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How to Negotiate & Lower Your Apartment Rent Payments (Without Moving)

By David Bakke

pay rent apartment highlighterFor most home renters, rent checks are the biggest expense of a monthly budget, and you probably think of it as a fixed cost – a set rate that doesn’t seem at all flexible. Sure, you might have had a chance to get a discount before you signed the lease, but once you’re there, you simply write the check out each month and forget about it.

For household costs like groceries and utilities, if you’re frugal, you’ll keep looking for ways to cut back. For rent, however, most people assume that the only way to lower the cost is to move to a cheaper place.

Don’t fall into that trap. Believe it or not, you can save money on rent where you’re currently living.

I lived in my last apartment for a little over four years. It was a one-bedroom, and when I first moved in, my monthly rent was $395. When I moved out four years later, guess what my monthly rent was: Still $395. They never once raised it.

At first, I thought it was simply by omission. I would hear that rent was going up, but I just continued to send my same $395 in, and they never said anything. After a few years, this property manager finally called me to alert me of a rent increase. But with just a little bit of sweet talk on the phone, I managed to get out of it completely. Consider these six ways to save money on rent without moving.

Ways to Save on Rent without Moving

1. Negotiate
Landlords have it tough too. Collecting isn’t easy, and landlords would rather have you pay a lower rent than default on the entire lease. Chasing late payments costs landlords and property managers a lot of money, even if they force you to cover their legal bills in the end.

Talk to your landlord. Remember that turnover is a huge expense for them, so a little give and take can go a long way. Explain your situation and suggest a lower rent for the remainder of the lease period, or ask to get something else free, like parking.

Even better, offer to sign an extension in exchange for the lower rate. Your landlord should be happy to avoid the stress of wondering whether or not you’ll renew. If you can’t get a break on the rent, you might be able to get some freebies like free cable for a couple months.

This method works for people renting a condo from an owner as well (as opposed to an apartment complex). When your lease is up, don’t be shy in using effective negotiation strategies. No property owner wants to risk having a vacant apartment, and they want to avoid paying the fees associated with hiring a real estate agent to find a new tenant. A good, dependable tenant is an owner’s dream. This strategy even works in a bustling, high-demand city.

2. Pay Early
If you have the means to pay more rent up front, then you can negotiate an early payment discount. Maybe you can get 5% to 10% off your rent if you pay by the 20th of the prior month. You might even suggest a bi-weekly payment plan that corresponds with when you get paid. You’ll get the side benefit of more effective budgeting, while lowering your regular expenses. If cash is king, then certainty to a landlord is queen.

write rent check

3. Work for the Property Manager
I recall that my property managers were almost always too busy to talk to tenants, and the supers were always overwhelmed with work. So why not ask the property manager if they need any help? If your property manager or landlord won’t lower your rent outright, doing some tasks around the apartment complex can earn you a nice rent reduction. Can you shovel snow or do yard work? Can you show empty units? Are you willing to be “on call” for other tenants? It’s not glamorous, but you could save some serious rent money.

If you enjoy DIY projects, see if your super needs an extra set of hands. For insurance purposes, you probably shouldn’t do any actual repairs, but I bet the maintenance people would love someone to have someone retrieve tools and help move things around.

Further, think about your specific skills that might be valuable to your landlord. The last apartment complex that I lived in was located in a generally Hispanic neighborhood, and approximately 75% of the tenants in my complex were Hispanic. I’m fluent in Spanish, and one day at the rental office, I saw the property manager struggling to communicate with a Hispanic tenant. I jumped right in and helped out.

After that little exchange, I developed a relationship with this manager and whenever she needed help translating for one of her tenants, I would pop by the office and help out. Each one of these visits gave me a small discount on my monthly rent.

4. Three’s Company
You thought you were past that stage, but maybe a looking for a roommate isn’t so bad after all. Splitting the rent is the best way to get a huge rent reduction. Make sure you have the proper consent from the landlord, though, and be careful if you end up looking for strangers. You’ll want to screen potential tenants and make sure you get good answers to these questions to ask a potential roommate.

5. Downsize
See if your landlord has a smaller unit available. If you are in a one bedroom, for example, maybe you can move to a studio. While the landlord may take a little hit, again, he is saving big in the long run by having a tenant that is good for the rent. You’d have to take on a slight move, but it’s a lot easier to relocate within the building where you currently live. Plus, there are many advantages to downsizing your home.

6. Reduce Other Living Expenses
While it’s not necessarily a cut in your monthly rent, you can help your budget by cutting other apartment-related expenses. For example, take a look at your monthly utility bills and grocery/food bills. Can you cut back there?

