Can You Negotiate Your Rent?

The short answer is, yes. You can negotiate your rent. When you’re renting a Chicago apartment, the price you pay isn’t set in stone.

But before you even consider negotiating, you need to make sure you know why you’re asking for a discount. Plus, you need to know how to approach the conversation so you can come out a winner.

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7. Consider getting a professional to negotiate on your behalf

FOX / Via giphy.com If you’re uncomfortable with negotiating or still don’t know what your personal circumstances will allow you to leverage, you can reach out for help. “If you feel like having a professional negotiate on your behalf, this is the market where that would be helpful,” Walker said. Hit up your college acquaintance or family friend who negotiates like a boss — see if they’d be willing to put together a quick spiel or some language you can use to sound polite, professional, and clear when negotiating. Or hire a negotiation consultant who can work with you. Ask your network to refer you to a specialist they know or have worked with. While hiring a specialist might cost you some money upfront, it could be very worth it in the long run if they’re able to talk your rent down.

4. Once you secure a concession from your landlord, get it on paper

Every landlord has a different preferred method of communication. Some like phone calls, while others are partial to email and text. Regardless of the platform you use to negotiate, it's important to get a written record of any deal you agreed on.

"If you do have conversations by phone, make sure you summarize that phone call in a follow-up email after," Mohamed says. "Get those details confirmed and signed in a document."

What to Ask For When Negotiating Rent

You can negotiate with more than just your rent. You can ask for new items, benefits, and amenities too. 

Here are some examples that you can ask for in these negotiations:

  • New amenities: You can ask for a new TV, fridge, or microwave when you move in. If the old one is in bad condition or low quality, your landlord may gladly replace it for you.
  • Free parking space: Even if it’s not part of your apartment, you can probably negotiate free parking for your place. This can save you a lot of money, even if it isn’t directly part of your rent.
  • Additional storage space: Lots of apartment buildings have basements or garages. But, your landlord may not give you access to these immediately. Feel free to ask them about what options you have for additional storage.

When to Negotiate Rent

Regardless of how badly you want to get your rent rate lowered, timing and situation are some of the most important keys in a successful negotiation. If you don't time it right, you won't get it right.

Here are some of the best times to negotiate your rent:

  • At the end of the month when landlords are looking for new tenants or if you're considering a new apartment.
  • A few months before your lease expires, if you're negotiating rent on your current unit.
  • When you know you can stay longer. Many landlords are willing to negotiate if they know they won't have to look for another tenant in the next 12 months.
  • In the winter. Seasonality impacts the rental market. Winter is usually the most difficult time for landlords to find renters, and you'll hold more of the bargaining power.

3. Think about using your lease term to your advantage! If you plan on renting for a longer period of time, you can try asking for a discount

FOX / Via giphy.com Rentals often start with a year lease; afterwards, you might be given the choice to stay and pay month-to-month or sign on for another year. But in some scenarios, you might decide in advance to rent for more than a year. Maybe you don’t want your lease to end in the summertime when you know the apartment hunt will be more competitive. Or maybe you’re attending a college nearby and don’t want to deal with the stress of hunting for a new place at an inopportune time of the year (like midterms or finals week). “If you know that you will rent for longer than 12 months, you can leverage that,” Walker said. “You can say, ‘I’ll be here for 18 months, so could I receive a month and a half for free?'” Depending on the landlord, free months can be calculated into your lease term to lower your monthly net effective payment. So instead of paying the original price for one less month, you’ll pay a lower price for each month.

2. Consider the time of year

For property managers, timing is everything and there are seasonal trends in the moving and rental industry. In other words, think about the broader supply and demand trends during any given season.

If it’s the end of the month, vacancies are high and you’d be willing to leave if you don’t get what you want, that could be a time when a manager is more likely to be amenable to your offer. However, if you don’t have an alternate place to move ahead of time, you may not want to start negotiating rent until something else is lined up.

As a rule of thumb, winter is usually a good moment to broach the topic, as it’s harder to find tenants during that time of year. Summer is peak rental season, so you’ll need to be a little more persuasive if you’re trying to negotiate rent during the peak moving season.

Research the property’s value

Consider if the rent is beyond the actual worth of the prevailing market. Research rent rates by talking to other landlords or neighbors in the area. Knowing average property prices and frequency of rent hikes in the neighborhood may give you leverage.

How to negotiate rent as an existing tenant

Admittedly, negotiating rent for an apartment you

Admittedly, negotiating rent for an apartment you already live in is a bit harder (but not impossible). The biggest obstacle to overcome is the lack of leverage; you already live there, so why should your landlord drop your rent now? It’s all about how you frame the negotiation.

