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If you rent, you have a golden opportunity that won't last much longer. Unlike your mortgage encumbered friends, you have the opportunity to cut your monthly expenses by negotiating your rent down. Seem like a long shot with your landlord? Think again. In the Great Recession, everything is negotiable including your monthly rent. Here's 5 steps that will give you the best shot of lower rent.
Do Your Homework - Comparable Rentals
The single greatest piece of information that you can bring to the negotiating table is comparable rents that are below yours. With high levels of vacancy and the decline in household incomes, landlords have been aggressively cutting rents for new tenants. Get two or three quotes for similar apartments and take a look at the incentives your landlord is offering to attract new tenants (i.e. free rent). Make sure you have quotes for apartments that are similar to yours in every respect - size, location, ammenities and upkeep. Be certain that your landlord is aware of what competing properties are going for. Even if you can't make your landlord budge on the rent, your research won't go to waste because you might very well run into a deal that you can't resist.
Pay Your Rent on Time
You would think that landlords make concessions to tenants that struggle to pay in a timely fashion. Actually, it's quite the reverse, landlord's bend over backwards for tenants that pay on time. Losing a slow paying tenant is a dream for them, but the loss of someone that always pays on time is never a good thing. They know that tenants with your credit score are exactly the kind of customer other landlords want to attract and how easy it will be for you to sign a new lease with a new apartment complex. So if you're behind on your rent or pay late, try to clean up your record before you approach your landlord.
Frame the Discussion
Negotiations go much better when you frame the discussion in a positive light. "I really like this apartment but I am looking at similar or better units at $150 less a month" is a smarter approach than, "this apartment sucks and I'm leaving unless you cut my rent by $150." A landlord will likely make concessions when faced with the prospect of a vacancy with a potential loss of months of rental income, additional marketing expense and the cost of renovating the apartment to attract a new tenant.
Also, don't wait until they send you a renewal with a 3% increase. They will frame the discussion from that higher price. You want to push your agenda of a rent reduction instead of the current rent. Strike first and you'll have the upper hand.