How to negotiate better rent in NYC?
September 29, 2010 2:29 PM   Subscribe

We're looking to sign a lease on the apartment we currently sublet, with the support of the current tenant. The management company has indicated they will increase the rent. We want to minimize (or eliminate) the increase. How to negotiate this tactfully & effectively?

Going against is the fact that this is a desirable, rent-controlled apartment. Even if the rent was increased by the maximum permissible amount (~17%), it would be a fair deal.

On the other hand, the management company has voluntarily reduced the rent for the previous tenant after his first year, and they generally seem to be moved by inertia. The fact that we've already settled in, get along with the neighbors, have taken good care of the apartment, and have the recommendation of the current legal tenant.

Our credit is good, but our income levels are borderline. I don't want to sound too desperate, since that may trigger alarm. A 17% increase really would be very onerous on us, though.
posted by limon to Home & Garden (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've found writing a letter is a good first step.
posted by spec80 at 2:37 PM on September 29, 2010

I know it has been on the Green before, but here goes: landlords generally don't like to lose tenants. It's easier for them to keep you in their apartment paying rent than having to find someone new to pay rent. It usually takes a minimum of a couple of weeks to get repairs, fresh paint, fresh carpet. Then it takes a couple more weeks to get a tenant. If the process is dragged out to two months, the 17% increase is essentially cancelled out and the landlord has mostly wasted his/her time and energy.

Start by finding out what their proposed rent increase is. If it's the full 17%, give them the idea that it would be unacceptable and you'd start looking (you might not really look to move, but the landlord doesn't know that). Then make offers. If the increase is only a few percent, consider taking it. The key to negotiations is to keep the communication lines open. Also, work other things into the deal, for instance if you have outstanding repairs that need attention in the apartment, put those on the bargaining table.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:19 PM on September 29, 2010

First of all, you're likely talking about rent-stabilized, not rent-controlled. Rent controlled apartments are ones that have been in the family for years and years and you can only live there if you've established tenancy through one of the leaseholders and are a blood relative.

Rent-stabilized increases are nowhere NEAR 17%, so I don't know where you are getting that number from. Last year I believe it was 3% for a one-year lease. (I live in a rent-stabilized unit but am admittedly too lazy to go find my lease and get it out).

Now, if it's rent-stabilized, understand that the rent will increase every year, unless the landlord is a total idiot and can't be bothered to figure out how much they can increase it (I've seen it happen).

You need to find out what the increase is going to be, and take it from there, instead of coming here and thinking that it's going to be a 17% increase. I've only seen that happen when landlords suddenly realize that their unit is underpriced for the area - and again, with a rent-stabilized unit, they can't just increase the rent by whatever percent they feel like.

Make sure your unit is rent-stabilized by checking this link at

But most of all, just get the number from them. They're not going to increase it based on income limitations automatically. But keep in mind that despite opportunity cost, rent-stabilized units are very much in demand, so you don't have a ton of bargaining power. If you won't pay it someone else will.
posted by micawber at 8:51 PM on September 29, 2010

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