Rents in Texas’ biggest cities, including Austin and Dallas, continue to rise, with tenants often seeing big rent hikes when it comes time to renew. And for many, wages aren’t keeping pace with the cost of living increases, forcing renters to search for cheaper housing.
While Texas does not have rent control laws on the books, renters do have a few options when it’s time to renew.
Nicole Cobler, Austin-based reporter for Axios, spoke with the Standard about real estate experts’ tips for negotiating rent costs down. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: I think anyone renting in Texas’ major cities has seen this trend firsthand. But can you put some numbers on it? What kind of rent increases are we seeing here?
Nicole Cobler: Yeah, it’s staggering. And while the country’s rental market is cooling, that’s really not the case in Austin. So, landlords certainly have the upper hand. Bloomberg today reported that Austin rent for a one bedroom is up to $3,200 per month, an increase of 121% year over year. It’s incredible. Zillow’s pricing index, I think, is a little bit lower than that. But, in any case, it’s huge jumps from last year.
Are there legal protections for tenants when it comes to rent increases?
There really aren’t. Not that I am aware of.
So, is all hope lost or are there things that folks can do? Do they just have to move further out or keep paying higher prices? What are the options?
I think it’s worth negotiating. And I’m not sure that a lot of renters try to do that. I spoke to Taylor Marr, Redfin’s deputy chief economist, and I’m coming to you with my own experience as an Austin renter for about eight years. It’s worth knowing that it’s really costly to turn over an apartment and try to find a new tenant. That can cost landlords up to 1 to 2 months of rent, Taylor told me. So, certainly go into the negotiation knowing that, and you can make a note of that to your landlord. Understand the local market and nearby properties, including all the amenities at nearby properties, that can certainly help you. And I think just selling yourself as a valuable tenant when it’s time to renew – you’ve paid your rent on time, you’ve been quiet, maintained the property. I think when going into a negotiation, that’s really helpful.
I don’t think a lot of people have even considered negotiating. Is that something that you’ve encountered in conversations with people?
Yeah. This is just from speaking to other renters in Austin, friends and such. Even if you’re moving into a new property, you should certainly try. And the worst they can say is no. But if the negotiation doesn’t go well, I think you can ask for other concessions like updated appliances or a fresh coat of paint on the walls. Just a little something interesting.
What’s the step-by-step process for someone hoping to go through this?
I think what’s best is really going over to the leasing office and chatting with your property manager in person or giving them a call. I’ve just personally always found that speaking to them instead of over an email is really helpful just so that they know who you are. They know you’re cool, calm and collected, whatever it may be. But yeah, I mean, that’s really all it is. It’s as soon as you get that lease notice, you should call them.
That’s interesting advice because I think, in text, a lot of us feel comfortable. We live in a world where so many things can be digitally transacted. But if you’re there in person, you can make sure you’re delivering it with a smile and not sounding threatening or anything that.
I think it’s easier to say no too if you’re just over email. It’s a little bit harder if you’re right there in person or on the phone.
And are you sure people are going to be able to get somebody into an apartment at that price? Are these tips the things that are to the advantage of the current tenant?
Correct. I have a couple of other tips too from Taylor Marr. You know, making a note of any construction near you, or maybe vacancies, frequent issues with neighbors or the property. Another thing that’s helpful is offering to shorten or extend your lease so that your move out is in the summer months, because that’s just like the easier time for landlords to get new tenants in and that is certainly something that they would want to do more than have you move out in the winter.