Getting the Most Out of Your New Lease: How to Negotaite with a Landlord

How to negotiate with a landlord - Pocketful of Posies

You’ve finally done it!  After hours of searching you’ve finally found a house that you like, you even like the landlord, and they seem to like you.  What comes next?  Negotiating!!

There is a fine line between getting the best deal on a house and down right insulting the landlord.  Remember once it’s been said there’s no taking it back.  So always, always make sure that you are respectful of their property, their feelings, and most importantly their wallet.  These four easy steps will help you get the most out of your new lease.

You know that you are an awesome person but your future landlord does not.  Most importantly they want to know why you are the best choice as their future tenant.  As you explain why you feel you would be a good tenant keep your tone and your audience in mind.  If you come off as arrogant or if all your positives are irrelevant you probably won’t get the house.  Here are a few “positives” that are relevant and are things landlords want to know:

–     You have great/good credit history
–     You have great rental history – i.e. not late paying the rent/didn’t destroy your last residence/didn’t sneak a pet in/easy to get along with.
–     You are open to the idea of a longer term lease – This is the big one!! This can open so many doors when it comes to negotiating.  It is a pain to find a tenant.  If the landlord won’t have to go through this pain again next year they are far, far more likely to negotiate.
–     You have steady income – If applicable you can also throw in length of employment with a company.  This can show loyalty and longevity.
–     You are in control of your finances – no major credit card debt/late payments. Remember they will run a credit check, so don’t lie.
–     If you have pets, paint them in a positive light.  Sam is 4 years old, he’s attended dog obedience classes, he’s house broken, doesn’t dig/bark/chew/etc., he is very laid back, and not at all agressive.  (It is important that all of these things are true.  Don’t lie.  If you lie and get caught this will destroy your rental history making it difficult to find another home later on and could possibly result in eviction or being forced to give up your pet).
–    Tell them up front that you will maintain renters insurance.  While this may not necessarily effect your landlord.  It shows that you care about your property.  Making you far more likely to care about theirs.
–    If you are a landlord yourself mention this.  It can help you relate with the landlord.  Being a landlord is a very difficult and often unrewarding venture.  Let them know that you share their pain.  Also, make sure your home is currently occupied by tenants, mention the length of the lease.  They want to know that you won’t be making two payments any time soon.
–    You are a quiet person/not a party animal. –  i.e. the landlord won’t get calls from your new neighbors complaining about the kegger you threw last night.

No one is perfect and almost everyone is going to have a check or two in the negative column.  For our last move our negatives were, we wouldn’t actually be moving in for 5 weeks and we have two large breed dogs. Whenever possible make sure that your positive attributes out weigh your negative ones.  Some other possible negatives include:

–    A short term lease.  This is anything less than one year.
–    Pets.  If you have them you love them, but they are always an issue when it comes to renting.  Either they are too big, too small, too young, not the right type/breed/etc. or there are too many.  Specifically size and “black” listed breeds are the biggest issues of these.
– Bad or less than average credit score
– Not so great rental history.  Either for one reason or another you and your last landlord didn’t see eye to eye or there was some other kind of problem.  This particular issue can a make or break you as a future tenant.  No one wants to rent to someone that is going to be a constant problem.

Before you walk through the door know what you want to Negotiate.  If you don’t have anything positive to bring to the table like a longer lease then only negotiate one negative.  If you have something positive to bring, you can negotiate two negatives.   Don’t expect that the landlord will just rollover and give you everything that you want, they want to get something out of the deal too.  There is a perfect balance between tangible goods (money) and non tangible goods (you won’t destroy their house).  Finding this balance is the key to getting the best deal on your new lease.

