement is no longer in service.

Suppose a primary appliance included in the original lease isn’t operational at no fault of the renter. In that case, they may have good reason to request lower rent. For example, if a lease included the use of a pool, but the pool has been out of service for the past year, the tenant could have a viable rent reduction request.

Using Manual Labor to Lower CostsIf renters have their hearts set on a particular space but can’t afford the rent, it may be time to think outside the box. Fortunately, unemployment has significantly dropped from 14.7% in April 2020 to 3.6% in April 2022. Meanwhile, there is growing demand for maintenance and repair workers to replace staff who transfer to different occupations or have joined the Great Resignation (employees who are quitting to find remote work or better pay).

If tenants have skills and experience that would fit the role of a maintenance worker or office assistant, they may have some leverage in getting their landlord to agree to reduce the rent in exchange for services. Renters, however, should keep in mind that these roles often come with the expectation that individuals will be on call if any issue should arise. Make sure there is a contract set up separately for this job, and get detailed instructions regarding the length of the job (ideally the same amount of time as the lease) and the option to terminate the agreement if need be.

Get Rent Reductions In WritingIt’s best for potential tenants to get any rent reduction correspondence down in writing. A professionally crafted letter should be sent via e-mail or delivered in person. Requests for a reduction are likely to have a higher chance of success if this negotiation occurs before the lease is signed or renewed.

Renters should include why they feel a price reduction is justified and any photos or information that reinforces their argument. The letter should be concise, professional and honest.

If a renter has a bulletproof track record of paying rent on time or early, mentioning it in the request could seal the deal. Landlords want good, reliable tenants. If they find candidates they know will treat the property with respect and are easy to work with, they may settle for a lower rent rate to avoid the headache of a problematic, full-price tenant.

Use Negotiation Tactics To Get a Rent ReductionTenants might sweeten their chances of winning a lower monthly fee by following in the footsteps of the most skilled negotiators. One tactic is to leave the request open-ended. Present the reason why a reduction in rent is justified, and follow up with a question like “What can you do about this for me?”

This puts the ball into each landlord’s court, allowing them to present a solution that they are much more likely to feel good about without souring the relationship. If they don’t want to offer a rent reduction, they may be inclined to strike a deal in a different way. Perhaps they’ll offer to cover the cost of utilities, parking or even forgo a pet rental fee. The end result could be a better overall living situation and a tenant-landlord relationship that translates to fewer expenses in the long run.

A potential renter could also ask for lower rent in a mutually beneficial proposition for the landlord. If a renter with a high credit score and great references agrees to sign a longer lease, that could save the landlord hours of unnecessary work finding a new tenant. This kind of agreement could be especially helpful if a tenant’s lease ends just before the holidays or in the colder months when people are less inclined to move. If a tenant’s agreement extends until the spring, the landlord doesn’t have to risk a unit sitting empty through the holidays.

Asking for a Rent Reduction Comes With RisksWhile the price of rent continues to climb almost everywhere, the rental vacancy rate in America hasn’t been this low since 1984, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. To put that into perspective, just 10 years ago, there were twice as many available rentals on the market for potential tenants to consider as there are today. Contractors continue to struggle to keep up with the demand for new apartment buildings and affordable housing.

Meanwhile, Texas and Florida are in the hot zones for major rent increases, as mentioned above. It’s a landlord’s market. If tenants plan to ask for a reduction, they need a backup plan. Should the deal go sour, it could be very difficult to find alternative housing in a pinch, and they might find themselves in limbo. The associated costs that come with a last-minute move could add up to much more than the amount of rent they might be able to save from a lower monthly payment.

In these unprecedented times, tenants need to be sure the grass is really greener before they risk losing the chance to have a lawn at all.