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

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For 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.

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

roommates moving home packing things in a box sitting on the floor

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?

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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