In the time of run away rent increases, lack of government controls and rising inflation, it is time for renters to start thinking about negotiating the terms of leases. Attorneys who deal with landlord disputes often get called in only when an eviction is looming. It is time for renters to unite, form blocks of renters unions and set clear guidelines for reasonable, rather than unreasonable, rent increases. My rent has increase 40% in four years. The ‘normal’ amount of increase should have been 12% to 16%. And as always, wages have not kept up.

Negotiations of Leases Between Residential Renters and Landlords

Renters and landlords are often at opposing ends in real estate transactions. Many landlords have a standard lease form that they use for all tenants. However, there may come times when a renter wants something other than what is in the boilerplate language a standard lease agreement contains. The renter or the landlord may wish to negotiate different terms. Some ways to accomplish this include:

Understand the Motivations of the Parties

Renters and landlords may have very different interests and motivations. A renter may be in a time crunch and may need to move quickly. A landlord may have had a vacant unit for some time and may wish to fill it. The process can get even more complicated when a leasing company is involved. This company often gets paid every month regardless of whether the unit is vacant or not. If the unit is not filled, it is paid for looking for a renter. As such, this company may not be under the same pressures as an independent landlord. Therefore, an independent landlord may be more likely to negotiate than a leasing company. Even if a leasing company is willing to negotiate, the person showing the property may not have the authority to negotiate with the renter.


Research is a fundamental component to any negotiation. The renter should educate himself or herself about the real estate market in the area before signing his or her lease. This includes investigating the respective costs of other units in the area of similar size and style, looking at the amenities that different locations provide and whether there are many vacant units in close proximity that represent competition to the landlord. By being armed with this information, the renter will be in a better position to negotiate more favorable terms.

Identify Strong Characteristics

The renter can also make his or her case better if he or she can show positive characteristics that he or she offers. For example, if the renter has a strong rental history, he or she can point out this information. Landlords prefer stable renters who pay on time, take care of the unit and have stayed on the property for quite some time. By providing solid references from former landlords, a renter can be more persuasive.

Offer Something in Return

If a tenant is looking for something in particular, such as a lower security deposit, lower rent or more amenities, he or she can offer something in return. Some tradeoffs that the renter might be able to make is to sign a longer lease, such as for 18 months or two years instead of a six-month or 12-month lease, paying more in a security deposit or paying advance rent or giving up shared space or a parking spot that is unneeded.

Examine Other Options

One important aspect of negotiation is having other options open so that the targeted location is not the exclusive choice. This gives the renter leverage and options. Additionally, if the negotiations do not go well for the renter, he or she has another option. This requires the renter to actively look for other units that will fit his or her needs.

Consider Preferred Provisions

Once the renter has all of the research completed and points to negotiate, he or she should carefully narrow in on the new terms he or she wants in the lease. He or she may want an option to sublease the unit in the event that he or she has a job change or wants to move before the end of the lease term. This provides additional protection in case one of the offers the renter makes is a longer lease term. The renter might want an option to renew the lease based on the current or new terms.

Carefully Review the Lease

After the negotiations, both parties should carefully review the lease. This will help ensure that the agreement the parties made is actually memorialized. The parties should carefully check provisions related to payment, who is responsible for repairs and maintenance, insurance information and how absences are treated. Both parties should be clear on who pays for what. If the contract has to be enforced in the future, the terms of the lease will be what the court examines.

Seek Legal Assistance

Negotiating a lease can be complicated. It is a legally-binding contract between the parties with legal consequences. To protect their interests, many renters enlist the assistance of a real estate lawyer. A real estate lawyer can review and negotiate the lease.

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Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws they may affect a case.

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