How to Negotiate Changes to a Rental Lease

Written on June 22, 2017 by

lease changesWhether you want to terminate your lease early, change your payment dates, or refute rent increases, renters should know how to negotiate changes to the lease.

When you — and your landlord — want a more stable living arrangement than what a month-to-month tenancy affords, a lease becomes necessary to spell out all the terms and conditions of your tenancy.

But here’s what many tenants don’t know:

You can negotiate what’s in the lease.

Note: This process is typically limited to individual landlords. Large complexes usually don’t negotiate lease terms.

Here are five examples of some things you might want to negotiate.

1. Rental Amount

How much rent will be each month is probably the most important lease item to negotiate, which also makes it the hardest thing to negotiate. If the rent being charged is more than the typical rents in the area, you have some leverage.

Point out that fact.

Let the landlord know that you can rent the place down the street (show proof) for X amount of dollars. Then tell the landlord that you like this place better because [insert your reason here]. Say that you’d be willing to pay X more because you prefer this place, but that the price they’re asking is too high.

Then the landlord needs to decide. They could say no way, or they might realize the unit is overpriced, and they might bring the price down.

Note: If you really want the place and the landlord won’t budge on price, you can still take it. Just because you asked for a rent decrease doesn’t mean you have to walk away if you don’t get the new amount. Evaluate whether you’re willing to pay the rental price. If so, take it anyway. If not, tell the landlord you’re no longer interested.

2. The Length of the Lease

Most leases are for 12 months. But there’s no rule that they have to be for that length of time. Maybe you want to sign an 18-month lease. Ask the landlord.

Tip: Landlords are more willing to negotiate a longer-term instead of a shorter-term one. If you want to rent for nine months, for example, instead of 12, you’ll probably need to offer something to make this worthwhile for the landlord, such as offering to pay a bit more in rent.

3. Pets

If you see that the rental doesn’t allow pets, but you have a special fur baby that’s part of the family, find out why there’s a no-pet clause. Maybe the landlord has had a bad experience with a pet in the past. Maybe you can reassure the landlord that your pet will behave well — and explain why.

You could also offer to pay extra for your pet. Offer to pay a non-refundable pet fee, or offer to pay more in rent each month.

Tip: Don’t just sneak in your pet. That could get you evicted.

Related: Pets

4. Yard Maintenance

Who maintains the yard (and pool or hot tub) depends on what’s specified in the lease. If these duties will be taken care of by the landlord, the price of maintenance is probably reflected in the amount of rent you’ll pay. If you wouldn’t mind mowing the lawn (or know how to maintain a pool or hot tub), ask the landlord whether you can take this maintenance job for a rent decrease of X.

Tip: Find out what it costs to maintain a yard (or pool) to know how much of a rent decrease to ask for. Say your landlord pays $100 a month to a lawn service. Ask to maintain the lawn for a rent decrease of $50.

Related: Should a Tenant Be Paid for Doing Yard Work?

5. Painting

If you’re moving into a new place that has not been newly painted, ask whether you can choose the color before the landlord repaints. Some landlords always use the same paint color for all their rental units, but not all do. If the landlord needs to paint anyway, they might as well paint a color you like.

Tip: Landlords are more likely to agree to this if you choose a neutral color.

Related: Amazing Paint Colors for Rental Properties

How to Negotiate After You’ve Signed the Lease

Life happens, and sometimes you can’t fulfill your end of the bargain regarding the lease. What happens, for example, if you need (or want) to move before your lease is up? Your lease might specify a certain fee for breaking the lease early, or you may be responsible for making the payments until your landlord finds a new renter.

But what if you find someone who can take over your lease for you? Your landlord might agree to then let you out of your lease with no penalty. Your landlord, however, is under no obligation to accept someone you find. Sweeten the deal by finding a new tenant who will stay for a longer term.

Negotiate During Lease Renewal Time

If you didn’t negotiate any terms of your lease when you first signed, you can still negotiate at lease renewal time. In fact, this is an even better time to negotiate — if you’ve been a good tenant. If you have a great (or even cordial) relationship with your landlord, and you always pay the rent on time, your landlord probably wants you to stay, which gives you some leverage during negotiations.

  • You’ve been responsible for mowing the lawn up until now, but you don’t have the time anymore. See whether your landlord will handle this task from now on.
  • There’s a five percent rent increase. See if your landlord will settle for two percent instead.
  • You would love to re-rent, but you can commit to only 10 months instead of 12. Find out whether this is okay with your landlord. If this puts the unit up for rent during a better month (July instead of September, for example), your landlord might agree.

There are many more scenarios, but you get the idea!

Bottom Line

Anything in a lease is up for negotiation. The trick to winning a negotiation is to understand what a landlord values. If the negotiation has something in it for the landlord as well as for you, you’ll have a better chance of getting what you want.

Have you been successful in negotiating changes in a lease? Let us know in the comments!

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