Negotiating rent freezes with private landlords versus property managers

With tenants across Australia battling financial hardship because of the coronavirus crisis, negotiating a rent freeze or reduction is becoming commonplace.

But how should tenants go about it, exactly? Is a different approach needed when dealing with a private landlord who manages their own property, as opposed to a property manager, employed to do the job for an owner? We asked some experts on both sides of the fence.

Expert tips for negotiating a rent freeze with a private landlord

Woman going through bills

Vanessa Giannos, a Sydney-based HR executive who self-manages investment properties in Queensland and New South Wales, shared her advice for tenants wanting to negotiate with their private landlord.

There are different ways to approach negotiating a rent freeze when dealing with a private landlord versus a property manager. Picture: Getty

1. Get your ducks in a row

A tenant needs to be able to clearly explain their situation, so they should make notes about what’s happened and what they’re going to ask for, Ms Giannos explained.

“Exactly what has occurred and what is your situation? Why do you need a break? Is it because of a reduction in hours or redundancy?”, she said. It’s important to have all the facts at hand.

2. Be reasonable

Landlords are also suffering as a result of the economic downturn, so tenants should set reasonable expectations.

“Whilst I am lucky to be in a position where I am not over-leveraged, many landlords are. So work out the minimum you need,” Ms Giannos said.

COVID-19: Rental market update02:23

3. Take a personal approach

Don’t rely on email, but rather ring the landlord, at the very least.

“As a private landlord, I would expect tenants to get on a video conference to discuss [negotiating a change],” Ms Giannos said.

Expert tips for negotiating a rent freeze with a property manager

Carlton rental terrace

Finn Simpson from Belle Property in Sydney said tenants with a property manager need to be organised, as agencies are dealing with many similar requests.

Organisation is key when dealing with a property manager. Picture:

1. Provide documentation

First, pick up the phone and call the property manager to explain the situation. Be up front and honest, Mr Simpson said.

“Follow up the call with a concise email, attaching supporting documentation. The more information a tenant can provide, the better, as it will help the property manager communicate the tenant’s case effectively to the landlord,” Mr Simpson explained.

2. Be collaborative and empathetic

Mr Simpson said tenants should try to understand that many people, including landlords, are in the same tough situation they are.

“Put yourself in the landlord’s shoes. They may have lost work, too and are relying on this [rental] income.”

3. Follow up

The property manager is likely snowed under dealing with many requests of the same nature, so follow up, to make sure you stay top of mind, Mr Simpson suggested.

Negotiating a rent freeze with a private landlord

There are advantages and disadvantages to dealing with a private landlord in the current environment. Here’s a breakdown.


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Dealing directly with a landlord has benefits:

  • A pre-existing personal relationship makes any mediation simpler, as there is already a level of trust between the two parties.
  • The owner/landlord is invested in finding a solution, as they will have to potentially do the work of finding a new tenant in a tough market if an agreement can’t be reached.
  • The owner can make an immediate decision, without having to consult anyone else, which expedites the process.


But private landlord situations aren’t always easy:

  • Given they are literally invested in the property, private landlords may react emotionally to a request.
  • A private landlord might not be across all the relevant legislation or the day-to-day changes which are happening with government announcements at present, delaying the process.
  • Unlike a property manager, they most likely won’t have a streamlined process they can follow.
Hampton rental

There are pros and cons to dealing with both private landlords and property managers. Picture:

Pros and cons of having a property manager in this situation

On the flip side, there are some pros and cons of dealing with a property manager, too.


Dealing with a property manager has benefits:

  • A property manager will most likely have more experience in dealing with similar matters and might even be able to explain a tenant’s case to the landlord better than the tenant themselves.
  • With a deep understanding of the current market, property managers know if the requested reduction is in-line with other requests in the area.
  • A property manager will look at a possible freeze or reduction as a business decision, keeping emotion out of it.


Although it won’t always go smoothly:

  • For agents with lots of properties on the books, a tenant can be just a number, making an equal negotiation tricky.
  • A property manager is a “conduit” between the owner and tenant, adding complexity and the time it takes to reach an agreement.
  • By definition, property management is a business, so agents don’t usually have a deep personal relationship with tenants, which can help when trying to reach a compromise