How To Get A Rent Reduction From Your Landlord

Photographed by Meg O'Donnell.
Nothing sends a shudder down the spine like an email from your landlord or letting agent. What will it be today? Your boiler is broken and, inexplicably, it's going to take six weeks for them to sort it out? Your landlord thinks the mould in the bathroom is somehow your fault because you have dared to...shower? Or, the most cursed words of all, they want to put your rent up.
Renting, particularly in England and Wales (renters in Scotland have more rights), is no fun. The plight of young people – aka Generation Rent – is a well-known story now. I'm sure you can recite it by heart. House prices have risen beyond earnings and, according to the Office for National Statistics, homeownership among people aged 35-44 has plummeted. This means that, as well as people in their 20s, adults in their mid 30s are now more likely to rent than they were 20 years ago.
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This would be fine if renting were affordable. But it's not. People in their 20s spend roughly 35% of their salary on rent. This means that private renters are less likely to have savings than homeowners which, of course, creates a vicious cycle, meaning that they can't get a deposit together to escape the rent trap. As if that wasn't bad enough, at the end of 2021 rents across the UK were rising at their fastest rate for 13 years.
There's no way to sugar-coat it. The situation isn't great. Doom and gloom. Yes. However, as a private renter you have more power than you think.
Over the last few years we've lived through a lot. The pandemic has turned our lives inside out and many young women have experienced financial stress because they've lost a job or their income has declined. If you're in that situation, making rent might become a problem. Losing your home is the last thing you want so how do you ask your landlord for a rent reduction?
First things first: know your rights. There are several scenarios in which you can request a rent reduction and the situation you are in will depend on how likely you are to get what you need.
Catherine Dickinson works in the housing charity Shelter's digital advice team. She told Refinery29: "Anyone who is worried or struggling to pay their rent should speak to their landlord. You are still legally required to pay rent but your landlord may be willing to compromise." So with that in mind, here's what to do if you find yourself in that situation.
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Do not withhold rent
As the housing charity Shelter notes, you should never, ever withhold rent. It might be tempting but don't do it. You do not have an automatic right to stop paying rent, even if you become unwell or your boiler breaks down. Doing so could breach your contract, put you on the back foot and even result in eviction.
Negotiate
That doesn't mean that you can't negotiate in either of the above scenarios, though. You can ask for a reduction if your everyday living has been disrupted during repair work, because of disrepair, because you've become seriously unwell or are out of work for a period. Catherine says: "Explain your reasons for wanting a rent reduction and include details about what you are doing to try and meet the payments or if you expect your financial situation to change soon. For example, tell your landlord if you have interviews lined up, have a start date for a new job or if you’ve applied for benefits and are waiting for your first payment."
Be collaborative, make a plan
"You should also include an alternative payment proposal, however, make sure you don’t agree to repayments you can’t afford," adds Catherine.
Keep receipts
This is something you should do in all aspects of your life TBH, keep receipts. Keep records of any emails, letters or messages and get your agreement in writing. Records can help if you decide to make a complaint or claim compensation at a later date. "Keep your communication on record," confirms Catherine.
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Be polite, even if you don't feel like it
This might sound obvious but be polite. Landlords are portrayed as modern-day Scrooges but, like it or not, you have to engage with them. Get into their mindset before you write the email asking for a reduction. To them, renting is a business. Your request is part of a negotiation. Be calm. Be firm. Explain your circumstances clearly. Be nice.
If negotiation doesn't work, you can sometimes claim compensation in court. For more information about the rights of renters in England and Wales, visit Shelter's website. You can also find general advice about renting on Shelter's website here as well as specific details about negotiating a rent reduction here.

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