A 5-Step Guide To Getting Your Rent Reduced
Asking for a reduction in rent can be a bit stressful. At best you might give yourself some cheek cramps from the awkwardness. At worst, you might annoy your property manager into passive-aggressively ignoring your next request for a plumber or an electrician for an hour or two longer than strictly necessary. If your lease is up for renewal then it is definitely worth asking: rental rates across Australia are falling at the fastest pace on record.
Twenty or thirty dollars a week might not seem like that much (especially if you’re splitting that saving across several flatmates) but it all adds up. Even an extra 10 bucks a week in your pocket would be $520 a year, which means you basically just got a plane ticket to Bali for free. But what kind of reduction should you ask for? And how do you do it gracefully?
Step 1: Do your homework
Do your research. How much has the cost of renting actually decreased since you signed your original lease? State governments put out reports on rental trends every financial quarter which are handy and look super official for quoting to your property manager to show you know what’s up. You can also go to a real estate aggregating website like Domain or realestate.com.au. They have info on trends which are a bit more user friendly – since they are ultimately trying to convert you into a customer, their reports have less detailed information than the ones issued by government departments, but are also less likely to make you go cross-eyed when you’re trying to read them.
Importantly, these kinds of sites let you do super specific comparisons so you can see exactly how much houses or flats similar to yours are actually being rented for right now. Bookmark these properties for later.
Be realistic when you compare: sure, that house has the same number of bedrooms and is in the same suburb as yours, but does it back onto a noisy highway? That house also has a huge bathroom, but has it been tastefully renovated recently or is it a hilarious ‘70s brown and orange combo?
Step 2: What’s it worth?
Figure out how much your rent should decrease. Once you have a good idea how much properties like yours are being rented for and what percentage the market has fallen, try to settle on a specific amount that you think is accurate and fair (not just what you feel like paying). Think about how long you would like to stay in your property. If you know that you want to stay for at least a couple of years then offering to sign a longer lease might make it a more attractive option for the landlord. Each state and territory has different rules about this kind of thing, and it’s worth having a look at the tenants’ advisories for your state here.
Or maybe you don’t mind moving? Your landlord might not agree to a rent reduction, but there’s nothing to stop you from choosing not to renew your lease as long as you give enough notice. Have a good hard think about if you really want to stay, or if you’d secretly be excited to move into a much nicer place for the same money you’re paying now, or save some bucks by going somewhere similar and cheaper. Keep the timing of possible moves in mind to check whether it’d be worth the headache. I tried moving house during exams once. Do not recommend.
Step 3: Are you worthy of a reduction?
Figure out how valuable you are as a tenant. It is best to be brutally honest with yourself here. Did your rent inspection reports always come back clean? Was the rent always paid on time? Did your housemate Dave definitely remember to water all the plants in the backyard while you were away on holiday? No? Did he replace every single one of them in a guilt-stricken Bunnings spending spree so nobody could tell the difference? That’s probably fine then.
Andrew Paterson, an award-winning property manager at Fletchers Real Estate, says, “We advise owners that if they have a good tenant they should respect that and keep them on for as long as possible.” Property managers are always trying to juggle several different factors in getting the best deal for the property owners, so if you’ve been a good tenant, they are more likely to try and keep you (even if it means lowering the rent just a teensy bit).
Step 4: Draft an email
Remember how you bookmarked those properties similar to yours in Step #1? Draft an email to your property manager politely asking for the rent on the new lease to be the new lower price you figured out. Explain that this adjustment is in line with market changes, and link these similar properties as examples. Get someone else to have a look at the draft email before you send it, just to check you have the right tone and correct spellings.
They may ask you to come in to discuss it in person or on the phone, but it’s worth sending an email first anyway. They might be very busy and prefer to negotiate via email, and having the comparative research done for them and the specifics of what you want already written down makes it easier for your agent to pass your request on to the landlord.
Step 5: Pushback is OK
Expect a little pushback. It’s the property manager’s job to get the landlord as much rent as they reasonably can so they will obviously prefer that you pay a higher amount. Be prepared to compromise, and don’t be afraid of a little back-and-forth haggling.
Paterson says, “The owner is guided by the agent as to what the market rent is, based on recent comparable evidence. Some owners want to have the final say and others purely take the advice of the agent.” Translation: try not to blame the property manager if you’re not getting what you want. They would know even better than you do how the market has changed and might be caught between a tenant and a hard place.
Also, be nice to your property manager! If the owner has a lot of faith in them they might be the one who decides whether or not you get the reduction. Maybe be nice to everyone, just to be safe.
Decide what you’re going to do with the extra money you’ll have now. Holiday? New couch? A box with 130 gourmet doughnuts? A clever money-snowballing trick is to set up an automatic transfer from your bank account to a separate savings account for the difference between your old rent and your new reduced rent.
Decide what you want to eventually spend it on and then pretend it’s not there for the course of your lease – some accounts give you a reward for not making any withdrawals that month. Then by the time your lease is up, you will have the money you saved from paying less rent all year and also a sweet little bonus from the interest.
Yvonne Buresch is a Perth-based freelance writer who was once described as “a human golden retriever” and has written for The Vocal and Pelican Magazine