Some ideas on things you many want to negotiate are:

–    Length of the lease term.  If you want a longer term this is a positive, if you want a shorter this is a negative.
–    You won’t be able to move in for _____ weeks.  (if this is the case.  You need to give up something too.  If you can’t move in for three weeks.  Offer to pay one week of rent prior to moving in.  This way the burden isn’t solely on the landlord)
–    Pets
–    Monthly rent.  If the house has been on the market for a while or if you are looking to rent for a longer term this is a great one to ask for.  Depending on your price range I would keep the negotiations between 5 – 10% of the total asking price.  For example,  if the house has been on the market for over a month and they are asking 1,200.00 it would be completely reasonable to offer 1,100.00 (approx 8% discount).  In this case, the house being occupied far out weighs the possibility that it could be vacant for another month even though it equals the same dollar figure when spread over a one year lease.
– Utilities/Lawn care

When it comes to approaching the actual negotiations it’s best to think of it as a sandwich.  Start with a complement, how much you love the house and why.  Keep it short.  Then ask about your negotiations.  “I was wondering if you would consider taking 1,100.00 for the house since it has been on the market for a while?” When negotiating, remember to ask for what you need first and what you want second. Finish with another complement and why you are a good fit.  “We really feel like this would be a great fit for us and once you run our background check you’ll see that we will be a great fit for you.”

Finishing with why you would be a great tenant is key.  Once you mention money, that is where their brain will be at.  Doing all kinds of different calculations.  It’s important to remind them of the most important calculation, what they won’t have to do if they rent to you (ex. you won’t destroy their property).  This brings up a large concern with landlords, Repairs.  Repairs can take their rental off the market for months and cost huge amounts of money, no landlord ever wants this.  If all goes well you will be on your way to a great deal on a great new house.

**As with anything these suggestions are just that, a suggestion.  They are negotiating tactics that have worked for me and my family on numerous occasions.  Not every landlord or situation is right to negotiate with and it is important to recognize when you are already getting a good deal.  No one wants to feel like they are being taken advantage of so always be courteous. And the most important suggestion I can make is always be honest.  It is better to be up front about issues i.e. credit, pets, rental history, etc.  If they run a background check and find that you are lying then you’ve tainted your reputation.  This can be a big deal, word travels fast,  especially if you are working with property management companies.  If you find yourself on a black list for dishonesty it is going to be incredibly difficult to find a rental.

Do you have any tips that worked for you when negotiating with a landlord?  I’d love to hear them!

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12 thoughts on “Getting the Most Out of Your New Lease: How to Negotaite with a Landlord

  1. I’ve had a lot of negative experience renting. I would say my biggest tips is to make sure you get the details written into your lease. We knew we were responsible for all of the utilities at our current location, but didn’t realize that meant the neighbor’s too {in a duplex}.

    1. Wow that is really terrible Keri! People can do some terrible things! I lived in a duplex a couple of years ago that was similar. The house only had one electric meter. Luckily my neighbors were really nice people and we figured out a way to split the electricity at least somewhat equally. That is a great tip and a for sure must when it comes to any lease!

  2. As a property manager I totally agree with this list! Being nice makes me want to go the extra mile for my tenants!

    1. Yay! Thank you Shannon! Your feed back means a lot! At this point in my life I have been both a tenant and a landlord. I tried to draw from both experiences when I compiled this list and I’m glad to see it resonate with individuals on both sides.

  3. These are all such great points. My husband and I are landlords (we rent out our first house to long-term tenants) and it was such a whirlwind at first figuring out all of these things on our own. So true about explaining your negatives to the landlord–our renters didn’t have the best credit score of all the tenants we showed our house to, but we ended up choosing them because they had a stellar rental history and were looking for a long-term living situation. Thanks for posting these tips!

    1. Your welcome Melissa! We are in very similar situations. We rent our first home out, long term, and since we move around a lot we also rent a home. It has helped me to become a better landlord to my tenants and a better tenant to our landlord. I think an honest and upfront relationship works out the best on both sides of this venture. It leaves everyone with a positive experience.

  4. Great tips! We are landlords as well as tenants! (We are leasing our home out in The States while temporarily living in Germany). Due to being so far away, we have a home management company work our contracts. Even then, it’s good to educate ourselves to make decisions in negotiations, etc. Thanks for the post!

    1. Thank you Michelle! Moving is always an adventure. We’re in the middle of a particularly challenging adventure now. I can’t wait to get there! I hope everything went smoothly for your friend!

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