10 Clever Ways to Reduce Your Rent

by Mark Heidelberger

Maybe you don’t have to pay market rental rates to keep a roof over your head. Keep more money in your own pocket with these clever ways to reduce your rent.

Over the last year, the national average rent payment has risen by 3.2%, rising to $1,467 per month in October 2019, according to RentCafe.com. However, when it comes to reducing your rent, a little ingenuity can go a long way.

Ian Vishnevsky has owned residential real estate in several cities around the country since 2001, and Rene Mooshy has served as property manager for a multi-unit building in North Hollywood, California since 2008. Both share some clever ideas that may allow you to keep more of that rent money in your own pocket.

1. Building Management

Landlords often need on-site managers like Mooshy to keep units filled, collect rent, supervise maintenance, and handle tenant requests. If you have the appropriate skills and a flexible enough work schedule to handle these tasks, the landlord may be willing to reduce your rent. Discounts usually vary anywhere from 20 percent all the way up to a free unit, depending on the size and needs of the building.

2. Building Maintenance

Some renters are more cut out for maintenance than management. If you can fix a leaky faucet or replace a broken door knob, your landlord may be willing to lower your rent in exchange for your services. Again, the discount will typically depend on the needs of the complex, but even smaller places require routine maintenance like watering grass, sweeping steps, or changing light bulbs.

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3. Subleasing

A sublease involves the tenant renting all or part of the property to another tenant. This can be helpful to renters with spare bedrooms or to college students who have no need for their apartment during summer months. However, check the terms of your lease carefully first, as many landlords prohibit subleasing in order to maintain better control over who occupies their units.

4. Pay in Advance

Money talks. If you have a chunk of change saved up, consider offering your landlord six months or a year upfront in exchange for a free month. Many landlords will be more than happy to work out such an arrangement, according to Vishnevsky. However, he cautions that renters living in larger buildings managed by corporations have far less leverage than those in smaller, independently owned buildings.

5. Renew a Yearly Lease

Landlords are desperate to find and keep model tenants who pay rent on time, play nice with neighbors, and keep their units in good condition. If you’re on a month-to-month, leverage that good standing with your landlord by offering to sign a new one-year lease in exchange for a small reduction. Vishnevsky says this would be most effective in cases where you’re currently paying above-market rental rates.

6. Rent it Out While You’re Gone

According to a March 2013 Economist article by Rachel Botsman, peer-to-peer rental sharing (a la Airbnb) is a $26 billion dollar industry and growing. If you travel a lot, consider renting your unit to out-of-towners while you’re gone. Most will appreciate having a fully furnished apartment, especially if you live in a big “destination” area, and you’ll appreciate the rent offset.

7. Make Upgrades

Mooshy claims tenants in her building have offered to make permanent upgrades to their units in exchange for a rent reduction. Since the tenant can’t take the upgrades with them, the owner is often willing to reduce their rent for a month or three since she will be getting the value of those upgrades once the tenant leaves. The reduction, of course, depends on the value of the upgrade.

8. Refer Other Tenants

Ask your landlord if he gives discounts for referring qualified tenants to fill vacant units. Vishnevsky offers a $200 one-time discount for each referral. It saves him the time and effort of seeking out new tenants while also potentially reducing the amount of time a unit is unoccupied. Although the discount might seem minimal, it could add up if you’re able to refer tenants on a regular basis.

9. Give a Good Review

In an age where social media rules, positive reviews on sites like Yelp, Facebook, and Rent.com can translate into increased occupancy rates for landlords. And that means additional rent checks. Offer to write a positive review of your building on one or more sites in exchange for a one-time rent discount of 10 or 20 percent. Again, this will be most effective with smaller, independently owned properties.

10. Rent Out Your Parking Space

If you live in a building with assigned parking, you may be able to leverage your space by offering to provide it to another tenant (someone with additional vehicles) in exchange for a rent discount. This is most feasible if you don’t have your own vehicle or can park on your street. Mooshy says that tenants have offered their spaces up in exchange for shaving $50 to $75 off their monthly tab.

Reviewed November 2019

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