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Master the Art of Rent Price Haggling

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If you rent in the UK, you know how significant is your monthly rent as a portion of your wage. On average a Briton would pay 47% of their monthly salary just to cover their rent. In London, this figure can sometimes bloat up to 72%. That’s staggering. Paying so much for your accommodation can sometimes leave you with just enough to survive, but no much more. That’s why it’s important for tenants on the hunt to get better rent deals and if possible some cleverly earned discount.

In this article, we’ll teach you the secrets to haggling for your rent successfully. They can be applied to both tenants seeking a new property or tenants who are up for renewal in their current one.

Rent decrease is an entitlement to model tenants

Before we get to essence of this article, it’s important to discuss the ethics of rent prices.

Asking for a lower rent is meant to ensure that you pay for what your accommodation is worth, not yank your landlord’s hands. That said, it’s preposterous to demand a lower rent if, for example, your landlord already offers a below market value. Rent decreases should always be based on the state of the local market, but we’ll discuss that more below.

Just as unreasonable it is to ask for lower rent because you cannot afford it, or you have a hard time financially. Private landlords are not charities. There are other mechanisms to aid you in such times, such as housing allowance and job seeker allowance, provided by the local councils.

More than anything else, a tenant must earn their rent decrease. You cannot hope to receive better or cheaper service while being a bad tenant. You need to treat the property you live in and your landlord with the due respect and attention. As a tenant you have many responsibilities and if you don’t manage to live up to them, you don’t deserve a lower rent. For new tenants, this can be verified by a past landlord’s reference, standard background, employment and credit checks.

The reverse situation is also true. No landlord should try to increase their tenant’s rent, if they don’t live up to the expectations of a good landlord, if they don’t support their tenant, or if they leave the property unmaintained and in disrepair. However, this is a matter we will discuss in another article.

The perils of demanding lower rent from your landlord

It’s not always a great idea to ask for a lower rent!

For a start, you won’t succeed to lower the asked price, if you don’t back your claim with clear facts. E.g. Five similar properties on your street with lower rent than yours. Rather, you may actually produce the opposite result. E.g. Your landlord can instead check the property market and realise they offer more features than other similar properties and decide to increase the rent.

If your demand is too cheeky, it will put the notoriously shaky relationship with your landlord to an even bigger test. You landlord might decide that you’re a trouble tenant and cut back the support and tolerance for your property. If they want to, landlords can become awfully unresponsive about improvements and repairs, while still abiding the legal time-frames and stay out of trouble with the authorities. They can even go as far as ask you to leave, if they decide you’re not a good fit for their property anymore.

For viewing tenants, landlords may simply not bother doing business, even if you really want the property and were prepared to cover the asked price. Alternatively, they can allow you to move in the property, but increase their original rent price, just to punish your cheeky behaviour.

You’d have nobody to blame than your own greed, so be careful when you make such request. Always back them with clear, indismissable facts.

How can you successfully lower your rent

Whether or not you can cut down a few pounds on your weekly rent is very situational. It depends on many factors working together, which we’ll discuss below. Just to note the obvious, not always you can get your rent discounted. But let’s see how you can try.

You don’t ask, you don’t get

You’d be surprised to how frequent the only thing you need to do is ask. Often we (tenants) view properties that are really great, but the price is slightly off from what we can afford. Most inexperienced tenants are too anxious or insecure to ask for a lower rent. Honestly, the worst thing that can happen is to get a “No”.

Experienced landlords and especially letting agencies often list their property for a higher price than they would accept. This is done anticipating that viewing tenants might comment on the price and through a bit of haggling reach the common point. Evidently, the common point is what the landlord wanted in the first time.

Unless you ask, however, everybody will be happy to receive more rent.

Remember to be specific. You can’t just say “The rent is too high..”. It’s too vague and it means that you want to pay less, but don’t really know the what the property is worth. You might hope that the landlord or agent will just come up with a lower figure, but they probably wont.

