By Jessica Hickock
The time to negotiate your lease agreement is not when you are sitting down at the table with the landlord and/or property manager ready to sign the agreement. You need to talk the terms through before the lease signing date is set, but not until after you have an approved application. If you start off the initial conversation with the landlord/property manager requesting lease term negotiations, you will probably rub them the wrong way.
1. Make sure the timing is right.
As a property manager, I get first-time phone calls from potential tenants wanting to know if I will take a lower amount for the rent. I don't even know their names yet, nor if they will qualify for the property, so I am already put off by their request and probably won't be willing to negotiate anything with them. You must show some good faith by turning in your application stating your interest in the property.
2. Respect the landlord's rules (policies) first before you start with your negotiations.
Respect goes a long way. For example, the landlord may have written into their lease agreement that they have a right to be in unit at any given time in order to make inspections, repairs, etc. You may not like this and want some sort of notice first before they show up. So be sure to make your request with a respectful tone and say something along the lines of "I'm fine with your right to inspect the property, however I would like to request a 24-hour notice by phone or e-mail before you come." This will go a long way with the landlord/property manager if you respect their terms, they will likely reciprocate.
3. Don't be greedy in your negotiation requests.
"Shoot for the moon" should not be your goal in making requests. Asking for 3 months free of rent AND a reduction in the monthly rent amount will turn off an owner. They will be more likely to let the property sit vacant for three months in an effort to get the full rent amount. Keep your requests reasonable and scale back any over-the-top ideas.
4. Remember that negotiations are two-sided.
While the market may be favorable for tenants, you still need to have some consideration for the landlord/property manager. Maybe a reduction in rent is not possible for the whole one-year lease term. However, maybe the reduction will be considered for the first 4 months and then offer to pay a graduated rent amount for the remainder of the lease term. If you show an effort of unification and benefit to both parties, they will most likely be willing to work with you.
5. Rent is not the only thing you can negotiate.
While you may be trying to get a deal on your monthly rent amounts, the landlord/property manager may be set on receiving a specific amount and may seem to stonewall you on reducing the rent amount. But you can still negotiate a benefit. Consider requesting that the landlord/property manager either clean the carpets, paint the interior living room, or offer to have the property generally cleaned once a month for the first 3 months for you. Or maybe you will be able to work out a security deposit adjustment.
6. Be sure that all negotiations are in writing and agreed upon
If anything is handwritten into the lease agreement, then be sure that all parties initial (or sign) and that it is consistent on all copies of the lease agreement.
Keep a good attitude in check and do not give an aura of an ungrateful or arrogant attitude. The worst thing that a landlord or property manager can say is "no." You are not forced to rent that property, so you can always say "no thank you" too and move on to another property if the lease terms are not what you want. However, arrogant and ungrateful attitudes will only result in a stronger "no" from the landlord and less tolerance for negotiations and agreements. Keep that in mind.
See the original article, "6 Tips to Negotiating Your Lease Agreement" on Zillow.
More on Zillow:
Why Landlords Charge High Security Deposits
Playing Tug o' War Over Repairs Between Landlord and Tenant
What to Do if You're Facing Eviction
By Jessica Hickock