How to Negotiate Rent in Dar Es Salaam
Benjamin Franklin, the man on the hundred dollar bill, once wrote, “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, those of us living in urban cities in Tanzania would add rent to that sentence.
Over 60% of Dar es Salaam’s inhabitants are renters, and while financial planners will tell you not to spend more than 30% of your income on housing, we spend more than one-third of their monthly earnings on rent – making it the most costly living expense.
But while we have little control over the fact that we have to pay rent, we do have the ability to determine how much we pay.
Yes, you can negotiate your rent price with your landlord, the trick is to know how to do it right.
So, here are the key steps you need to take to ensure that you get the outcome you want when you are ready to have that conversation with your landlord.
STEP 1: Brainstorm
You will ruin your chances of getting your rent reduced if you talk to your landlord without properly preparing your argument. You should always keep in mind that your landlord’s main priority is to make money, so if you don’t have a strategy to negotiating your rent, they will shut you down.
Timing is key
Like with most important conversations you will have in your life, knowing the right time to ask for a rent reduction will greatly increase your chances of having a positive outcome.
The thing is, you want to catch your landlord in the times of the year where demand for housing is lower and they are more willing to work out a deal with you than let you go, these include:
Close to the end of your lease: If your lease is almost up but you are interested in renewing it for another year, then this may be a good opportunity to also try and lower your rent. Especially if you’ve had a pleasant relationship with your landlord and have proved to be a trouble-free tenant. The benefit that you will be offering the landlord is that they won’t have to go through the trouble of finding a new renter to replace you.
At the end of the month: Most places in Tanzania ask for 6 months rent in advance, however, if you are lucky enough to be paying rent monthly, then talking to your landlord towards the end of the month will give you some leverage – as they will have pressure to fill up your space if you do leave.
However, before you attempt this, make sure that you have an open-ended lease that allows you to leave whenever you want. Moreover, because few places offer month to month payment options, they may be high demand for the living space you currently occupy, and the landlord may be more than happy to let you go. So make sure you understand the nature of your agreement beforehand.
At the middle of the year: Many people search for new housing towards the end of the year, October to December period, so this is when demand for housing is very high and landlords have the upper hand. So, if you are able to do your search earlier, towards the middle of the year when fewer people are looking, this will give you a bit of leverage as demand will be lower and so your potential landlord will be more willing to negotiate.
2. What are you negotiating?
When you are at the market bargaining over the price of tomatoes, sometimes instead of reducing the price the seller will give you a couple of extra tomatoes for free. Well, similarly, what a lot of people don’t realize is that instead of only negotiating rent price, there are a number of other things you can try and get from your landlord. This is especially applicable to people living in a housing complex/villa or apartment building that has some amenities. You can try and negotiate:
Free parking space
Free or reduced payment on utility bills (electricity, water) etc
Free gym access
Bonus tip: The type of housing matters
It may be easier to get your rent lowered if you are moving into a new housing complex or apartment building that’s looking for tenants, than if you are trying to rent a room. The thing is, the landlords/management in a housing complex are eager to fill up the vacancies so that the developers can start making a return on their investment. Whereas someone renting a room will be less likely to reduce the rent as there is a higher demand for this type of low-income housing. In fact, most of Dar’s population lives in low-income housing that costs an average of TZS 60,000 to TZS 80,000 per month.
STEP 2: Preparation
Once you have an idea on the when and what, it’s time to flesh out the details of your request.
Do market research
In order to figure out how much rent deduction to propose, you need to first research the average price of rent in your area and for your type of housing. This will help you estimate a reasonable rate to suggest, and you can use your research as justification to your landlord.
A great way to conduct your research is to analyze the housing prices in your area on classifieds sites like ZoomTanzania. You can filter your search according to neighborhood, price range, and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.
Moreover, since most houses will be advertised at a higher price, you can call the owners and see if they are willing to lower their rates. This will give you a more accurate picture of how much rent you should expect to pay.
However, if you discover that the average rent in your area is higher than what you are currently paying, then maybe you need to rethink negotiating your rent price, as you are already getting a deal. Instead, focus on other benefits like parking and utilities.
