With 30 million unemployed, a reduction in unemployment benefits and expired eviction protection, paying rent is a burden for many people right now. These are extraordinary times, so if you’re having trouble affording your current rent, approach your landlord to ask if they can accommodate your situation.
Chances are, your landlord doesn’t want to evict you. It’s costly to find new tenants and flip the apartment. Similarly, a survey by Apartment List found that 39% of people not paying in full reported that their landlord had made an adjustment to their payments. Contact your landlord as soon as you know you can’t pay rent (not after a payment is already late) and be open to creative solutions.
— Venessa Wong (@venessawong) July 23, 2020
How should you break the news to your landlord?
Approaching your landlord with genuine honesty about your situation will hopefully make them more receptive to your requests. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to extenuating circumstances for everyone; we recommend explaining how you’ve been impacted (especially if there’s a temporary nature to your situation.) Make sure you’re prepared for the conversation to turn to the subject of eviction, just in case.
[ Read: The Best Renters Insurance in 2020 ]
Scott Bates, the founder of MoneyandBills.com, says to highlight anything included in your rent that has changed. “You should ask for a reduction if certain amenities are no longer offered. For example, if using the gym in your building was part of the rental agreement, you should get a discount on your rent if that gym closes because of the pandemic. Along with any other amenities like pools, club houses, etc.”
Be realistic and professional
It’s best to enter negotiations with a calm demeanor and reasonable requests — temporary reduction, postponement of rent, etc. Asking for something too drastic up front could turn your landlord off to accommodating you. Your landlord likely has a mortgage to pay, and may not accept certain prices.
[ Read: How to Avoid an Eviction If You Can’t Pay Rent ]
You should also be realistic about your financial situation and ask for what you can afford. If the landlord agrees to a reduction, but you still can’t make that payment, it will damage your relationship and they’ll be unlikely to make further accommodations.
“Also, if you are a good tenant, with great credit score, good references, and a steady income, you have a better shot at negotiating rent than if you have poor credit score and other issues which cut away from your trustworthiness, such as being tardy or inconsistent,” says Mihaela Buzec, a real estate writer at RENTCafé. “You should manage your expectations depending on the rental unit and how you appear as a tenant.”
Remember, a rent reduction isn’t the only option
Asking your landlord for a rent reduction is one of a few ways you can save money, but you can get creative and find solutions that are equally as valuable. For example, waiving a monthly pet fee, getting your appliances updated or receiving a refund on your safety or pet deposit early. Buzec told us, “You can try and ask for a lower price and settle on that, or if you see they are reluctant to do that, accept the full price and ask for one month of free rent instead. If you have the means, see if they agree to lower rent if you offer to pay them more in advance, something like three of four months’ equivalent.”
Do your research
You’re more likely to be successful if you come prepared. We recommend researching the following:
- Current rates for similar apartments in your area. If you find a few listings that charge $300 less for rent than yours, you can use that information to inform your request and gauge a reasonable reduction.
- Vacancy rates in your city. If the vacancy rate is high, you may have leverage because of the likelihood your landlord could fill your apartment — lower rent from you is better than no rent if you leave.
- Vacancies in your building. Similarly, if there are many openings in your apartment building, that’s another indicator your vacancy would be hard to fill.
- Local laws around eviction and rent. Each state has different laws regarding rent and eviction. By arming yourself with your rights and legal options, you’ll know exactly what power your landlord has and what options you have as a tenant. There will also be COVID-19 related exceptions and protections that vary by state. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has a state-by-state resource list you can start from, and here’s a recent eviction resource guide from my colleague Taylor Leamey at The Simple Dollar.
“In California, you have eviction laws where it makes it tough to evict someone before six months of time. If all that is required is a rent reduction, it might be in the landlord’s best interest to work with the tenant on something equitable to both parties. Regardless of what the lease terms are or if it’s a month to month agreement. The landlord can lose more in the long run with a vacant apartment or home,” says Bates.
Too long, didn’t read?
In most cases, your rent could be up for debate. Reach out to your landlord with honesty, be professional, be open to creative solutions and do your research. Don’t feel pressured to decide right away on the offer your landlord makes. It’s fine to let them know you need time to consider or consult with your roommate. If you still can’t make ends meet after negotiating, look into rent assistance programs on Just Shelter, the National Low Income Housing Coalition or The Eviction Lab.
We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at [email protected] with comments or questions.