When you sign an agreement to lease an apartment, you are entering into a legally binding contract with your landlord. Like all contracts, the terms you agree on are negotiable. Understanding your rights and the negotiating process will help you to sign a lease with more favorable terms.
Is Everything Negotiable?
In some contracts, all of the terms are negotiable. A lease agreement is a little different in that certain clauses in your contract are fairly standard. For example, the payment, security deposit and lease termination terms are usually non-negotiable.
Some states have laws requiring certain rental agreement clauses. They are designed to protect you, as the tenant, and your landlord as the property owner. Check the landlord-tenant laws in your state to determine whether any clauses are required.
Non-standard clauses may be negotiable. Examples are: the number of parking spots included or whether you can have a pet. Even the length of the agreement is negotiable in many cases.
Deciding What to Negotiate On
When your landlord accepts your rental application and offers you a lease, read it carefully. Think about how the terms will affect you and your family. Make a note of any terms that you would like to omit or change. If you’re well-prepared to discuss these terms, it can’t hurt to ask your landlord to consider changing them.
How to Negotiate
Negotiating is an art. The goal is to be tactful and savvy so that you get what you’re looking for, without offending your landlord. Unless you’re willing to rent a different apartment, be selective about what you ask for. Trying to change too many of the lease agreement terms may mark you as a problem tenant, causing your landlord to reconsider renting to you.
Pick one or two terms that you disagree with and focus on those exclusively. Since many apartment lease agreements are fairly standard, you should only ask for things that you really need.
Write down any terms you’d like to change so that your landlord has your request in writing. For complex changes, consider consulting a lease attorney to help you understand your rights and to word changed clauses properly. How things are written in a contract can change your rights. Be certain that you know what you’re doing when changing lease clauses.
When Your Landlord Refuses Your Terms
Even when your request for changes is reasonable, your landlord may turn you down. In such cases, you’ll have to decide whether to pursue the matter further, and risk alienating your landlord.
For instance, if you own two cars and the landlord offers you one parking spot, leaving you with nowhere to park, you may be better off renting elsewhere. However, if you can find another solution to the parking problem, you may be better off conceding the point and signing the lease.
To successfully negotiate a lease agreement, confine yourself to asking for things that you can’t live without, stand your ground when terms are unacceptable, and be prepared to concede any point that isn’t crucial to your quality of life.
Lisa Bernstein: As a long-time apartment dweller and seasoned condominium trustee, I have dealt with numerous landlord-tenant, property management, and day-to-day apartment complex issues. My extensive, direct experience has led to invaluable insights into apartment life from both the tenant and management perspectives.