So, the landlord wants to raise the rent on us.

Apparently a friend of his has offered $450 but he’s reluctant to rent to friends.

I can’t help but wonder if it’s a bluff.

It’s all quite complicated, seeing as he lives (occasionally) in the one bedroom flat at the back of the house. But he hires a professional property manager to handle the rent and repairs and inspections and such. Keeps us one step removed I guess. Not that there isn’t conflict, for example we’re not allowed pets but he’s been encouraging us to get a dog. Suppose he doesn’t actually know what’s in the lease the agency wrote. Although we’ve already had two different property managers and may soon be moving to a third company.

But in some ways it makes us more like flatmates rather than landlord and tenant, especially as we have to split the water and power bills.

Anyway, our fixed term lease is up soon and it’ll be time to sign another one.

So he goes to me, “I wouldn’t ask for $50, that’s too much, but how much would you be happy to pay?”

That’s totally not a question I was anticipating and not one I am equipped to answer. I told him I’d have to chat with the flatmates.

He suggests $20.

I said we’ll discuss and get back to him.

So, because we don’t want to move, I guess we’ll absorb the rent. It’s not much, $20 means an extra $5 each. But that’s above market rents at the moment – rents are ridiculously low (I read about a guy in Herne Bay or Mission Bay refixing his lease at $30 less as the owner knew they wouldn’t get the same price if he moved out). Comparable houses run $350-380 often including lawns and water, and though our house is nice it’s nowhere near perfect. It’s a 1960s bungalow with no garage and apparently not much insulation.

Our house is somewhat damp, and has a few other quirks and faults, and isn’t down the best end of the street, and we have to look after all the plants and the yard, but we have a huge backyard and now that summer’s coming we damn well want to enjoy the lawn. It’s close to most things and has a fairly new bathroom and kitchen. I want to stay here for another year or so until I graduate and then maybe think about shifting somewhere nice, closer to work, or a one bedroom.

Anyway, so I guess negotiating isn’t going to be much fun. A $20 increase doesn’t give much room to bargain – how little can I offer without being laughed at? I don’t want to call the bluff on his friend. We’re keen to stay put, but not to get ripped off. I almost want to just go along with it to keep the peace. Like I said, awkward. It’s more friendly than the usual landlord/tenant relationship.

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