Before You Sign a Lease

How Tenants Should Negotiate a Lease

To assist you in determining which battles to choose as a tenant, a list of the most reasonable demands you may be entitled to have been summed up below. You should add or remove items from this list based upon specific clauses contained in your landlord’s lease agreement and your personal needs.

Reasonable Demands Worth Negotiating:

Term of Lease
Whether it’s month-to-month, semi-annual, annual or whatever, the length of your lease is worth discussing.

Monthly Rent Amount
This is one of those things that is never set in stone, especially when dealing with individual landlords who own a house for rent. Apartment communities, on the other hand, may have a more difficult time with this, due to the potential backlash from other tenants if your rent is negotiated differently. However, you may be able to negotiate sometime type of move-in incentive.

Security Deposit
Since you can usually expect to pay a security deposit, the best way to negotiate this aspect is to either ask for a reduction based upon your stellar credit worthiness or have it prorated over three months. Anything beyond that would be difficult for most landlords to accept.

Assignment and Subletting
This becomes important if you are unsure of the length of your stay, because it provides a way out if you need to leave.

Redecoration and Alterations
If you intend on making any significant changes, this should be discussed and perhaps written into the lease agreement. This is especially necessary for those of you that would like to make serious modifications – such as putting in wood flooring, ceramic tile, etc. This level or degree of change may even get you a credit toward a portion of your rent.

Utilities
This applies more often to individual landlords. Once again, apartment communities will have policies they must adhere to ensure all tenants are treated equally. Landlords (in today’s rental market) will at least listen to what you have to propose and may surprise you by sometimes agreeing to it.

Maintenance and Repairs
A maintenance-free lease on your part is of course best, but the details of your unit’s requirements will have to be spelled out. Generally, anything to keep the unit habitable that is subject to failure due to normal wear and tear should be the landlord’s responsibility.

Pets and Animals
This is another one of those negotiable factors. Landlords can refuse to accept your dog, cat, python or fish tank, so you may have to throw a little extra their way to convince them that your little creature is landlord friendly.

Cleaning Fee
If required by the landlord, the importance of the cleaning fee is to ensure you will leave in the unit shiny and odor-free. Therefore, if you can clean up after yourself and do a good job at polishing the rental, then you should ask for the cleaning fee to be listed as refundable or not subject to withholding. That way – so long as you’ve cleaned the unit to a reasonable level of satisfaction – you’ve saved a little money. Some state laws will automatically allow you one more opportunity to clean the unit before the landlord can deduct this fee from your security deposit. States that specifically address cleaning fees will be published later as it’s very own topic.