Instead, you want to put down an offer – e.g. 500 ppm (down from 550 ppm). Presumably, you’d already know how much the landlord wants from the property listing. In that case, you want to make an offer first and see how they react. If you let your landlord start the money talk and you want to haggle, you need to be prepared to defend yourself with facts. How much you want reduced ? Why ? What makes you think you can get those X pounds shaved off ? If you can answer these questions to the landlord, and it makes sense, there is merit to your claim.

Start as early as possible

Getting the sweet deal requires effort and sometimes time. If you only have a month to find your next rental, you probably don’t have the time to search through the entire market, find your potential targets and then negotiate for the price. No, you would probably only have time to find a sufficient property for a sufficient price…MAYBE…

It’s best to start as soon as you can, but provide three months before your moving date. It will give you enough time to go through all the necessary steps without pressure of being left homeless. You need to search the property market, identify the properties that suit your needs, contact the relevant people, arrange viewings, negotiate and rinse and repeat until you’ve got what you wanted.

This all takes quite a lot of time. If you’ve decided to look into more than one area and use more than one letting agency (if any), you’re multiplying your effort and time invested.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is just put an offer you like and leave..And wait. Drawing that hard line can put pressure on the landlord. If nobody else takes on their offer, yours is going to appear ever so acceptable.

If you play your cards right, you might get a call the next day. If you don’t, you might lose an otherwise great property. It’s a risky bluff, but having enough time to let go a few properties will minimise the risk.

Research the local property market

The most critical point in this article is to research the local property market. You need to know how other properties in the vicinity are priced, what features they offer, how well are they positioned, and just about any other factor you would consider important. Without this information, you can only bargain while guessing. And guessing, doesn’t make a good point.

For a start, you cannot know what the property you’re viewing is worth, because it always factors in the price range of the given neighborhood. You won’t know if you can shave off 50 quid on the monthly rent, or not.

Knowing the local market gives you leverage. If you find two similar properties that are cheaper than the one you want, you can simply show them to the landlord and ask the real question. “Can you match it ?”

In fact, the best strategy you can do is pick two or three properties which all satisfy your needs. Then, you can simply pit the landlords against each other and see who goes the lowest.

If you cannot find similar and cheaper properties, you want to look for features present in the other properties but lacking in the one you like. Even if you don’t really need garden furniture, you can use it as additional leverage, or at least get a set for your property as well.

In densely populated cities, parking space is at a premium. Check if the landlord offers any form of parking in or around the building. The lack of can provide you with a significant leverage for reducing the price.

If you don’t know exactly which area you want to live in, you should boil them down to a maximum of two or three. Otherwise the sheer number of available properties can overwhelm you.

Time is of the essence, so is timing

Property prices factor the current demand and availability. Most people move during the warm seasons – May through to September. This is especially true for students.

When there is high demand for properties, you can expect little margins for bargaining. Quite the opposite, many landlords will try to use the demand to score a slightly higher rent from themselves. There will be a lot of interested tenants and some of them will be less picky than you are. If you don’t want to pay the asked price, there is probably somebody else who will.

If you can, avoid moving during the summer. Instead, try to end your tenancy in November. The last two weeks of November are the best time to move. Most people stay put for the Christmas holidays and only pick up the slack after New Year. Properties that are empty in the beginning of December tend to stay empty until January.

Empty months are the single most horrible thing that can happen to a landlord, after a bad tenant destroying the entire property, that is… 

This gives you excellent leverage to haggle for the price. Often the total amount shaved for the year is not much more than one month’s rent, so landlords are more than ready to drop their asking prices. The last thing they want is for an empty month to turn into two.

When moving all year around, you should be on the lookout for properties which have sat empty for more than one month. These usually start to drop their price quickly after the first three weeks on the market.

To find these properties, you need to do a little trick:

This is not an advertisement for any of the above listed products. The Property Bee toolbar only works with Mozilla Firefox and Rightmove. While it may seem limiting, this toolbar offers property-seeking tenants unique information about listings on Rightmove.