Final Word

Tightening the belt – especially when it comes to rent – isn’t always easy. When it comes to your rent, a little savings will add up over the course of a year. Of course, much of your success in reducing your rent will be dependent on your landlord’s need to keep you in your unit. The closer you are to the end of a lease, the more likely you will be able to get some traction.

Try to indicate, subtly, that you have checked out the neighborhood/area with respect to availability and rental rates, and you’ll find that you have a greater chance of winning some sort of concession. That said, if the landlord feels like you are going to keep coming back to the well, your chances are slim.

Have you had any success lowering your monthly rent payments? What worked for you?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

David Bakke
David started his own personal finance blog, YourFinances101, in June of 2009 and published his first book on ways to save more and spend less called "Don't Be A Mule..." Since then he has been a regular contributor for Money Crashers. He lives just outside Atlanta, GA and most all of his free time is taken up by his amazing three year old son, Nicholas.

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  • Olivia

    To save rent, we just added roomates. Thankfully a previous tennent built sleeping loft spaces in the living room and bedrooms for his growing family. At one point there were five of us. We had a good relationship with our landlord and landlady too. Walking up five sets of stairs was difficult for them (to do small repairs and painting) so we did it for them. They never raised our rent the whole time we were there.

    • David/MoneyCrashers

      Olivia

      Adding roommates is a great way to go as well–just make sure they are responsible.

      I had about 10 over the years, and I think one of them was actually mature and responsible and paid his bills on time.

      Thanks for commenting

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    • David/MoneyCrashers

      Thanks for the trackback!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Barbara-Friedberg/100000181675547 Barbara Friedberg

    This is fantastic advice. I negotiate almost everything and almost always come out with some savings. Landlords do not want to lose a good tenant.

  • Paul

    Having trouble paying your rent?

    The Rent Help Center can help you lower your rent by upto 10%, and possibly avoid eviction.

    Contact us to consult with a real live agent.

    888.309.4242
    [email protected]

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mayang-Robinson/100000217584918 Mayang Robinson

    I have owned and managed apartment buildings for over 20 years and there is a lot of truth in the above. I would add this though. If your building is owned by a corporation or if the owner just purchased the building and is facing a 30 year mortage, there is less chance of working your rent down. If your building is owned by an individual and you are a resident that always pays on time, here is what I would advise. Go to the county courthouse and search the records on your building. If you are able to find when your building will be all paid for, then you stand a very good chance of getting a break on your rent. Even if it turns out that the building won’t be all paid up in six or seven years and if you plan to be a permenant resident, go ahead and open up talks with the owner. Ask for a very small rent reduction in one year, followed by other small reductions every two or three years with a provision that six years from now, you will get a, say 5% decrease in rent. If the owner does the check deposits himself he will realize that you have been helping him pay for the building and might well agree to what I have mentioned above. Do not let him or her know what you are thinking or doing. Let the owner come to the conclusion that you deserve a break himself. If you are refused, then move and move to a building where you know it is owned by an individual that does the deposits himself and try for your incremental reductions before move-in. Good luck and if you are a propmt paying tenant, please move into one of my buildings. :-)

    • Davidbakke

      Mayang:

      Thanks for providing that valuable insight. Our other readers will appreciate it.

  • Patricia

    We recently moved 1000 miles for a job relo. Looking to rent a single-family house for one year, I quickly found the perfect property with one small problem. The rent was $1550/month and we wanted to pay a max of $1500. I told my realtor to offer $1400 and, much to my surprise, it was accepted without any negotiation!

    • Davidbakke

      Patricia

      That’s awesome! You just saved yourself $1200 over the next year!

      Thanks for sharing

      • Patricia

        Actually, we saved $1800 off the listed price for the 12 months. Even my realtor was surprised that they accepted my offer. I was expecting either to be told flat-out “no” or negotiated to $1500/month.

        • Davidbakke

          Patricia

          Even better! I envy you!!!!

  • Meg Anderson

    You must read the new Kindle e-book, How To Pay Your Rent On Time……simple, and quick, it makes a great gift for all your landlord and tenant friends alike….

    • Davidbakke

      Meg:

      Thanks for the tip!

  • Breeze

    Hi I am thinking of negotiating my $1500 of rent to $1400 by taking up the carpet & maintaining the hardwood floors. I plan to pay for the work to be done in exchange for lower rent. I have a meeting w/ the owners tonight & we sign the lease on the 15th. Would you have any advice on how I should word this? The apartment will be occupied my myself, my husband & 9year old daughter who has had severe allergies w/ carpet in the past.
    Any info would help. Thanks

    • David Bakke

      Be sure you have a complete list of all the expenses associated with the installation so the owners know how much of a benefit they’ll be receiving because of your upgrade. Highlight the fact that you’re having it installed professionally so they know the work will be of high-quality. Hope that helps!

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