I'm not in a great financial place at the moment (cheers COVID), and rent is one of my biggest outgoings. I was wondering if you had any advice on how to negotiate a lower rent from my landlord? I know people have managed to successfully do it, but it's nerve-wracking!
Before I get into what you can do here, I want to say something: this is not your fault. I don’t know how old you are, either, but I’m 32. This is the second economic downturn I’ve lived through and it probably won’t be the last. You could have done everything differently and still been financially affected. It’s out of your control, like falling in love with someone who doesn’t feel the same way. People change their minds, disasters occur and companies collapse. It happens all the time.
On to how to negotiate a rent reduction: unfortunately, your landlord is not compelled to agree to one. Worse, you are contractually obliged to pay your rent at the amount stated on your tenancy agreement. But there is hope – I have heard from many people who have managed to negotiate a reduced monthly payment.
Knowledge is power. Read every word of the government’s COVID-19 guidance for landlords and tenants. Soak up the guidance on how to negotiate a rent reduction, including a template letter you can send to your landlord, on Shelter’s website. Then get ready to negotiate. Be professional – treat this like any contract negotiation, even if it feels like the most personal thing in the world.
Shelter advisor Andy Parnell says it’s really important to do this over email so you have everything in writing. Do not do it over the phone!
“Make sure you get any agreement in writing, including how long it will apply and whether any outstanding rent will be paid back later,” he says. “When you contact your landlord, start by explaining to them why you’re struggling with your rent. If your income has reduced for specific reasons, let them know. Most landlords are likely to be sympathetic and receptive.
“It’s also worth being clear about what you want the outcome of negotiations to be – so be straightforward about what rent you think you can afford and what conditions will apply if they do agree to a reduction.”
Finally – I know this will be the last thing you feel like considering – he says that “being understanding about your landlord’s situation is likely to help, too”.
“Your landlord will probably have outgoings that your rent would usually cover, so it’s good to show you understand this,” Andy explains. “Most landlords’ concern is that the full rent will eventually be paid, so offer them reassurance about this if you can. If you can also let them know what steps you’re taking to stabilise your income, they may be more willing to come to an agreement.”
It’s also worth looking at whether you’re eligible for any benefits – you might be if you’ve lost your job. Housing benefit falls under Universal Credit and it helps private renters who can’t pay. I’ve covered this before here.
I hope this helps. Is there solace in the senselessness of everything that’s happened this year? Perhaps more than trying to work out what responsibility you personally bear, anyway. And remember, it’s not your fault.
I was wondering if there are any resources for landlords for charity-recommended guidelines about what is equitable in the current climate? I am a flat owner, have been very cognisant that my tenant is in a gig based industry, but my managing letting agent is still recommending full rent be due. I hope you don’t mind me reaching out, but I’ve really no clue on where to start looking for the facts (not just what the estate agent is saying) to make a decision on what to do moving forwards.
Well, this is the first time I’ve heard from a landlord. I’m not sure whether to celebrate. Thirty-two years since the 1988 Housing Act decimated renters’ rights to make it easier for landlords to make money, we find ourselves right here – in a place characterised by evictions, unaffordable rent and mould. A place where the lines of good and evil can be mapped out with renters on the right, landlords on the left, homeowners in the middle and letting agents – like yours – lurking below, stirring the shit.
I understand that landlords make convenient villains as we enter the pandemic edition of the ongoing British primetime drama Housing Crisis 2020. But thanks to ludicrous house prices and a shortage of social housing, one in three young people is likely to be renting from cradle to grave and, therefore, reliant on private landlords. So, maybe not the time to pop that Saino’s prosecco, but there is something to be said for private landlords – like you – who take their role as housing providers seriously.
Early on, the government essentially told landlords and renters to sort this out between themselves while imploring landlords to be “compassionate”. We know all too well that when there’s money involved, concern can easily turn to contempt. You’re quite right to look beyond your letting agent’s advice – they are far from impartial. They make money from the fact that you make money from your tenants and they have a vested interest in you continuing to pay them.
You can find the full government guidance for landlords here. In a nutshell, it says that you should be as flexible as possible and work constructively with your tenants by doing things like letting them end their tenancy early but, ultimately, it states that rent is still legally due in full, and virtually all the tenancy’s terms still apply.
The government’s message is clear: landlords should not suffer any losses. In fact, their guidance goes even further and points out that they “can charge a fee to tenants if the tenant wishes to end the tenancy early, although this fee must not exceed the loss incurred by the landlord or reasonable costs to the landlord’s letting agent if they are using one”.
I asked Andy Parnell over at Shelter what he thought. “One solution is that rent payments are delayed, and any rent arrears should be repaid at a later date when the tenant’s income is more stable,” he says. “As for reducing the rent, although there’s no obligation for a landlord to do this, some landlords are agreeing to it to help their tenants through this tough period. Landlords should do what they can, but I’d imagine whether you can consider this will depend on your own financial responsibilities.”
He adds: “There’s more information – mainly from a tenant’s perspective, but it may be useful – on the Citizens Advice website, and the Shelter website here and here. You could also check your property’s local council’s website.”
Renters are not properly protected right now, so we need good landlords who think about this situation from the perspective of a renter with no assets, no savings and, now, potentially no income. The property you rent to them might be an asset to you but, to them, it’s a home. If you keep that notion central to everything you do, you’ll be bringing humanity to a process that all too often puts profit over people.
It’s not just landlords’ fault that we find ourselves here. Why wouldn’t they refuse to consider rent reductions when the government tells them it’s fine? Why wouldn’t they charge the maximum amount they can when there’s no law to prevent them from doing so?
In the end, it is the fault of our politicians. The buck stops in Whitehall, where MPs and their advisors eat taxpayer-funded takeaways and try to figure out how to run a country. It stops with short-term policies that put those who are already wealthy above those who aren’t. They’re presiding over policies that they’ll likely never experience themselves – not so different from the callous landlord charging people to live in an overcrowded, mouldy home.
Actually, I’ll have that prosecco – I need a drink.