6 Tips for Negotiating a Rent Reduction with Your Landlord

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Woman negotiates a rent reduction with her landlord.

With the COVID-19 pandemic on the rise again and a second wave rapidly approaching, many of us are out of work and running out of cash with no end in sight. You might be worried about where your next paycheck will come from — or even more importantly, how you’re going to pay your rent.

People across the country are terrified that they’re going to end up homeless if they can’t get a rent reduction for at least the next few months. The government doesn’t seem to be helping, and everyone you’d normally ask for money is already broke, too. So what should you do?

In this situation, the best move is to just talk to your landlord. Try out these tips when approaching them, and you just might be surprised at your ability to procure a rent reduction:

Be Friendly

Your landlord is struggling, too, trust us. All of us are! For that reason alone, the best way to approach them is always to be sympathetic and understanding. Try to get to know them on a personal level, and chat with them about the ups and downs of life in your city. Develop a rapport.

If you want to make it more personal, you can even suggest a Zoom call or an in-person meeting. On the other hand, if you’d like to keep it more formal, consider sending them a letter or kicking off the discussions with a polite email.

Explain Your Situation

Once you’ve set a nice tone, the next step is to explain your situation. Start by reminding your landlord about how responsible you’ve been all these months or years. Maybe mention that time you repaired the sink all by yourself, or all those times you swept the halls and stairwells. Better yet, remind them that you’ve paid every previous rent on time. If you’re a good citizen of the complex, they’re much more likely to be understanding.

Now it’s time to get down to the brass tacks. Give them a refresher on the terrible situation we’re all in, and tell them how it’s affected you directly. Maybe your hours at work got lowered, or maybe you’ve been slowly burning through savings. If you can, throw in a ray of hope, too — perhaps you’re on the verge of a new job or about to get your next paycheck. But tell them that you’re simply not going to be able to afford the rent next month, and that you need at least a temporary reduction.

Figure Out What You Can Afford

It’s important that you come to the discussion prepared. Before you begin communicating with your landlord, do some basic budgeting and figure out the absolute maximum you’ll be able to afford. This will be the number that you cannot go past if they try to argue with you. When you calculate this number, make sure you take into consideration all of the expenses and potential sources of income you have before the next time rent is due.

The reason you need to know this number is because at some point, if your landlord doesn’t give in, you have to be prepared to “walk away” and move out. Seriously. It isn’t all that different from bargaining at a flea market or demanding a higher salary from your boss. It’s a negotiation.

Negotiate with Them

Renter discusses the possibility of a rent reduction with their landlord.

Like all negotiations, the key when it comes to lowering your rent is to take control and be firm. When you start talking to your landlord, make sure you’re the first one to throw out a number. Pick a number that’s far lower than the one you’ve calculated, and far lower than what you can actually afford. This gives room for the landlord to push back and negotiate up.

And your landlord will push back, most likely. That’s okay. Even if they bargain you a bit upward to a price you’re still comfortable with, don’t give in immediately. Argue back at each step, and continue explaining the situation you’re in and why you need to keep it so low. When you eventually do cave, they’ll feel like you’re doing them a favor.

Have a Backup Plan

Not everyone in this world is as friendly and sympathetic as we’d hope. It’s entirely possible that your landlord will refuse to give even an inch on next month’s rent. That’s why you need to have a backup plan. Before you even begin your negotiations, start looking up some apartment listings. There are lots of empty apartments on the market right now, and rents in many cities are lower than ever.

Temporary housing isn’t a bad idea to look into, either. Lots of landlords are willing to offer month-to-month rentals, especially in areas that have colleges and universities, since students often prefer those kinds of leases. You can also ask your friends and family if they know of anything. Alternatively, if the worst comes to pass, the people closest to you may even be able to offer their own apartments as a place to stay while you keep looking for work and housing.

Don’t Freak Out

Most landlords are going to be willing to negotiate. In the end, it’s better for a landlord to be getting some revenue rather than none. An empty apartment is every property owner’s worst nightmare, and all of them will know that now is not the time to expect new renters to start lining up to take your spot.

It’ll be okay. Just go into this with a plan and adjust along the way if you need to. The world is pretty crazy right now, but with a little ingenuity and resourcefulness, we can all make it through to the other side.

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