Most people don’t usually think of their rental lease as negotiable – it’s just a document that you have to sign when moving into your apartment. However, a lease is a contract, and is negotiable as such. While your landlord certainly has superior bargaining power and may not budge on certain demands of yours, you’d be surprised what you may be able compromise on.
One negotiable element of your lease is the security deposit, and today we’re going to offer some tips on working with your landlord to lower the amount of deposit that you have to put down. If you’re not confident taking care of the negotiations yourself, a lawyer can help prepare you, or even sit at the negotiating table with you for support.
How to Negotiate Down Your Security Deposit
The whole point of a security deposit is to protect the landlord’s property in the event that a tenant damages it. In general, a landlord will ask for one to three months’ rent, but this amount is not set in stone (although state law will usually set a maximum limit on security deposit amounts). Therefore, if you can make a strong case that you’re a low-risk tenant, you can probably convince your landlord to lower the security deposit amount from their original demand. Some factors to point out during the negotiations are your good credit, your stable income, your lack of kids and/or pets, stellar references from previous landlords, and the like.
As with any negotiation, though, don’t be unreasonable. If your landlord asked for a security deposit in the amount of one month’s rent, then your offer of $50 will probably be rejected. However, if you’ve convinced the landlord that you’ll be a model tenant and pose little or no risk of damage, then you could probably get away with asking for a couple of hundred dollars off. Another reason to keep your request reasonable is that you don’t want to jeopardize your relationship with your landlord at the outset. An insulting offer could just annoy them and make them dislike you.
You can also bolster your case by being aware of any special circumstances surrounding the unit itself. For example, if the apartment has been vacant for a long time, the landlord may be chomping at the bit to get it rented and therefore be more amenable to bigger discounts on the security deposit. Also, if there are similar units in the area available at about the same rent but with lower security deposits, then you can leverage this fact during the negotiations in order to get the landlord to match their competitors.
The Negotiating Process
The first step to negotiating over your security deposit is to come up with an amount and ask your landlord if they’ll accept it in lieu of their default amount. This will go one of three ways: they’ll accept, they’ll refuse outright, or they’ll counteroffer. If they accept, then congratulations on your reduced security deposit! If they refuse or counteroffer, then this is where the negotiations truly begin. You’ll want to restate your case for a reduced deposit and make another offer for a reduced deposit that is a slight compromise in the direction of the amount the landlord is asking for. After going back and forth a few times, you should ideally arrive at a happy medium. It’s said that the sign of a successful negotiation is that both sides feel like they won. If you don’t feel comfortable with this process, speak with an attorney at a local law firm and ask them to help you with negotiation strategy, or even to represent you during the negotiations.
Although most renters think of a lease as an immutable document full of terms that are simply dictated to them by their landlord, leases are actually negotiable contracts. One of the areas where a renter might want to negotiate is over the security deposit. Security deposits are one of the biggest upfront costs of renting, and some relief in this area can be a big help. As long as you approach the negotiations tactfully, you’d be shocked how much of a discount you can get!