In this week's 'Ask an Agent' column, the folks at The Agency--a tech-savvy brokerage that gives buyers and renters access to the same database of listings used by the city's real estate agents, and pays their agents bonuses for client satisfaction--advise on a daunting, all-too-familiar scenario for NYC renters: what to do when your lease renewal rolls around—and your landlord wants a whole lot more money.
Q: Is it ever possible to negotiate a rent raise, and how hard can I push?
“If you’re a good, non-disruptive tenant and you pay your rent on time, there’s no harm in countering the raise with reasons why the landlord should do their best to retain you. Market-rate apartments can experience escalations ranging from three to five percent. However, keeping a good tenant in place means the landlord can save a lot of time and money. This applies to small landlords and institutional owners alike. So make your case! Write a friendly email or pick up the phone and speak directly with the person in charge. Be cordial! Provide concrete details of your good standing, i.e. rent paid on time, zero noise complaints, and emphasize the value add of keeping you as part of the building community. Additionally, if you’ve maintained the condition of the apartment and taken initiative to make capital improvements (like landscaping your private outdoor space into a beautiful oasis, or replacing that old stove with a top-of-the-line stainless steel appliance), you’ve successfully added market value to the apartment. Overall, taking on the risk of a new tenant who has no established track record with the building translates into additional risk for the landlord. Remember, even if you’re only successful in knocking off $50 a month, that’s an extra $600 a year! What are you going to do with that extra cash?” - Li Chuang, Real Estate Specialist
“Definitely! At the end of the day, if you're a tenant in good standing, a landlord would rather keep you than have to find, qualify, and move in a new tenant. What I always tell my clients, and use as a practice myself with my own landlord, is to just politely explain that you can't afford the rent raise, and offer what you can afford. Since it is a negotiation, I usually start very low expecting to meet somewhere in the middle.” - Amy McDonald, Real Estate Specialist
“Negotiating rent raises is always worth a shot—it doesn't always work, but it never hurts to ask. Every landlord is different, and after living in your apartment for a year, you should have an idea of how much you can (or can’t) push. The approach I recommend is to be cautiously optimistic; don't press your luck too much or it can backfire. For example, my landlord told me they were raising our rent $80 last year, which was more than I was expecting when neighbors told me $25-$50 was the norm for the building. I simply let my landlord know that $80/month raise is too much for me and that I wasn't sure I’d be able to afford that. I asked if there was any way they could do $50/month, because I absolutely love living there, and wouldn't want to move. After being put on hold for two minutes, my landlord came back and met me at a $60/month increase. I think it’s important to reiterate to your landlord how happy you are with your home and their services, and hopefully that is reason enough for them to keep you a happy tenant.” - Allie Deitch, Real Estate Specialist
“Because of how expensive it is to find new tenants to fill vacancies, landlords would often rather keep a good tenant happy than risk them moving out over a few hundred bucks. The key thing to remember when negotiating is to be knowledgeable and reasonable. Find out what other similar apartments in your area are renting for, and don't expect a landlord to keep the rent way under market value just because you don't want to pay it. But also remember that a good tenant that takes care of the apartment and pays rent on time is an asset to any landlord and use this as leverage in your negotiations.” - Shelly Place, Real Estate Specialist
“If you want to set yourself up for the ability to negotiate a raise in rent when renewing your lease, then make sure you are a reliable tenant who always pays their rent on time and takes good care of the property. If you think that the amount your landlord wants to raise the rent is unjust, you will also want to research what other similar properties in your neighborhood cost so that you can make a case for the actual value of your property. Try to find out if lots of people are leaving the neighborhood as this may indicate that the landlord may have trouble refilling your unit. A landlord will always see more value in keeping a responsible and reliable tenant in the apartment for a longer time for slightly lower rent than having to spend time and energy finding a new tenant and perhaps trying to repeatedly fill an overpriced unit in the current market.” - Anne Richmond, Client Experience Manager
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