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When it came time to renew the lease on my studio apartment in Manhattan this summer, I knew I wanted to stay.
New York City, once the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, is now finding itself adjusting to a life that looks somewhat normal — at least for those of us who, without children, do not have to face an uncertain school year and entertain little ones cooped up at home. And of course, having the good fortune of a stable employment helps these days, too.
But New Yorkers are known for their resilience. I believe wholeheartedly in this city, its people and its future, so there was no doubt in my mind I was going to re-up on my lease. I absolutely love my apartment and my area, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.
The only issue? The landlord wanted to increase my rent.
Yes, in the middle of a pandemic. And in a city where the median price for a studio apartment is already a staggering $2,595, according to RentHop (across all the five boroughs of New York, not just Manhattan.)
I wasn’t going to just take it and sign. And neither should you: It’s a renters’ market right now, in several big cities.
With Manhattan rental prices falling for the first time since the Great Recession and vacancies hitting a record-high, I knew I had the odds in my favor, and so I made an offer of my own. In the end I didn’t just prevent my rent from being raised; I actually got it knocked down.
Here’s how I was able to cut almost 15% off my rent for the coming year.
Do your homework ahead of time if you’re looking to renegotiate your rent, or sign a new apartment lease.
I had done my research ahead of time, looking up current units in my building as well as similar units in the surrounding area to get a feel for the market. I was prepared to go into a negotiation with my landlord with facts and data points to help prove my case. Not to mention the fact that I’m a great tenant: I’ve always paid my rent on time and never had a noise complaint or anything of that nature.
Experts agree, suggesting a similar strategy if you are hoping to negotiate your lease renewal, or looking to sign for a new apartment altogether.
In fact, it’s a good idea to keep these bargaining chips in mind:
- Current rent of comparable units in your building, if any
- Current rent of comparable units in your neighborhood
- If you’ve always paid your rent on time
- If you’ve never had a noise, or other, complaint
- If you’re flexible on your rental agreement, and would consider asking for a longer (13-month or more) lease
Once I had that information in my back pocket, I called my management company. Very friendly and politely, I explained to them where I lived and that I just received my lease renewal form — and asked if there was any room for discussion in the rental price, given the current market conditions.
Immediately, the agent said there was absolutely some room, and she would look into it for me.
A few days later, she called me back with an offer I gladly accepted: One month free, and almost a 1% decrease in my monthly rent for the rest of the year. That equals a net reduction of almost 15% over the course of a 12-month lease.
It was as simple as that.
While I was certainly prepared to go into the discussion with some strong discussion points — and recommend anyone in a similar position do the same — it really just came down to one thing: Asking.
I’m far from the only person to do this. I’ve heard anecdotes from friends and acquaintances who were also able to knock a few hundred dollars off their leases just by having a conversation with their landlord or management company.
Twitter user Ashley Carter was able to lower her rent by $400 using the same tactics outlined above. A little research and due diligence can go a really long way.
These days in particular, you have everything to gain by asking, and nothing to lose.