When I first moved to Chicago, I saw my living situation as temporary. I’d planned on finding a less-expensive apartment once I made a few friends and had a better sense of my daily life here. But, when it came time to re-sign my lease, I realized I wasn’t ready to leave.
I was always pinching pennies to pay for my modest—but pricey—apartment, so my dad suggested I talk with my landlord about renegotiating my lease terms. I am a pretty good tenant: I always pay rent on time; I’m not disruptive to others in the building; and I have renters insurance.
So, I did it. I approached my landlord with the request. And in the end, he was willing to renegotiate my rent—saving me $200 a month! Check out these tips I learned along the way:
Compare your rent to listing prices for similar units in your neighborhood. If you think you’re being overcharged, referencing a price list for similar units can help strengthen your position. Here are a few ways you can gather that information (Don’t be shy!):
Finding tenants can be a hassle. Your landlord may be more open to negotiating if you are able to commit to a long-term lease. For example, if you agree to renew your lease for another two years instead of one, you might ask for a lower rent in exchange.
Your rent isn’t the only thing you pay monthly. If you’re looking to resign your lease, now is the perfect time to ask about lease term, security deposit amount, pet deposit, utilities, parking, cable, Internet, etc. If your landlord won’t budge on monthly rent, see if you can’t work something out with one of these aspects of your lease.
Consider offering to help your landlord with the property workload as part of a lease negotiation. Ask if you can do some work around the building, such as general maintenance, landscaping, cleaning the pool or collecting rent from fellow tenants. In exchange for your services and time, you might be able to bargain a rent decrease. But of course, get everything in writing.
Even if you’re on great terms with your landlord, it can’t hurt to have a plan in case trouble arises with your new lease some time in the future. It’s also helpful to know your rights as a Chicago renter. Writing an e-mail or letter leaves a paper trail you can refer to if you need to share information with a third party (like a lawyer). Make sure to include your rationale for requesting lower rent, and don’t forget to keep a copy for your records!
Just because you’re new to renting doesn’t mean you have to be afraid to speak up. By doing your research and taking a few proactive steps, you might find extra money in your pocket in the year ahead.