As we celebrate the new year, many of you may be about to renegotiate a lease imminently or, at least, some time in the coming year. This is a daunting exercise for many but it doesn’t have to be if you prepare and develop a strategy. Chances are your landlord will take the opportunity to raise the rent by the allowable amount (2.5% in BC). However, if you present your case effectively, they may reconsider. Here are some ideas to employ when going tete-a-tete with your landlord.
Set the Stage
Firstly, ask your landlord politely if they are willing to discuss rental prices. Typically, large property management companies have less leeway than independent landlords to revise pricing. If you know you will be subject to an increase, open a conversation at least a month (2-3 months in advance is recommended) before lease is due so your offer can be considered and you have time to make alternate plans if there is no flexibility.
Find out what rental rates are for comparable properties. If you find something close to what you have at a lower rate, you could mention this to your landlord. In turn, if you find that your landlord is asking a competitive rate, you will be prepared for potential resistance.
Up Close and Personal
Ideally, you should be negotiating the lease in person. Try to set up a time with your landlord well in advance to meet in person, or very least, over the phone. This is the more personal and mature way to discuss this matter. It also allows for better interpretation of intent. Be sure to follow up with an email thanking for their time and summarizing the conversation (including your request).
Think of it as a job interview or as if you were asking your boss for a raise…show off! Highlight what a good tenant you’ve been – how reliable you are, how well you’ve maintained the property, and how you’ve won the respect of other tenants etc. If you prove your worthiness, the landlord may be more amenable to keep rent the same.
Push for a longer lease
If it makes sense for your life, you may want to propose a slightly longer rent – 18 or 24 months – reducing turnover costs for the landlord and possibly affording them flexibility in stabilizing or lowering the rent. Summer is an easier time to rent a place so you could propose a length of time that ends the lease in the summer making re-tenanting easy for the landlord.
NOTE: Negotiating in winter is the ideal time as properties are notoriously harder to fill this time of year. Tenants will have the upper hand.
Maintain your composure. Never get defensive during negotiations and be willing to meet your landlord half way. If they plan to increase rent by $100/month, propose a $50 increase instead. You can position this as the key to stability i.e. the better able you are to manage rent payments, the more likely you are to stay put and save landlord the costs and headaches of finding another tenant. Of course, this works best if you have been a stellar tenant – see section above, “Sell Yourself”.
Show them the money
Propose paying for a few months in advance, in exchange for rent freeze or reduction.
Consider Non-monetary Bargaining Chips
If your landlord is inflexible raising the rent, consider asking them to cover utilities, provide parking or storage, waive pet fees etc. There may be no dollar value associated with some of these but there is important value to you, the tenant.