If you’re paying the same rent as you were 12 months ago, you might be paying too much.

How to ask your landlord for a rent reduction
Photo: Pixabay/jarmoluk.

Maybe asking for a rent reduction is not a bad option.

The factors driving a downturn in home sales (joblessness and a plunge in consumer confidence) has torpedoed the rental market, meaning some tenants can shave off a few dollars in rent by simply asking for a rental reduction.

The key to prying concessions from often-reluctant owners is preparation:

Back yourself up

The best way to ask for a rent reduction is to provide evidence. If you’re too scared to contact your landlord or property manager, send them an email with links to other comparable properties in the area. This will move you away from looking like a whinging tenant, but someone with market evidence ready to enter a negotiation.

Depending on your state’s property market, landlords and property managers may be in a position to compromise. If you don’t feel you’re getting the best possible deal, negotiate. But remember that not all markets are in freefall.

Set up a meeting with your landlord / property manager

As a good, loyal tenant, you will be able to make a strong case for why your landlord or property manager should be willing to negotiate a lowered rental payment. Here are a few points to consider in your discussion:

  • Remind them that you’re a good tenant, that you pay your rent on time and don’t cause any trouble.
  • Tell them that you’re not necessarily looking to move out, but given the market has changed since you first entered your agreement, you’d like to discuss the terms.
  • Even if you’re working with an existing lease, falling rents and increased vacancy rates can give you leverage to ask for a better deal from your current landlord or property manager.

At the end of the day…

Your landlord or property manager will need to have in mind how tight the current rental market is. If vacancies are not filling quickly, then it could be worthwhile for them to negotiate with you. Reducing the rent can be a prickly subject, so be respectful in your approach and use data to back up your request.

When am I entitled to rent reduction?

Your lease agreement is a contract with your landlord or property manager. While this contract varies from state to state and lease to lease, most lease agreements contain an express clause regarding rent reductions in certain circumstances. So when are you entitled? Here are a few examples:

  • The rental is now uninhabitable – For reasons you did not agree to, you can no longer reside in the premises. If, for example, asbestos is discovered in the property, the structure will be rendered potentially dangerous and uninhabitable.
  • The rental is illegal – Your property might have been rezoned into a retail or commercial property.
  • The bank has foreclosed on your rental – If the property owner has not kept up their mortgage repayments, the bank can decide to foreclose on your property. What this means is that you’ll likely be subject to a number of prospective purchasers arriving to view the property.
  • Your rental has been destroyed – You can seek a reduction in your rent in circumstances that part or the whole of the premises have been destroyed due to flooding or fire.

If any of these circumstances apply to you, you should have the right to request a rent reduction, but you’ll need to make that request in writing with supportive photographs and evidence.

If in doubt, it’s always a good idea to notify the landlord or property manager right away if you need urgent repairs made at your rental property. But if issues aren’t resolved, you may have a good case to seek a rent reduction.

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