Rent Coach

Rent Coach: Do I really have to renew my lease two months early???

By Mike Akerly  | March 15, 2012 - 11:51AM

Q. Yesterday I received a lease renewal letter which asked for a whopping 12% increase in rent.  The letter said that I need to respond by April 1st and that my lease terminates on May 31st

By making me decide two months in advance, I'm forced to make a decision about the renewal before I can see what’s actually available for a June 1st move.  Of course I could just ignore the letter I and approach the landlord again closer to my lease termination.  However, then I risk having to move which I would like to avoid. 

Is there a minimum amount of time the landlord needs to give me to respond to the renewal offer?  Or is there a maximum amount of time before the lease ends that they can ask me to renew? My apartment is not rent controlled or stabilized.  

A. With a market-rate apartment like yours, the renewal of a lease is governed by the contract provisions, not any statutory law.

And no matter what your lease says, bear in mind that because you don't have the right of automatic lease renewal, your landlord may simply decide to find a new renter after your lease expires if you ignore this request now. In today’s low-vacancy rental market, your landlord is unlikely to lose much, if anything, by seeking a new tenant. 

That being said, just because your landlord has asked for a 12% escalation in rent does not mean that you cannot negotiate. 

I would suggest that you use the month of March to get to know the current rental market.  Go see some available apartments that might interest you.  Though it’s very unlikely that they will be available for a June 1st occupancy, you can familiarize yourself with pricing in today’s market.  That should help you to make a decision by April 1st

You may discover that the new rent is either within reason or even below market. Should you decide to negotiate to renew your lease, your knowledge of the market may help you to convince the landlord that their asking rent is too high.  Keep descriptions, photos, and asking rents of the units that you think are the most comparable to your own if you decide to negotiate. 

Mike Akerly is a New York City real estate attorney, landlord, and real estate broker. He is also the publisher of the Greenwich Village blog VillageConfidential.   

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