roommate's leaving. any chance of negotiationg a way to keep the place myself but with a lower rent for single occupancy?
February 6, 2009 2:56 PM   Subscribe

Longtime roommate is moving out, and I'm not so hot on getting a new one. Any tips on the possibility of negotiating a rent decrease based on single-occupancy vs. double?

So I've had the same roommate for many years. But she's moving out to live with her boyfriend (not a temporary thing).

We had each other pretty well "trained", and so I'm not that enthusiastic about getting another roommate.

But I'm also not that enthusiastic about doubling my rent either. As much as I really like our current place, it's a bit too pricey to carry all by myself for more than a few months while I decide what to do.

So I'm thinking, if anyone has ever negotiated with a landlord (amicably, he's a nice fellow ans has treated us right) and had any success on a "there were two people in the unit paying X dollars a month, now that there's only one tenant, any chance of knocking a couple hundred dollars off the rent?" type deal, could you give me any hints?

I'd like to stay put, but not at the current price. A couple hundred dollars a month either way is the difference between keeping the place or moving elsewhere that's cheaper but not so nice.

I'm in San Francisco, which has a notoriously tight (read: insane) rental market, but I figure it couldn't hurt to ask. But I also figure it couldn't help to get any pointers that the hive mind might be able to give me first.

lil' help?
posted by bartleby to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Likely, no. Why would the owner make less money than he otherwise could?

With that said, anything is possible. My main angles for negotiation would be reduced wear-and-tear on the property, reduced hassle in dealing with multiple tenants, and the strength of your existing relationship (i.e. the devil you know vs the devil you don't).

Just don't be surprised if you get a no.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 3:01 PM on February 6, 2009

Landlords don't set rent based on the number of people living in a property. There is so little chance of this happening that you should not even bother your landlord with the question.
posted by kindall at 3:04 PM on February 6, 2009 [11 favorites]

I'm a big fan of asking, even when you think it's pointless. I figure if I didn't try at all, I couldn't succeed... So certainly ask. But the way you've laid out the facts, I wouldn't get your hopes up at all and have a backup plan for if/when he says no.

You have to look at it from his perspective. What does your landlord have to gain in this? Especially where the San Francisco market where he could let you go and get someone to pay your full rent... or maybe more?

He might give you a short term reprise until you find someone, and if he's smart, he lays out the term of the reprise in writing.
posted by jerseygirl at 3:08 PM on February 6, 2009

I think your only chance is if the utilities are included in your rent - now they'll effectively be reduced (less water, less electricity), so maybe he'll be nice?
posted by tristeza at 3:22 PM on February 6, 2009

No harm in asking, I suppose, but the number of people in the unit makes no difference to the landlord. Especially so in a tight market where there's plenty of demand, and if you can't pay it, someone else likely can and will. The landlord has costs to cover: the mortgage, taxes, whatever utilities aren't in your name, insurance, etc. - chances are, those costs somewhat dictate the rent.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 3:35 PM on February 6, 2009

I have had friends get drastic deceases in rent by asking.

Factors: if the landlord has multiple properties and regularly has problems filling the units with people who don't cause problems and pay rent on time, he might be willing to lower rent to keep you as an ongoing tenant.

If it is his only rental property, chances of getting the rent lowered approach zero. If the apartment is managed through a management company, chances of getting the rent lowered are zero.

But, you have to be prepared to leave if the answer is no.
posted by hworth at 3:45 PM on February 6, 2009

I was in a very similar situation a few months ago. I told the landlord I couldn't afford to pay for the whole place, and very simply asked if I could stay until he found new tenats. If the unit is very desirable then they may say no and your out of luck, however if you've been a good tenant and they can afford the reduction in income than they may just go along until they can find someone else. Either way it never hurts to ask; if they're smart and you've been "good" for the last few years they probably won't have a problem. Basically they can get some $$$ coming in while they shop the place around or they can get nothing.
posted by Scientifik at 3:59 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

There is so little chance of this happening that you should not even bother your landlord with the question.