  • The date when the property was listed on Rightmove
  • The changes in the rent price since it was listed
  • If the property has been taken down and then back up on the market
  • If there are changes to the details and description of the property

This information is critical to identify which properties have been out for a while and how has their rent price changed over the months. Their landlords are probably pretty desperate and would agree to almost anything to get a tenant in and stop paying mortgage on an empty property.

Offer something in return

If you can’t justify a rent reduction using other properties, it’s time to see what you can offer that would pull the scale in your direction. Some properties are just worth what is being asked for, and maybe even more.

In order to raise your chances of a discount, you need to provide incentives to the landlord.

Landlords like secure, long term tenants. Outside of wrecking the property, the biggest cost for landlords is to change tenants frequently. The accumulated costs are huge – void months, property marketing, referencing fees, etc. If you can offer them a prolonged tenancy of two years, or more, they will be very inclined to at least listen to your price proposal.

Landlords also like cash flow. If you can offer them better financial security in the form of a bigger tenancy deposit, or an upfront payment of your first three to six months, they will be eager to drop down some of the asking price. There is nothing better than to have your payment upfront. It’s also an insurance that the tenants will stay at least the minimum period for with they’ve already paid.

If you can’t offer direct payment, and an extended tenancy is not enough, you can try to bargain for extra responsibilities in return of a rent discount. Perhaps, you can take up the gardening, or cleaning of the shared building spaces, or take up a portion of the maintenance and repairs. Landlords can sometimes trade a bit of their income for less responsibilities. Be careful not to make a bad deal though.

Remember, core repairs and maintenance is always a responsibility of the landlord. It cannot be forwarded or transferred to another person under any circumstance. This is enforced by the law and any agreement in contradiction is invalid. See our dedicated repairs guide – Repair and Maintenance of Rented Properties.

Deal directly with the landlord

Letting agencies can make or break your tenancy experience (and your landlord’s experience as well). The good ones will make everything run smoothly and effortlessly for both sides while keeping their fees in check. The bad ones will make you regret ever using them. From introducing delays and complications, to harassing either side, to fraudulently impose bogus fees to both landlords and tenants, rogue letting agents are a blight like no other.

We don’t mean to discourage you from using letting agencies. They have proven their place in the renting industry time and time again. However, one thing is certain – if you want to save as much money as possible, both as a landlord and a tenant, you want to go without an agent.

Dealing directly with the landlord will ensure your communication is clear and your arrangement are made with the person who has the power to make them happen. That said, the landlord is the only one who can authorise a rent discount.

Here is a list of websites that offer direct connections between landlords and tenants:

Use them with caution and at your own risk. Be sure to read the about information and learn how the websites work before engaging actively in property hunting.

Use the property’s flaws against it

Not all properties are in mint condition. Some have damp issues, others have outdated interior, inefficient insulation and high bills. You name it and there is probably a desperate landlord out there trying to get somebody to live with it.

As a general rule, The Tenants’ Voice would advise you to consider finding another accommodation. If the landlord can’t bother to raise the quality standard in their rental, there are high chances you will experience delays and problems when repairs are due or when you need additional support.

However, we realise that many tenants are stuck with a lesser quality property. Often they already have their rent prices reduced, since landlords acknowledge the inherent problems. What you can do during your visit is make as detailed list as possible about all the flaws in the property. If you’re ready to accept them as your home, then at least try to use them as leverage to pay as low a rent as possible.

If there is just a minor problem, one that can’t possibly justify a rent reduction, you can at least negotiate for it’s repair before you move in.

We hope this guide has been useful. For more information on renting, turn to our tenant advice section. If you need to get in touch with a professional, turn to our forums, where industry professionals will answer your questions. As always, The Tenant’s Voice advises you to act courteously and reasonably in all communications and dealings with regard to a tenancy.

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