Your rent doesn’t have to go up every year. Even though your Landlord or management company may have given you a notice that your rent will be increasing, we can help you negotiate getting a better deal. Here’s five tips to navigating the rent increase waters.
know it’s not personal
One of my friends just got a notice that their rent will be increasing now that their lease is up. His girlfriend got angry and instantly went to the place of, “That’s it! We’re moving out!”. Take a deep breath and know that the rent increase is not personal. Sure it can be upsetting whenever your Landlord tells you that you have to pay a bit more, but even though the letter is addressed to you as a tenant, it has nothing to do with you personally. Business is business and you can bet everyone else in your building whose lease is expiring is getting the same letter you are. Read the letter in full and then sleep on it a night or two (or three) to cool off.
do your research
Find out if there are any comparable vacancies in the building and what they’re being advertised for. If they’re being advertised for more than your increase amount, then you’ve got a great deal and should consider renewing your lease at the rate offered. If the available unit is being advertised for less and is comparable to your own unit, schedule an appointment to talk to your manager about the discrepancy. Keep in mind that often times vacant units are advertised with concessions to entice tenants to rent (first month free, $50 off for a longer lease term, etc). Did you receive any concessions or discounts when you first moved in?
Also, take a look around to see what neighboring buildings and other vacant units in the same area are renting for to get a feel for the market. If there are a ton of “For Rent” signs up around the neighborhood, this could give you some leeway when negotiating with your Landlord since they probably don’t want to take on another vacancy. If there aren’t a lot of apartments available, that indicates a strong rental market and higher rental rates which could give your Landlord the upper hand.
If you live in a rent-control unit in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, or Santa Monica, know what amount your Landlord is allowed to increase your rent. This can usually be found on the City’s website or in a letter that the City sends to you. The increase amount for a unit under rent control in West Hollywood is only 0.75% for Sept 1, 2013 – August 31, 2014. For a unit renting at $1,800, this is only a $13.50 monthly increase.
UPDATE: The increase amount for West Hollywood is 1.25% for Sept 1, 2014 – August 31, 2015. For a unit renting at $1,800, this is only a $22.50 monthly increase.
make an appointment to talk
If you want to negotiate, I recommend a face-to-face meeting versus a phone conversation or email because it is so much more personal (and it’s harder for your Landlord to say no to someone who made an effort to meet with them). It’s ok to call or email to make the appointment, but try to make sure the conversation about the rent increase takes place in person if you can. If your manager is receptive to talking about it over the phone when you call to make an appointment, by all means go with the flow.
Tell them when you’re requesting an appointment to meet that you’d like to discuss the rent increase letter you received so that they have time to review your file before the meeting. I’ve had tenants do this and when they come in to talk, I already know that I can lower their rate or remove the increase completely.
This is always my number one piece of advice when dealing with the people who are in charge of where you live and how much rent you pay. Start the conversation nicely and be honest – don’t go in thinking they’re the enemy. Tell them how much you like living at the community and how you’d really like to stay. If you’ve referred a friend to live at the same complex or others that they manage, let them know that too. This shows them that you’re invested in your apartment and really view it as “home” versus a temporary location.
Tell them that you’d be willing to write a recommendation for use on their website (if you are) or sign a longer renewal term. And definitely steer clear of the typical things Landlords and managers always hear from tenants. Things like, “I’m a great tenant,” “I always pay my rent on time,” “I never put in maintenance requests”. We expect you to be good tenants and pay your rent on time and we want you to tell us if something needs to be fixed. These are not bargaining tools. This is why we leased to you in the first place.
If the negotiation chat went well and you’re happy with the outcome, send your manager or Landlord a handwritten note to say thank you for taking the time to meet with you. Or drop by on your day off to say thank you in person with a muffin or latte. Being nice goes a long way and they’ll remember your kind gesture the next time your lease is up for a rent increase.
it never hurts to ask
This is always my number two piece of advice when dealing with the people who are in charge of where you live. If you don’t ask, we never have the opportunity to say yes! Even if in your research you find that you’re paying a lower rate than what other apartments are going for, it still never hurts to ask if they can lower the increase amount. They might say yes (I have!). If you find that you’re paying more rent than new vacancies, ask to have the increase amount reduced, eliminated, or ask to have your rent lowered to the going rate of other apartments. The worst your manager could do is say no. If they’re not willing to negotiate, ask their reasoning behind it to better understand their position.
This is also a good time to negotiate an upgrade to your apartment if you choose to stay at the increased amount. Would your Landlord be willing to install an A/C unit if you signed a new lease or a longer one like 18 months? A screen door or ceiling fan? Would they pay to have an accent wall painted or to have the carpets cleaned? You may be able to find a compromise that would make you happy to stay at the increased rate even if they aren’t able to come down on the amount.
Have you ever negotiated when you received a rent increase letter? Let us know in the comments below.