Is Your Rent Going Up? How to Negotiate With Your Landlord

Negotiate Rent Increase

If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

That’s one of our mottos here at SageCouple. It’s incredible that so many people don’t ever think to ask or feel uncomfortable asking. As a result, they shell out money for things that others avoid paying for.

What can you ask for? A lot.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Ask for the late fee and interest charges to be removed from your credit card bill when you accidentally pay a day late.
  • Ask the hospital to reduce your medical bills if your insurance doesn’t cover it or you don’t have insurance.
  • Ask for a complimentary room upgrade when you check in at a hotel.

Is it unethical to ask for such things – to remove fees, reduce bills, and get free perks? Absolute not. It’s called negotiating.

You are not stealing, cheating or doing anything unethical when you make these kinds of requests. What you’re doing is making an offer, and the other person can choose to accept, decline or present a counteroffer. In many cases, the person you’re speaking with is actually encouraged and empowered by their employer to engage with you and find a solution.

Consider the first example above – asking your credit card company to remove the late fee and interest charges from your credit card bill when you accidentally pay a day late.

When you call the card company, the customer service rep looks up your account, and they can see how valuable of a customer you are. One criteria may be how much money you charge to your card. If their system determines that you are a valuable customer, then the customer service rep can remove the charges. In fact, the card companies have procedures in place to fulfill requests like these in order to make customers feel valued and special.

Does asking always work? Not always.

  • If you’re demanding or rude, it’s the fastest way to hurt your chances of getting what you want.
  • If the person you’re speaking with is having a bad day, they may not want to help you.
  • If the person you’re speaking with is new to the job, they may not be aware of the discounts or perks that they’re allowed to offer customers.

One important negotiation many people don’t know about is that you can negotiate your rent.

Depending on the economy and your rental market, your landlord can raise the rent as much as they want. The exception is if the apartment is rent controlled or rent stabilized, in which case the landlord must stay within a certain regulated percentage.

But people negotiate all the time! Even in low supply/high demand markets like New York City and San Francisco, where rent is thousands of dollars per month and vacant apartments are snatched up in a day, people successfully negotiate their rent.

We’re going to talk specifically about negotiating with your landlord when they decide to increase your rent. You can successfully ask for a smaller increase or even no increase at all. 

How to Negotiate With Your Landlord When Your Rent Goes Up

One of the keys to being a good negotiator is to understand what the other side wants. Most landlords want two things:

  • Good tenants
  • Steady cash flow

The landlord may be a large building management company or one person renting out their apartment, but they all want good, reliable tenants. What does being a good tenant mean?

  • First and foremost, you pay your rent on time every single month.
  • You follow the terms of the lease, so you don’t sneak in an adorable puppy if the landlord said no pets.
  • You don’t give your neighbors any reason to complain to the landlord about you.
  • You don’t constantly complain to the landlord about petty things.
  • You keep the place clean and don’t qualify for the show Hoarders.

If you’re a good tenant, your landlord will want to keep you.

Keeping you as a tenant means they don’t have to risk a vacancy while they look for the next tenant. It also means they can save money right now on potential updates or renovations. For example, most landlords in NYC will paint an apartment before the next tenant moves in. Depending on the apartment’s condition, they will also renovate it.

If you stay put, that’s money they can save and a vacancy they can avoid. So it’s in their best interest to keep you, and if you’re not happy with the rent increase, it’s in their best interest to negotiate with you on a dollar amount that works for both of you.

However, if you’ve lived in your apartment for a long time and your landlord can get a significantly higher rent from a new tenant in a hot market where vacancies are short, then it’s in their best interest for you to move out if you don’t agree to the increase.

1. Find Out Current Rental Rates in Your Area

Do your research to find out what the going rate is for similar apartments or homes in your building and immediate area. If you know your neighbors, ask them what they pay. Go online to sites like Zillow, StreetEasy and Craigslist to see what places are renting for.

Once you have the hard numbers, you can compare them to what your landlord is asking. If your landlord’s request is higher than the going rate, it helps your negotiation.

2. Emphasize That You’re An Attractive Tenant (and we don’t mean your looks)

Remind them that you always pay on time and that you’re quiet and considerate. That you don’t call them in the middle of the night saying you lost your keys. That you don’t come home drunk singing songs and waking the neighbors. That you take good care of your place.

3. Provide a Reason for Why You’re Negotiating

In studies, it has been shown that if you provide a reason for why you’re asking for something vs. no reason at all, the other person is more likely to agree.

For example, an NYC couple told us that their landlord was raising their rent by $150. When negotiating, they explained that they were expecting a baby and therefore trying to save money. It was the truth and helped the landlord see their side of things. The landlord responded with a heartfelt congratulations and they settled on a $100 increase instead of $150. This saved them $600 that year!

4. Be Nice and Establish a Relationship

If you’re aggressive or pushy, that won’t get you far. Even if you do successfully negotiate, you still have to deal with the landlord going forward but on sour terms.

Ideally, you can form a relationship with your landlord even before the lease comes up for renewal. Make them see you as a real person rather than just the source of their cash flow.

This works particularly well in small buildings where you can actually get to know your landlord. Get them a bottle of wine as a holiday gift. Chat them up when you see them. Cement a relationship.

When it comes time to renew the lease, your landlord will be more likely to consider your counteroffer since you’ll be more than a faceless number to them.

5. Offer to Extend Your Lease Until the Summer

Landlords can get the highest rents from new tenants in the warm months, especially Summer. If you move out in May, for example, it maximizes your landlord’s chances of getting a new tenant who will pay a higher rent than you.

If you’re willing to move out, you can ask your landlord not to increase your rent and instead to extend the lease for a few months until it gets warm. Of course, that means that you’ll be looking for a new apartment during the most expensive time of the year also. Something to consider.

6. Offer to Sign a Long-term Lease

Landlords want cash flow stability, so offering to sign a two-year lease can be a good lever to pull. If your landlord likes you, then having the certainty of two more years of steady cash flow with a small rent increase can be worth more to them than a shorter lease with the full rent increase.

7. Offer to Prepay a Few Months

If your landlord needs cash, offer to prepay several months of rent (if you have the money) in exchange for a smaller increase, or no increase at all. Remember – you need to know what the other side wants in order to be a successful negotiator. If they want or need cash right now, this may be an appealing option to them.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get. So start asking and negotiating!

Do you have a rent negotiation story? Leave a comment below!

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