For many New York City renters who signed leases roughly a year ago with a pandemic discount, renewal notices are arriving now with an unwelcome surprise: A hefty increase.
Some renters are shocked that landlords have the ability to ask for such high rents—but that’s how market-rate apartments work. There are no restrictions on how much a landlord with market-rate apartments can raise the rent at lease renewal time—and many are doing so to make up for their losses during the pandemic. (Rent-stabilized apartments, on the other hand, are regulated and when there are increases, they are typically around 1 to 2 percent.)
Take this note from a shocked renter: “I’ve been living at my current apartment for a year now and my lease ends in four months and my landlord is trying to raise the rent from $2,000 to $2,800. Is that allowed? Is there any way to combat this?”
[Editor's note: This article was originally published in January 2022. We are presenting it again here as part of our summer Best of Brick week.]
That’s a message received by openigloo, a site which has listings and building reviews. Allia Mohamed, co-founder and CEO, says the platform is receiving dozens of messages like this from worried renters—some reporting they are being notified by their landlords to expect rent increases of 50 percent.
In response, Mohamed created three templates that renters can use to respond to a rent increase.
“Some renters have trouble getting the conversation started because negotiating can be an intimidating process,” she says. “We haven’t released something like this before, but our hope is it can give renters a foundation to start rent discussions with their landlords.”
She says negotiating by email is ideal, because it's especially important to have a written record of your correspondence and “having an email template can help you structure your thoughts and argument in a clear way. It’s a way to show your landlord you are calmly approaching the negotiations backed with data.”
Below are openigloo’s sample email templates that you can customize to respond to a rent increase. (They have been changed slightly by Brick.)
When you want to make a counteroffer
Mohamed suggest countering with a specific number (but not the maximum you’d be willing to spend). This way you have some wiggle room if the owner comes back with another offer.
Thanks for sending over the renewal. I was surprised by the new rent, because similar #-bedrooms in the area are renting for around $$$$. I understand the market has changed since last year, but given my good standing as a tenant, I’d love to meet somewhere in the middle. Could we make $$$$ work?
Thanks for your consideration.
When you don’t get appropriate notice of an increase
In New York, landlords must give you advance notice before they raise your rent by more than 5 percent or if they are declining to renew your lease—the amount of time depends on how long you’ve lived there.
For example, if you have a one- or two-year lease, an owner needs to give you at least 60-days notice. If you have been there longer, you are entitled to 90-days notice.
If your rent increase does not come with enough notice, and you want to stay in the apartment, Mohamed recommends politely pointing out that you are aware of the rules and give them an opportunity to fix their mistake before escalating your negotiations.
Thanks for sending over the renewal. However, I was expecting the increase to be less than 5 percent, since we’ve passed the XX-day notice window. I’d love to stay, but I’m hoping we can agree on a renewal of $$$$ instead.
When you want to make the first move
When your lease is ending in a few months, you might want to make the first move in order to jumpstart negotiations. Landlords have a harder time filling apartments in winter, so that can give you some leverage. And if you don’t reach an agreement, you buy yourself more time to find a new place.
I hope all is well. I wanted to send a note as my lease is expiring in # months and I’d love to get some clarity on the renewal. I’ve enjoyed my time in this apartment and would love to stay another # years. Given my good standing as a tenant, could we renew at the same rate? Happy to sign a renewal now, if we come to an agreement.
Thanks for your consideration.
Mohamed says it doesn’t hurt to ask to hold the rent at the current rate. At worst, you may hear “no” or a different number. Again, it is important keep things cordial, she says.
There’s always a risk the landlord will not renew the lease at all, so be aware.
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