How to ask your landlord for a rent reduction, plus where to go if you're struggling

There are several reasons you might want to negotiate your rent with your landlord. Your employment situation might have changed, and you’re looking for rent relief, or your local market might have slowed down.

Either way, if you want tips on how to ask for a rent reduction, here’s what you need to know.

Encountering financial difficulties can be incredibly stressful and upsetting. If your work hours have been significantly reduced, you may need to ask for a reduction on one of your most significant bills – your rent.

If you’re struggling to pay your rent, it’s worth asking your landlord/property manager for a temporary reduction in what you’re paying.

So what’s an acceptable rent reduction amount, and how do you ask for it in a letter or email?

What are good reasons to ask for a rent reduction?

There are good and bad reasons to ask for a rent reduction, but generally, ‘I can’t pay my rent’ won’t cut it. When you signed your lease agreement with a fixed term, you entered into a legally binding contract with your landlord. While you and your landlord have rights and obligations, your responsibility is to keep up with your rental payments, typically paid in advance.

If your lease is up for renewal, you could consider asking for a rent reduction as part of your negotiations, but note that these requests aren’t always warmly received. It’s worth weighing how important it is to stay in the property if push comes to shove.

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Reasons to approach your landlord about a rent reduction could include:

  • You believe (and can demonstrate) that the rental market in your area has slowed down. You can see rental prices for similar properties being advertised have dropped, or rentals are staying vacant for a long time.
  • Your landlord hasn’t made necessary or promised repairs in a reasonable amount of time. Note that you’ll need proof of any requests or promises made.
  • Your building is permanently or temporarily uninhabitable due to damage or the discovery of unsafe conditions (asbestos, flooding or faulty wiring). Ensure you can provide evidence of this.
  • You’re no longer legally allowed to reside at the property.

How to ask your landlord for a rent reduction

Your first action should be to contact your landlord via the property manager looking after your rental.

Important: Any request you make to pay less rent should be made in writing. Ensure you provide as much information about your situation as possible. If you’re asking to pay less rent, make sure you have data or evidence to back up your claims.

If your request is based on damage or overdue repairs, provide a copy of any communication you’ve previously had about this and include photographs.

We can’t state this one enough. ALWAYS have written communication with your landlord/property manager. Even if you chat with them over the phone about an issue, you must follow up with an email confirming that conversation. It gives you a paper trail if you need to refer to it.

If you’re asking for a reduction based on a comparison with other similar rentals in your suburb/local area and your lease is due for renewal, be prepared to back up your claims with data. Always do your research and show proof of why you think you’re paying too much in rent.

Important: Be realistic and respectful. The home you’re renting is a source of income for your landlord, and you will need to make a strong argument if you’re asking to pay less.

So, be careful. If your lease is up for renewal, your landlord may choose not to offer an extension if they feel you’re unreasonable. You might find they counter your offer, or ask you for a longer lease commitment in exchange for a rent reduction, so be prepared to negotiate.

If you manage to negotiate a reduction with your landlord, keep a written record of all those conversations to avoid the risk of potential misunderstanding.

Do you have any leverage to negotiate?

Along with comparing rental prices in your local area or pointing out issues or a lack of amenities, here are a few other arguments that could make a big difference to your outcome:

  • You have always paid your rent on time
  • Your apartment is kept in flawless condition, and you have nailed all inspections
  • You haven’t had any complaints from neighbours or strata
  • Having an empty property will cost the owner
  • A longer lease term may help to lower your rent price

What to do if you’re struggling with your rental payments

If you genuinely cannot afford your rental payments, there may be grounds for you to break your lease, but this should be a last resort. Wherever possible, you should prioritise paying rent in your budget because not doing so risks you falling into arrears and being issued with an eviction notice or added to a tenancy database.

Communicate with your landlord early rather than letting your rent fall into arrears. Your landlord may be willing to come to a temporary agreement or a delayed payment plan if you have an excellent payment record, but they have no legal obligation to do so.

Check your eligibility for government rental assistance through Centrelink. This may help to boost your budget temporarily to cover your rental costs if your family or work situation has changed. You may also be able to seek out a grant or some financial aid from the government or a non-profit organisation if it’s an emergency.

An example rent reduction letter

Dear {Contact Name},

I’m contacting you about my weekly payments for Unit 1, 23 First Avenue in Subiaco.

I love living here, but situations out of my control have recently impacted my work hours and, as a result, my finances. A temporary rent reduction would go a long way to help me get back on track.

Until this month, I’ve been a model tenant. I’ve always paid my rent on time and in advance. I’ve maintained the apartment in excellent condition, and you’ve never had reason to question my care for the home in any routine inspection.

I want to discuss the possibility of reducing my weekly rent payments by $50 for the next two months. A temporary reduction will help me get back on my feet once my job hours resume to their former level, and I’d be happy to arrange a payment plan to cover any approved reduction.

I have attached proof of my reduced hours from my employer, a letter of explanation and evidence of prior income upon signing the lease.

I appreciate that interest rates have not decreased in recent months, but I look forward to discussing the matter further with you so we can both find a way to make this work.

Warmest regards,
{Your Name}

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