My recent negotiation – where I messed up

A few weeks ago I was looking for a room to rent. I found a place owned by a young guy, maybe just two years older than me. Initially, when I saw the place, I thought it would be a good match. We spoke briefly and emailed back and forth, agreeing to a security deposit equal to one months rent.

When we met to sign the lease agreement, he decided to add an extra $100 to the security deposit, as suggested by his colleagues, in case the tenant decided to skip out on rent and move out. I was infuriated because it wasn’t what we agreed to. I told him it was too much. He said I could pay in installments if that helped. I got more irritated because now he was implying that I couldn’t pay the money. I said what makes you think I’ll skip out on you? Needless to say, it became a bit uncomfortable, but we met half way at $50 and I paid him half of the security deposit to secure the place for next month. Despite a compromise on both sides, I left displeased, and actually wished I walked away. At this point it’s too late, as he has some of the security deposit. I kept thinking to myself, damn this guy is horrible. Says one thing then decides to try and pull a fast one on me before making the lease official.

After pondering for some time, it’s clear I could have found a more creative way of negotiating with him. The fact is, this landlord wasn’t trying to screw me over – this is his first property and attempt at being a landlord, so he naturally acted out of fear (much like I typically did 6 years ago when I started). He wasn’t targeting me specifically – he just wanted to be sure he was covered in case the tenant was bad. I could have easily turned it around if I had done this instead:

Me: Hey, why is the security deposit more than we had discussed?
Landlord: I was told by others to collect a little more than rent in case they decide to skip out.
Me: Oh I see. I can see where you are coming from, and that advice makes sense. However, we did discuss a smaller amount prior to me coming here. I think you’re asking me for too much.
Landlord: Well, you can pay in installments if that helps.
Me: It’s actually not the amount – I have the money, but I don’t think it’s necessarily fair given my good credit history. How about this: you can run a credit check on me, and also call as many references needed to make you comfortable.
Landlord: Okay….
Me: If you find a bad mark on my credit, or a reference says to be cautious about me, then by all means, I will agree to paying a higher security deposit so that you have a peace of mind, or you can find another tenant that meets all your criteria.

The landlord’s underlying concern was to protect himself in case someone screwed up him over. My underlying concern was someone was trying to pinch more dollars from me than was fair. It was never anything personal. There was an objective way to do this, by providing substantial evidence via best practices to showcase that I was a fair and reliable person, so that he could have a peace of mind agreeing to a lower security deposit. In the end, if I used this method I would have won.

Its okay…next time. lesson Learned!

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