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How to negotiate rent as a student during the pandemic

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If you live in a college town or a suburb near the university, you may have more negotiating power during the pandemic. Source: Ketut Subiyanto/Pexels

Students around the world are learning several life skills during the pandemic — one of them being how to effectively negotiate rent. Some may only move in later because of travel restrictions, while others are struggling to pay normal rates after losing part-time jobs. At the same time, higher education hubs are suffering from the loss of goods and services revenue that international students contribute. In Australia, for example, rental rates have dropped dramatically in Sydney and Melbourne, which previously hosted thousands of students from countries near and far.

So if you live off-campus, a rental rebate might not only be desirable but achievable in 2021. Before you begin to negotiate rent, however, make sure you have the relevant payment and maintenance records on hand. Only responsible tenants get special consideration, right?

Know your area

The first step is always research. If you live in a college town or a suburb near the university, know that agents are struggling to fill properties in that area. COVID-19 campus closures have cast blinding uncertainty over these rental markets, which means owners are willing to lower their price if they find a responsible, long-term tenant.

Compare listings

It’s good practice to keep up with the rent in other buildings around your area; this could come in handy when you negotiate rent. Find out the current rates for homes like yours to determine how the market has changed. “Compare what similar properties in your area are going for and negotiate with your landlord on a rental price that more accurately reflects market rate,” advised Graham Cookie, insights manager for comparison site Finder.com.au.

Be honest but reasonable

Tenants who forge relationships with the landlord beyond the lease stand to benefit the most from an upfront approach. When you negotiate rent, be honest about why you need the reduction. Explain the situation at your school or workplace, and how it will affect you in the coming months. At the same time, put yourself in the shoes of your homeowner; a couple renting their house would not have the same negotiating power as a corporation that owns several properties. Consider how your landlord has been affected by the pandemic, too, then steer your deal accordingly.

Design a payment scheme

In the spirit of meeting halfway, you could work with your landlord to design an alternative payment scheme that would benefit both of you. Find out what your landlord values right now, and use that to inform your plan. For example, if they prefer a lump sum payment, offer to pay upfront for a certain number of months in exchange for a discount. If they prefer a fixed payment every month, set and stick to a monthly deadline so your landlord knows you’re good for it. 

Review your agreement

If your contract is coming to an end in a couple of months, this is the right time to negotiate rent. Come up with pointers that will effectively relay why you need a rebate. Did you or your family lose a source of income? Are you unable to stay at the property for the entire booked duration? Consider the changes in your life since you first booked the place, and how they affect your spending power moving forward.

Besides that, consider if you are making full use of the fixtures and amenities — if not, see what you can give up in exchange for a reduced rate. For example, your landlord could rent out your unused parking lot and cut that amount from your rent. Once you’ve ironed out your proposal, reach out to the landlord on their favourite communication channel to pitch it.