This is true. Which is why you frame it as "I've lived here X long, without any problems for you, and would love to keep living here. It would be super helpful if you could knock a little off the rent, otherwise I'm going to have to start looking for a new roommate, and if that search doesn't go well you're gonna have to go through the hassle and concern of new tenants."
posted by inigo2 at 4:00 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree with Kindall. If he's 'a nice fellow who's treated you right' this is really not a nice thing to do to him.

However, if you're set on doing this, I would look for ways to make yourself and your space more useful to him. Do you have any home improvement skills? Is it possible you live near a small business that would want to use the vacated bedroom for storage?
posted by kmennie at 4:03 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

WTF @ all the responses telling you to not even bother asking. Uhm, I live in SF too, and I have a friend who did exactly this... broke up with their SO, and expected to have to move out because he couldn't swing the rent on his own. After looking around unsuccessfully for a decent place, he asked his landlord if there was any way they could negotiate the rent.

Long story short, he is still living in the same place. And this is a pretty big building, in a desirable area, and you know the market is real shitty for the renter here.

Having vacant apartments sucks for a landlord. Losing good tenant sucks for a landlord. He's not going to halve your rent, but he may be willing to work with you on this. Also, is there anything you can be flexible about, such as giving back a parking space, etc.?
posted by danny the boy at 4:15 PM on February 6, 2009

Remember: You don't ask, you don't get-- and the worst he can say is no.

Instead of getting a roommate, maybe you could think of another way to get the same amount of money for the space with alternate uses. What about renting the room as storage, an artists' space, music practice studio, etc? Depends on the size, area, and how much you're willing to accommodate the changes, I suppose.
posted by aquafortis at 4:25 PM on February 6, 2009

He's not going to care that there's only one of you, but he will care if he's got to find someone new. Think about it this way. Even if it takes only a month to get the apartment cleaned and signed to new tenants, that's what, $2000 of lost income? That's a reduction of $166 off your monthly rate, not counting his time and expenses.

There was an article in the guardian or one of the other weeklies about nightmare tenants. There are a lot of difficult people in SF; a tenant who is reliable about paying rent is better than getting a higher monthly rent from someone who stops paying after the first two months, and subsequently takes the landlord 6 months to evict. It helps you that the economy is shit right now and people are losing their steady incomes.

Oh and for chrissakes, don't say something vaguely threatening like "you sure don't want the hassle of finding new tenants, do you?". Because that instantly turns you into one of those problem tenants. Just be honest, and nice, about your situation.

On the other hand, you'll probably want to keeping looking for a new spot if you really want to live on your own.
posted by danny the boy at 4:32 PM on February 6, 2009

Yeah, I'm with those who say it never hurts to ask.

Just remind him of your strengths, and that they've been great to deal with and that you really like it there, is some way they could help you out a bit as you'd really prefer not to have to move?

The worst they can do is say no, and you'll know that you tried.
posted by cestmoi15 at 4:43 PM on February 6, 2009

And for what it's worth, my response is based on my experience -- most landlords (big or small) don't like searching for new tenants, and you're not "threatening" them if you mention that. And some landlords agree, as mine did.
posted by inigo2 at 5:05 PM on February 6, 2009

Maybe things are so different in San Francisco that they merit the "don't even ask" responses, but I've had landlords who've asked for significantly more rent for an extra person moving in - because of the increase in wear and tear.

Obviously, increasing rent above the market level for a couple sharing a room isn't the same thing as lowering it below market level for a person living alone, but it's pretty difficult to read a landlord's mind, and if you're on good terms and just asking him to consider it, I think it's worth a try.
posted by carbide at 5:30 PM on February 6, 2009

I've been on the other end of this negotiation where it worked. Some major caveats though. . .

1) This was a detached home with 3 guys asking for a rent reprieve down to 2
2) Their justification was that they couldn't find a 3rd because of a broken bathroom
3) They only asked for 3 months of lower rent

But! It's not fun to refurbish a place, and then find a new tenant. I'm guessing you're in an apartment, which means that it very well may be managed by someone who is not the owner. If I were you, I would probably say that you realize that they probably don't want to be looking for a new tenant just as you do not want to move out. . . I'd offer to throw them a couple more bucks a month and see if they go for it. If they're landlords with a lot on their plate (like us) they will be open to it. Good luck.
posted by No New Diamonds Please at 5:30 PM on February 6, 2009

No harm in asking. I did (albeit in a low-demand area) saying that I'd have to look for someplace cheaper if my landlord couldn't decrease the monthly rent. I had been an excellent tenant (small college town) so that was something in my favour.

