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Is your lease up? Some NYC landlords give concessions to entice tenants to renew

Some landlords are offering shorter leases, a month free, and even American Express gift cards.

Austin Havens-Bowen for Brick Underground/Flickr

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Concessions are more prevalent when you sign a new lease for an apartment in New York City, but with the vacancy rate edging up in the Covid era, some landlords are also offering concessions in order to encourage you to renew your lease, too.

Lease renewals are not tracked, so it's difficult to establish the extent of concessions being offered to existing tenants. However, anecdotally, it appears that both small landlords and larger management companies are offering freebies like a month free, flexible lease terms, and even dropping the rent. It's all part of an effort to counteract the exodus of New Yorkers leaving the city and record low demand for rentals.

Carole Bloom, executive vice president of leasing for Brown Harris Stevens Development Marketing, says she's seeing concessions for renewals offered in all five boroughs because the pandemic is having such a broad impact on the NYC rental market.

Here’s what some NYC landlords are offering right now.

What sort of concessions are being offered?

DSA Management, which manages several buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, says their goal is to retain all of their current residents. To encourage renters to renew, they’re offering incentives including lower rent, a one-time rent credit, or a month free to those who need it.

“We talk to each tenant individually, try to ascertain what is important to them, and structure a deal that caters to their needs,” a DSA representative says. 

On a recent Reddit thread on renewing a lease during the pandemic, one renter commented that he got two months free when he renewed his lease in a FiDi luxury building. A Washington Heights resident says they received a $500 bonus when renewing.

Offering more flexible leases is another way landlords are attempting to retain tenants. Both long- and short-term leases are being offered. Shorter leases allow you to stay with less commitment in case you lose your job or decide to leave the city. Longer leases can lock you in at your current rent and alleviate the need to find a new apartment soon. DSA is also offering non-standard leases terms. 

Some landlords are willing to put a clause in your lease that says if you have to move out before your terms ends due to Covid-related hardship, you can leave without penalty as long as you give proper notice.

Other concessions that Bloom have seen in some buildings include free rent, crediting back amenity fees, and American Express gift cards. 

Rent negotiations

Freebies aren’t the only way landlords are attempting to retain tenants. Some are now more willing to negotiate a lower rent. 

Omar Khan, a management consultant who lives in Park Slope, was able to negotiate a 10 percent rent discount with his mom-and-pop landlord. “I wanted what I paid to reflect the new market value. Committing to stay in my apartment for 12 more months is a risk and the discount I received reflects that risk,” he says.

Bloom says rent negotiations are happening less frequently than concessions, and it depends whether the landlord has a mortgage, the terms of the lease, and whether they are struggling financially themselves. “More often than not, reducing rent is the last resort,” she says.

A NYC management company, who asked to be anonymous, says because some renters are not currently paying rent, fewer renters are renewing, and the delayed rental season, they are not in a good position to offer concessions to tenants who are renewing.