When to try and negotiate rent? (West Los Angeles edition)
September 2, 2016 1:09 PM   Subscribe

The property management company I rent from just raised my rent a legally permissible but (to me) large amount. I'm in west LA. Should I deal with it, or try to negotiate?

My hope is that by negotiating I could reduce the increase a bit. Potential downsides: being thought of as a problem tenant, which might result in negative attention from management.

I've been more or less a model tenant for three years. To the best of my knowledge, I've generated no complaints. My rent has always been on time or ahead of time. Aside from routine maintenance (largest thing being "my fridge door won't seal and it's leaking water all over the floor, you should probably fix that!") I have never asked anything of them.

They've typically raised my rent by around 1.5-3% per year. This year they raised it by 6%. The new rent is a bit higher than the average for a 1br/1ba in my neighborhood, based on a variety of sources. Old rent was right on the current average. I can still make the new rent, but it's a big enough chunk of my monthly income in one that I'm a bit annoyed.

In previous (smaller/less popular) cities, I know people who have successfully negotiated lower rent increases with even large management companies. The basic model is "hey, I'm a known quantity and you know I'll be here and pay my rent on time and not cause a fuss. If I leave, you have to deal with sprucing up the apartment and looking for a tenant who may or may not be a problem. Therefore it is in your best interests to play ball with me."

I could probably get lower rent if I moved to a slightly less nice place in a slightly less nice part of town (closer to the freeway, older building maybe more at risk in an earthquake, not on the top floor, etc), but I'd have to deal with the inconvenience and expense of moving, and the uncertainty of new digs (neighbors? management company? maybe better the devil I know) to save at best a couple hundred bucks a month.

I think if it were up to the on-site manager, who likes me, I might have a shot. She just works for some faceless LLC, so I worry that if I ask I may end up just being marked by someone higher up as a 'problem tenant.'

Potential complications: the company name I make my rent check out to just changed. The on-site manager implied it's the same people, just a different business structure. Unclear if that helps or hurts my case. Also: I'm month-to-month right now. My job is not amazingly stable at the moment, so there's something to be said for having the ability to easily relocate if I end up with a new gig in a different part of town.

So, worth it to try? Or is the risk of the management company deciding they don't like me and potential being dicks in the future worth keeping my head down?
posted by Alterscape to Work & Money (7 answers total)
Best answer: I guarantee you that they have far bigger problem tenants that they can't get rid of than one who politely pushes back on the rent increase.

Go to the manager and say, "Hey, is there anything I can offer to bring this number down? 12- or 18-month lease, maybe?" Just find out, you don't have to commit, but if they're basing this increase on your month-to-month standing, maybe making yourself a more known quantity is worth it to them.

Don't be a dick, and don't overestimate your significance, but pretty much all property management companies prefer not to have to turn over a property if they can help it, so you do have that value to them.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:23 PM on September 2, 2016 [6 favorites]

Best answer: The most important thing to know is what a new tenant will be paying for your unit, factoring in a guess at how long it would take to find a new tenant. If they will be paying more, the math is pretty clear for them to keep you around. I have been in this situation and come out with no rent increase at all.

If, on the other hand, the new tenant will be paying *more* — that's a different deal.
posted by billjings at 1:29 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

You generally either pay a premium or get a discount based on the length of your lease (e.g. rent is $1500 if a 1-yr, $1400 for a 2-yr, or $1600 for a 6-mo.) and month-to-month is the situation where you are least likely to be cut a break.

Like Lyn Never says: don't be a dick, don't try to throw your weight around, and be prepared to sign a lease if you want a break. But I'm not seeing any sort of risk you would be taking by just starting the conversation.
posted by griphus at 1:31 PM on September 2, 2016

Unless the company is unusually unreasonable, there's no harm in asking. There are a lot of shitty tenants out there--they don't pay rent, they damage the property, and so on. A reliable, long-term tenant who tries to negotiate their rent just really isn't in the same category.

You have a couple things going for you. You're known to be reliable, where a new tenant is a risk. Additionally, new tenants are costly in the short term, because of the time the apartment sits empty and because of the routine cleaning/maintenance.

I don't know how far you'll get with a huge company--they have different policies on how much it's even POSSIBLE for managers of properties to negotiate. But don't let being a "problem tenant" hold you back from trying.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:12 PM on September 2, 2016

We negotiated a rent increase reduction (in Playa Del Rey) by documenting how well we'd taken care of the place, including taking care of some problems without bothering our landlord (patched some holes, rebuilt a busted trellis). If you're a better-than-average tenant, don't hesitate to show that off a bit.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 2:15 PM on September 2, 2016

CA rents are so outrageous right now that while you can ask, I'd be surprised if you got a reduction. As a model tenant in Orange County I was offered a 6 month lease renewal that was CHEAPER than the one year lease. When asked why and pointing out I was a great tenant, I was told they had prospective tenants lined up who would gladly pay more than I was paying so it would be fine with them if I moved out. Being a good tenant isn't worth what it used to be here.
posted by cecic at 3:46 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I tried to negotiate when they raised my rent an insane amount and they weren't having it. Those are the rates that they are given by the company that owns them, they said, and that is what the leasing agents abide by. So I just moved out because I thought it was ridiculous.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:33 AM on September 4, 2016

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