Perhaps when you ask, agree to re-sign a long(er) term lease. Finding new tenants is a pain in the ass. If the place you're renting from is a larger company, the manager may be obligated to do a certain minimum amount of advertising which is expensive and cut into their bottom line (but then again, if they find a new tenant, they might be able to charge a lot more per month than they're charging you now).

Look around to see what the rental prices are in your neighbourhood. If the average rental price is lower than what you're paying now, bring the numbers with you when you renegotiate (ie., "the year over year average for this type of unit in this neighbourhood has decreased by x%... what with the economy, it might even decrease some more...").
posted by porpoise at 6:14 PM on February 6, 2009

Nthing that there's no harm in asking. Landlords, already wary of others' horror stories about bad tenants, generally quickly acquire some tenant horror stories of their own. There is value in being a good tenant who pays on time.
posted by desuetude at 6:20 PM on February 6, 2009

Landlords don't set rent based on the number of people living in a property.

This hasn't been my experience. I once viewed an apartment before knowing whether I'd have one or two roommates, and the landlord quoted one amount for two tenants and another, $300 higher, for three. When my current place was rented to two tenants (my SO and another guy) was one rent, when another roommate moved in the landlord raised the rent by $100, and when my SO's two roommates moved out and I moved in we persuaded him to lower it back to the original two-tenant rent. It's not a huge percentage of the overall rent, but it's something.

Another vote to just go ahead and ask.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:40 PM on February 6, 2009

Former rental agent here.

As others have stated, landlords are not in the business of renting part of an apartment. Maybe in some college towns they do this, but you're right, not in San Francisco.

However, rental prices ARE decreasing nationally - even in New York City! - and he will lose money if you leave and he has to turn the place over and look for a new tenant. Keeping a current tenant who is a good tenant, who has paid the rent on time consistently, kept the unit in good repair, and hasn't caused problems is a GOOD THING for landlords. They *like* keeping tenants who are good tenants. Trying to work something out would be beneficial for both landlord and tenant, so I'm kind of befuddled at the "this is a horrible thing to do to a nice person" responses.

I wouldn't phrase it as "it's just me now," I would, however, ask him if he has any smaller units available, because your roommate is moving out and you're not keen on getting a new one, but the rent is a little more than you were looking to pay. That gives him the option of offering you a decrease, or offering you another cheaper unit on the property. I realize the latter is not what you want, but it's a way of asking the question without seeming like you don't understand that you live in San Francisco.

Worst case scenario, you ask, he says no, you give notice and move, or you decide to suck it up and stay. I can't really see the pitfalls in asking. Asking is not going to put you on some kind of BAD TENANT list that will mark you for the rest of your life or something.
posted by micawber at 7:19 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think the first step would be to do a bit of investigation into rents in your area. It looks like we're at the beginning of a trend of residential rental rates falling--basically, a lot of people who were in the real estate market to flip houses are now stuck with them and are trying to rent them out to at least get some cash flow--and if that's the case in your area, you might have an excellent chance of negotiating your rent down.

I'd see if you could find comparable apartments in the area renting for less, then go to your landlord, explain that your roommate is moving out, and that you'd like to stay in your current place just to avoid the hassle of moving but you'll need a rent decrease to do so. Explain that there are comparable units in the area renting for $X less, and if he could match (or at least get close) to those rents than you can stay, but otherwise you're going to need to move.

*In general*, I agree with the people above that landlords usually don't care about how many people are in the unit, so under usual circumstances you'd probably be out of luck. However, the thing that any landlord should be concerned about is "how much rent could I get from the next tenant if my current one moves?" By showing your landlord that the rental prices are much lower (if s/he isn't already aware of this) because these are somewhat abnormal times in the rental market nationally, you strengthen your bargaining position a lot. But I'd definitely go in prepared to argue & show proof that rents for similar places on the market now are much lower than a few months ago, rather than just arguing that you can't afford it.
posted by iminurmefi at 8:29 AM on February 7, 2009

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