For starters, everyone’s life would be a bit easier if you just stayed. Assuming you’ve been a good tenant, your landlord likely wants to keep you around. You probably don’t want to deal with the hassle of moving out, either. With that in mind, it’s in both parties’ best interest to come to an agreement.

Here are the steps to take when negotiating lower rent as a current resident:

  1. Do your research

    Before doing anything else, is to see what the rent is for comparable apartments in your area. If you find that other places in your area are renting for less, start making a list of examples. The more data you have, the better. Obviously, if you find that you are already paying much less for your unit than the norm for your area, you may not have much luck in negotiating.

  2. Put your request in writing

    If interested in negotiating rent, now is the time to compose a formal email or letter to your landlord with your request. Use this letter as an opportunity to highlight your value as a renter, while including your research findings. Be polite and courteous but firm in your intention. When you’re ready to compose your correspondence, check out our sample letter for negotiating your rent to use for your rent proposal.

  3. Counter if necessary

    If your request to lower your rent comes back with a denial, don’t be afraid to continue the conversation with a counter offer. Consider adjusting the amount you had requested, or suggest a compromise. Perhaps you are in the position to sign a longer lease term if the new rent price is agreed upon. Landlords want to keep units occupied by responsible tenants, and may see the value in keeping you as a renter long term versus the time and hassle of filling a vacant unit.

Inquire about extending the lease

Showing that you plan to stay in your apartment for a substantial length of time can demonstrate that you’re a stable investment. If the lease is annual, offer to extend it to 18-24 months in exchange for keeping your current rent. If the landlord knows he or she won’t have to take a risk with a new tenant, this could be a good compromise.

Reasons to negotiate rent

When it comes to the landlord-tenant relationship, it’s easy to assume that the landlord has the final say in all matters. After all, it’s their property, right?

While it’s true that your landlord owns the property and is in charge of crafting the lease agreement, this doesn’t mean you have absolutely no say in the agreement’s stipulations.

In fact, politely voicing your opinion on an important issue such as rent can actually improve your relationship with your landlord. Let’s take a look at a few reasons why negotiating rent with your landlord can lead to more than just monetary gain.

1. Saves money

Let’s get the obvious benefit out of the way: Negotiating your rent to a lower monthly price can save you more than a few bucks. Lowering your rent, even by a slight amount, can lead to big savings in the long run. You can then use these savings to do the following:

  • Furnish your apartment
  • Pay off loans and debts
  • Save money for future moves
  • Spend more on entertainment

As stated above, while it’s always beneficial to reduce rent as much as possible, even marginal reductions can lead to more money in your pocket.

For example, let’s suppose you’re able to get your rent lowered by $30 each month. Although this doesn’t seem like a large amount, reducing the rent rate by $30 each month translates into a savings of $360 per year. Hello, additional car payment! 

2. Strengthens relationship

As weird as it may seem, negotiating rent with your landlord can actually improve your landlord-tenant relationship. 

This is because politely negotiating rent demonstrates to your landlord that you’re not only open to communication, but that you’re also confident—and confidence often leads to respect.

That said, if you approach the conversation aggressively or overly demanding, your relationship may sour quicker than a jar of sauerkraut.

3. Provides learning opportunity

Life’s full of difficult conversations. Why not practice navigating tricky conversations early and often by negotiating rent? 

Learning how to negotiate rent can help you later on down the road—especially when it comes to conversations involving finances or legal issues.

What’s more, negotiating rent can help you understand the following:

  • The fine details of contracts, especially rental agreements
  • How to calmly negotiate with a boss or superior
  • How to devise an argument and support your argument with points

Negotiating rent can lead to more than monetary savings. It can give you the confidence and knowledge to stand up for yourself in any situation.

2. Be clear about what you want and why you want it

Before entering a negotiation, look at prices in your desired neighborhood and come prepared to defend the number you are offering to pay.

"Try to walk your landlord through your thinking process of how you arrived at that price," Mohamed says. She suggests that prospective tenants mention nearby apartments, as well as any accompanying amenities, when explaining why they want a reduction.

Services like Zillow and Zumper are good resources for rental data, while Mohamed's openigloo is useful for New Yorkers who want to see tenant feedback on specific buildings.

Get your negotiation in writing

As with many things in life, you can ask for and negotiate anything — including rent. If you’re a good tenant, can be persuasive and ask for what you want and need, you can negotiate the terms of your lease and rent prices and walk away with a lower rental rate.

After you’ve worked out a reduced rate with your landlord, make sure you get the new deal in writing so you have a paper trail and proof of your newly negotiated rate.

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