What you should know about 'fake rent' and how to negotiate your next lease

Experts say there are ways to get a better deal.

ByNydia Han and Heather Grubola WPVI logo
Thursday, February 22, 2024
Warning about 'fake rent' and how to negotiate with your landlord
What you should know about 'fake rent' and how to negotiate your next lease

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Rent has continued to rise sharply across the country.

In Philadelphia, renters are paying almost 4% more than last year. Now the Troubleshooters are warning about a tactic some landlords are using to lure prospective residents.

That tactic experts say is unscrupulous but not uncommon. Action News talked to two insiders, one who lays out what to watch for and another who has tips on negotiating for the lowest rent possible.

The typical rent for a studio apartment in the Philadelphia area is $1,170, and the majority of Philadelphia's Gen Zers are spending at least 30% of their income on rent.

But according to landlords themselves, there are ways to get a better deal.

"The reality is, you can ask for all sorts of different things. And the starting point really is to think about what you might want," said Jonas Bordo, CEO of Dwellsy and author.

Bordo runs an apartment rental website and provides insider dirt in his book, "Everything You Need To Know About Renting But Didn't Know to Ask."

He says to consider asking for the following:

  • Lower rent
  • A free month of rent at the beginning of your lease
  • Free pet rent, parking, gym access, or utilities
  • Predictable renewal terms, like a maximum rent increase

Bordo also says renters should consider what they can offer in a negotiation.

"Renters have all kinds of tools that they can use in their toolkit, such as being able to do some maintenance, being able to look at the property, being able to clear some snow," he said.

Also, consider offering to sign a longer-term lease.

"Things like that can really help increase the value to the landlord, and then you can negotiate for lower rent or other things you might want in return for those things," said Bordo.

These are also things to keep in mind when you're negotiating a lease renewal, which Bordo says you should begin 60 days before your lease is scheduled to end.

And here's a warning from another insider: beware of so-called "fake rent."

"Fake rent is when landlords list one price online, but actually add on a bunch of additional mandatory junk fees to boost the total cost of your rent," said Mike Kaeding of Norhart.

Those can include fees for trash removal, pest control, or amenities. And Kaeding says junk fees can add as much as 30% more to the advertised price.

"The number one thing I recommend to consumers to do is simply to call the different properties that they're interested in moving into and then ask those properties, 'What are the list of mandatory fees that they charge and how much do they cost?" explained Kaeding.

Then add those fees to your rent to figure out your total cost.

"Now that might sound like a lot of work, but it's worth it because in the end, you can typically save hundreds of dollars a month in rent by doing that little extra homework," Kaeding adds.

The Federal Trade Commission is looking at addressing junk fees but until that happens, this is something that should be on your radar.