Many landlords and management companies use boilerplate lease forms when they rent apartments or houses to tenants. Sometimes they choose to do this because these boilerplate forms include rules that building management companies and landlords must follow in order to comply with state lawâ€”for instance, the contracts often cite minimum or maximum amounts legally accepted for deposit. But many other aspects of these contracts are arbitrary and set up to assuage a rental manager's or management company's concernsâ€”such as a mandate that renters annually earn a certain multiple of the monthly rent price, move in and out on certain dates, or possess a particular credit score. If you want to negotiate your lease terms, make clear to a landlord or management company that you have read the lease and understand you're requesting changes, then discuss what you're willing to sacrifice or do in order to receive those changes. Your changes should be added to the lease and signed or initialed by both you and the landlord so that they're on the record or in the event that the manager who agreed to the changes leaves. Keep in mind that some of your requests may not be permissible under some local or state laws, but it never hurts to ask upfront about what changes best suit your situation. Here are some examples of situations where renters might be able to negotiate terms.
Financial changes: Can't pay a deposit, first month, and last month all at once? Ask the landlord if you can pay the deposit and first month now, and make three or four payments toward the last payment over the next three or four months. That way, you fulfill the manager's requirement for the last month's rent in advance but pay toward it at a pace that leaves you some financial breathing room.
Lease length: Most leases are built for a 12-month term. If life circumstances make it sensible for you to rent for a shorter amount of time, ask the landlord or manager if you can get a six-month lease followed by a month-to-month leaseâ€”or if you can rent month-to-month from the outset in exchange for paying a slightly higher rent rate. Alternatively, you could ask if you can write into the lease the right to break it after a certain amount of time for little or no penalty.
Concessions: If you're particularly interested in a building that doesn't offer concessions (landlord-speak for incentives, such as free parking, one month free on a year lease, etc.) and you're aware that other landlords in the area are offering them, it can't hurt to notify the landlord that you're debating between two buildings, prefer theirs, but are wondering if he or she will offer the same concessions other landlords are offering. In order to get the concessions, you may need to agree to a slightly longer lease (especially if you're getting a month free in exchange for a lease of a certain length) or other terms.
What's negotiable in a lease varies widely by market, landlord, neighborhood, and your traits as a rental applicant, but the possibilities are limitless. Just remember to show respect for the landlord with whom you're negotiating and to get your changes in writing.