How to negotiate an apartment lease before signing (in 6 easy steps)

Knowing how to negotiate an apartment lease can have a major impact on both your finances and your quality of life. Unfortunately, it’s a skill that few of us learned in school.

Luckily for you, Jetty is here to help. If you’re unsure of how to negotiate lower rent before signing a lease, keep reading to learn how to do it in six simple steps.

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1. Do your research on apartment rent.

Before you even consider negotiating apartment rent, you’ll want to do your research. The more you know, the better you’ll be at making a compelling case for the terms you want.

Start the research process by looking at other available apartments in your neighborhood and seeing how the asking prices compare to the unit you want. This is an easy way to tell if you’re getting a good deal—and whether trying to pursue rental negotiations is even worth it.

While you’re browsing, you can also take a look at the perks and amenities that other landlords are offering for similarly-priced units. Having this knowledge at your disposal can help you determine what, exactly, to bring up if you decide to negotiate before signing your lease. For example, if you notice that comparable apartments come with utilities included, you might consider asking if they could be factored into your rent.

2. Get the timing right.

Don’t try to start negotiating with a landlord during your very first conversation with them—and don’t wait until you’re sitting in the leasing office with an agreement in front of you, either.

Timing is important in rental negotiations, and can make all the difference in how well your requests are received. Ideally, this conversation should happen after your application is approved, but before you meet to sign the lease.

A landlord is much more likely to be willing to negotiate the terms of your lease if they already know you’re a qualified tenant and you approach the process in a way that’s respectful of their time. After your application has been approved, send an e-mail letting the landlord know you’d like to discuss the terms of your lease, and ask to set up a time for a phone call or meeting.

3. Know what you want.

When it comes time to negotiate, you should be prepared to explain exactly what you want to change about the lease. If you want lower rent, for example, know what you want that number to be.

On the flip side, you should also know what you’re willing to offer in return. If you want the landlord to lower your rent, you might negotiate by offering to sign a longer lease. This way, you can reassure them that they won’t have to find a new tenant in a year—and can save the time and money involved in that process.

The clearer an idea you have of what you’re looking for when walking into rental negotiations (and what you’re willing to give), the more likely it is that you’ll be satisfied with the outcome.

4. Be prepared.

Just as it’s a good idea to do your research to make sure that you’re getting a good deal, it’s also in your best interest to be able to prove to your landlord that they’re getting a good tenant.

Of course, if you’ve already been approved for an apartment, they’ve likely already verified that you meet minimum income requirements and have decent credit. But if you’re looking to go above and beyond, consider asking your current landlord to write a brief letter verifying that you pay rent on time, and don’t cause problems as a tenant.

5. Be flexible.

A successful rental negotiation is ultimately one that leaves both parties happy with the final lease. And in order for that to happen, you may need to be flexible.

For example, let’s say the landlord isn’t willing to go quite as low as you’d hoped on rent. In this case, you may still be able to find a resolution you’re happy with by asking them to add a fresh coat of paint to the walls before your move-in day, or lower the monthly “pet rent” they’ll charge you for having a cat.

6. Get it in writing.

After the negotiation process, it’s essential to get everything in writing. Have the landlord edit your lease to reflect the terms you discussed, and review it to make sure that you’re satisfied with the final version.

Then, the only thing left to do is sign! Both you and the landlord will need to sign the revised lease, and you should both receive a copy to keep. This way, you can both easily reference it whenever you need to—and can quickly resolve any disputes that arise in the future.