Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Real Estate Investing: Tips on Negotiating Leases

Ask for a copy of the lease before the lease signing, so you have time to review it. If you're reading this tip right before the lease signing and have yet to see the lease, don't worry. Just read over the lease carefully at the signing. If you feel uncomfortable with the lease or want someone to review it, ask to reschedule the lease signing appointment – have all legal contracts and documents reviewed by an attorney.

  1. Negotiate only with the landlord or someone who has the authority to make decisions. The broker cannot make any decisions, unless they have “Power of Attorney”, or are the “Trustee” of the Land or Realty Trust that the property may be in.
  2. Choose one person to be the negotiator, if you're signing the lease with your roommate or spouse. You don't want multiple people chiming in with points that contradict each other.
  3. Know basic information about the landlord and try to understand the landlord's position. Is your apartment owned by real estate management company with thousands of units or a family renting out a room or their second home? Will a $25 reduction in rent be a big deal to them? Knowing the landlord's concerns will help you tailor your arguments in the lease negotiation.
  4. The best negotiation time is during the signing of the lease when the landlord has approved you for the apartment and is ready to close the deal. You only have negotiation power when you have something the landlord wants.
  5. Ask questions before you begin the lease negotiation. It's good to demonstrate your reliability as a good tenant. This is the one thing you can offer the landlord that will make him or her more open to negotiation. Asking questions is one way to show the landlord that you want to follow the rules.
  6. Begin the lease negotiation after you've read the lease and asked all your questions. First identify what you want to change and why. Maybe you want a lower rent because it's higher than all the other apartments you've looked at and you see no reason for the higher rent. Or the ceiling is leaking and you want a guarantee that it will be fixed within a week, because you've had bad experiences with neglectful landlords.
  7. If the landlord resists putting any changes in writing or seems offended or hurt by your negotiation, be ready to reassure him or her that you trust him, but you are a person who likes to play it safe.
  8. If the landlord argues with you or puts you on the defensive, acknowledge the landlord's points by explaining why these concerns don't apply to you and remind him or her of your qualifications (good credit, timely rent payments, no disturbances, no damage).
  9. Always ask twice, followed by the reason. Giving more than one argument during the lease negotiation lends further support to your request.
  10. Write down all agreements on a piece of paper that is signed by all the tenants and the landlord. If it's a change to the lease, correct it on the actual lease, or write a lease rider that specifies it is overriding the lease. If any of the agreements are promised actions--such as repairs--write down a deadline (the water pressure must be fixed by this date).
  11. Know what your expectations are beforehand. Will you sign the lease if the landlord refuses? How flexible will you be if the landlord agrees to part of your suggestions?
  12. Be polite. Don't get angry or hostile, even if the landlord does. Take the higher ground and the landlord may respect your professionalism and believe you to be a good tenant.
  13. Do not make ultimatums--change this or I won't sign the lease--unless, of course, you mean it. If you don't mean it, this will only backfire and prove to the landlord that you're being manipulative, and therefore untrustworthy.
  14. Only negotiate items that are most important to you. Decide which issues are too small to argue over. The landlord is unlikely to concede to every issue, so pick your battles.