Negotiating Rent with Your Landlord during COVID 19

By: Jennifer Villalba August 6, 2020

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In the face of this pandemic, many people have lost their jobs or forced to shut their business, putting them into a huge financial crisis with the trails of unpaid bills.

According to one study, nearly 22 million Americans have lost their jobs. Many states have prohibited charging late fees, penalties, or other charges for renters for late payment of rent. In NYC, a tenant cannot be evicted for non-payment of rent for some time.

But this doesn’t immune you from paying rent.

Neither has it assured cash-strapped tenants of a bright future.

In this scenario, you can talk to your landlord to lower rent for a while. In other words, you can negotiate your rent.

Here’s how you can get your rent reduced during COVID 19.

Communicate Honestly:

First of all, set open and honest communication with your landlord. There is never a right time to start the communication. The sooner you talk to them, the better it could be for your situation.

Negotiating the rent at times can be a little stressful.

However, a good landlord is likely to retain good tenants for their rental properties rather than looking for a new one.

Talk to your landlord. Also, understand the financial condition of them as they generally rely on rent to earn their bread and butter.

However, there is a blurred line between negotiation and confrontation.

That’s why you should be as polite as possible. For example, avoid starting the conversation with a sentence such as “This month I am not able to pay rent, forgive me”. Such sentences might sound harsh to the landlord.

Instead, talk to them by saying, “I know this is a very complicated time for you too. I wanted to talk to you as I have lost my job. I can pay rent but I am not sure when I will get the job. Is there anything we can figure out?”

It will let them know that you are familiar with their situation. This will make your landlord more empathic and he can offer you a better solution.

Talk about Your Efforts to Paying Rent:

You can prepare a list of reasons why negotiation over rent is need of the hour for you right now.

Tell your landlord that you have tried many options so that a landlord can’t make you other “have-you-tried-this” type of suggestions.

Say that you have already minimized other expenses and give up on non-essentials and even used retirement funds to keep living up and running. Talk about how you are trying to collect unemployment insurance or other assistance.

This can convince your landlord that you are trying your best to make a payment, encouraging them to show a bit of positive response from their side.

Ponder Over Your Options:

There are other options you can discuss with your landlord. Some of them are

Rent Abatement: See if your landlord can forgive a certain amount of rent if you promise to remain current thereafter.

  • Rent Reduction:

The landlord can minimize the tenant’s rent to some extent.

  • Rent Deferral:

The landlord can forgive a portion of the tenant’s rent but would need them to repay a later time. It is also termed as a rent holiday.

  • Loan Conversion:

Rather than reducing past due rent, a landlord might transfer the past due rent into a loan payable, although a tenant is required to pay the current rent.

Ask Your Landlord to Switch Lease to Monthly Agreement:

Amidst the financial crisis triggered by COVID 19, you can request your landlord to change their leases to a month to month agreement.

Although it might not lower the rent, a month to month agreement when your lease is ongoing can provide you more flexibility.

Remind Them that You Have Been a Good Tenant:

Have you ever been a sensible and reasonable renter? Does your landlord know that you have kept the property in top shape?

If you share a good rapport with your landlord, leverage that for your benefit. It might not be easy to find a renter better than you at this point, and what you’re requesting for is just temporary anyway.

Knowing that you have been a caring and responsible tenant will also make it natural that you’re not just requesting to lower rent to save money, but because you need it.

Confirmation in Writing:

It’s great that you have convinced your landlord for lowering the rent or other options like deferral or abatement.

But the last thing to worry about is getting confirmation in writing.

Therefore, ask your landlord to prepare an agreement mentioning that you have entered specific rental terms. The document should have mentioned all the details.

What to Do If the Landlord Says NO?

Maybe you get no success in negotiating rent. Keep your sentiments aside and accept that a landlord has every right to accept or deny the rental request.

Write them a letter expressing how COVID 19 has hindered your income and your situation, and then say that it will be challenging for your landlord to get a tenant during this time if you moved out. Or you can contact your local tenant body to help you out. Maybe they can request on your behalf.


Most tenants are struggling with their rents amidst this time of uncertainty. All they need to make a polite request to the landlord explaining their current situation.

We also think that a good landlord or someone who trusts you shouldn’t have any issue in accepting your request.

What do you think? Let us know by commenting below!