2. What can you offer in return?
Here’s the thing, to increase your chances of getting what you want, you have to offer your landlord something in return. As mentioned before, your landlord will be reluctant to reduce your rent as they want to maximize profit, but if you give them some incentives to do so than they will be more willing to consider your request. Things you can offer include:
Pay rent months upfront: While most places ask for 6 months rent in advance, if you can afford it, you can offer to pay one year’s rent in advance at a reduced price. This is guaranteed upfront money for your landlord, and they may rather take that, than worry about finding a new tenant in the middle of the year.
Sign a longer lease: If you are willing and planning to stay in the place you are renting for longer than a year. Then offer your landlord to sign a longer lease, at a reduced rent price after the first 6 months or a year.
Give up your parking spot or other amenities: You could also offer to give up your parking spot, or other benefits like gym membership or storage space in exchange for a lower rate.
Like the popular saying goes, ‘make them an offer they can’t refuse’.
3. Write a script
Now that you know what you want and what you are willing to give up. Write a script with your main talking points, these should include:
Why you want your rent reduced
How much you want it reduced by and how you got this number (market research)
What you have to offer the landlord in return
Alternative proposals (in case your landlord completely turns your first offer down)
4. Test out your pitch
Take some time to practice your script with a friend (pick the super-argumentative one), and also test out your negotiating skills in other low-risk situations like bargaining at a market or retail store. This will help boost your confidence in your negotiating abilities, and decrease the likelihood that nervousness or anxiety will prevent you from successfully executing your argument.
STEP 3: Take action
1. Establish a relationship
If you aren’t a new or potential tenant, then ideally you should have already established a positive relationship with your landlord. Regardless to how you may feel about your rent price, landlords are human just like you, and respond well to people who are easy-going, accommodating and respectful.
Moreover, you must also already have an idea of what type of person your landlord is. Are they sweet and amiable, or direct and don’t like to beat around the bush? All this will give you an idea of how best to approach the conversation about your rent.
If you haven’t moved into the housing yet, then make sure every encounter with the landlord (the showing process, phone calls etc) are amicable. Moreover, take it a step further and ask the landlord about themselves (how did they come to own their property? Do they live in the area? What do they like to do for fun?). Most people like to talk about themselves and appreciate when someone shows genuine interest in them, so the more your landlord likes you the more likely they will want to help you out.
However, don’t fake it. Unless you are a stellar actor, most people can tell when someone is being disingenuous.
2. Contact your landlord
Now that you are ready to make your pitch, contact your landlord and set a time to talk. Don’t tell them that you want to talk about rent as this will give them time to prepare a rebuttal. Also, try to be as accommodating as possible, and agree on a time that is convenient for them. However, don’t be overly amiable and agree to a time when you know you won’t be as mentally prepared (late at night) or when they will have the upper hand ( high-demand season).
3. Stay calm, be respectful
Ok, so after extensive planning and practicing, you are finally talking to your landlord about your rent – don’t mess it up by being disrespectful.
People in Tanzania often think that the best negotiators have are like tough and argumentative lawyers in the courtroom, but in fact, it’s best to be calm and respectful. You don’t have to be soft-spoken if that’s not your natural way of speaking, but it’s important to pay attention to your tone and voice level. Even if your landlord is being difficult, don’t let your emotions take over, and stay level-headed throughout the conversation. Simply put, you don’t want the negotiation to escalate into an argument, and take you off the track of your main goal – lower rent.
Don’t give up on the opportunity to save money
The thing is, Tanzanians’ are experienced bargainers and will negotiate prices for fruits and vegetables at local markets, clothes at stores, and transport with bajajis and boda bodas – so why not rent? Especially when most people are overpaying for rent because there is more demand than supply of housing in Dar es Salaam.
The housing prices in Dar es Salaam will not significantly reduce anytime soon, so in the meantime, the best way to lower your costs of living is to negotiate your rent. So, even if your landlord says no, don’t give up. Ask them why exactly they turned your proposal down, and use that information to come up with another offer and try again in 6 months. Nevertheless, if your landlord is completely unreasonable then it may be time to find another place to live and use the same negotiating tactics on your new landlord.
Remember, if at first you don’t succeed, you can always try again. Even if you manage to reduce your rent by as little as TZS 20,000, that saves you TZS 140,000 a year and you can use that money for other expenses – so every shilling counts.