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What to Know Before You Negotiate a Residential Lease

Small Savings Can Really Add Up When it Comes to Your Rent

Negotiating a lease can be the most intimidating part of renting, whether you’re a tenant or landlord. It’s essential to know how to negotiate, as even $100 per month can really add up over the course of a lease. 

As a tenant, it’s important to know how, what, and when to negotiate when it comes to your lease. As a landlord, you can benefit as well, by understanding what your tenants are looking for when they negotiate. 

It Never Hurts to Ask

For tenants, the most important thing to understand is that you actually can negotiate rent. In many cases, your landlord might be more flexible than you think, as losing a tenant can be much more costly than reducing the rent slightly. The level of flexibility will vary depending on your landlord and other factors, including:

  • The vacancy rate 
  • Market rates
  • Number of interested tenants

Chances are, if there aren’t very many properties available in your area and lots of people are in the rental market, your landlord will be less flexible. However, the opposite is also true. If your building or area has lots of vacant properties, it could be an indicator that your landlord is open to negotiation. 

Know When to Negotiate

It’s worth noting that you can negotiate when signing a new lease and when renewing a current lease. If you’re renewing a lease, start the negotiation process before the lease expires. Ideally, try and negotiate in the winter months, as most people prefer to move in summer and your landlord will have more prospective tenants to choose from during the warmer months. 

If your landlord is offering signing incentives like first month’s rent free for new leases, be sure to bring that up in your negotiation. It’s a lot less work for a landlord to keep an existing tenant than it is to find a new one. 

If your landlord still isn’t budging on price, there are other ways you can save too. 

Other Ways to Save

Don’t discount the potential savings of things other than your rent, especially if it means you can stay in the same rental unit. It can cost hundreds of dollars to move and your lease likely includes clauses about how and what needs to be done when you do. 

If you’re moving into a new unit, ask about how flexible to move in date is. Maybe you can move in over the course of a week, rather than rushing (or paying movers) to get it all done in one day. There might be additional fees on the lease that you can save on as well. Parking fees, gym fees, or pet fees might be flexible if the rental price is not. 

Couple moving into their new house.

Make it Worth Their While

The best deal is one that benefits both parties. Your landlord might be more lenient if you make their life easier too. You could offer to sign a longer lease, for example. A 1.5 year or 2-year lease might make your landlord more likely to reduce your rent. If you can, prepaying some of the rent could also increase how flexible your landlord is with the rent price. 

Have Other Options

Just like a lot of interested tenants will decrease how flexible your landlord is, a lot of rental options will decrease how flexible you are. Be prepared to stand your ground and be firm in the reasons why you want a discount. 

The price of similar rentals in the area, your reputation as a tenant, and the state of the rental market are all good reasons to sway the rent in your favour. However, if your landlord doesn’t see it that way, it’s always good to have another option. Having another house, apartment, or condo you’d be happy living in can give you more negotiating power and the ability to walk away if your landlord isn’t receptive. 

Put It in Writing

It’s usually better to negotiate in person, as it’s a lot more difficult for your landlord to say “no” to you if you’re standing right in front of them. Once you’re done negotiating in person, however, make sure to follow everything up in writing.

If you’re negotiating over phone, text, or email, make sure to follow that up with a summary message so it’s clear what you have agreed to. When it’s time to sign your lease, make sure your landlord has adjusted the rent price or added or removed any other terms you negotiated. Having changes represented in your lease is essential, and it helps prevent the possibility of confusion down the road.