renew lease: how to renegotiate rent?
April 10, 2005 2:55 PM   Subscribe

The lease for my apartment is ending in a few months, and I have been getting forms asking if I planned to renew my lease. Although I would like to stay in this apartment, there are some problems that have come up, and I do not think that the rent that I am paying is fair.

For example, since I moved in, there has been a homeless man squatting in the basement/laundry room. He is harmless, and actually a nice guy, but I have complained to the landlords several times, and they have done nothing about it. Also, there is construction right next to the building that is very loud early in the morning. How would I go about renegotiating the terms of the new lease, and would these issues give me any leverage?
posted by AceRock to Work & Money (9 answers total)
Construction in an adjacent building is beyond your landlord's control, so I doubt that you could convincingly argue for a rent reduction because of this. But you can always ask. If its truly intolerable and doesn't seem like it will end soon, then you should move.

The squatter is a real problem. However nice he is, its a threat to your safety to have your landlord allow people who are not on a lease to reside in the building. You should definitely bring this up.

Rents are determined by the rental market; generally the only way that you can negotiate a rent reduction is by arguing that the market has gone down, or that for some reason the apartment is no longer worth as much - e.g., some part of it is no longer habitable or some such thing. But I'm not entirely clear why you think you should get your rent reduced because of this. Are you saying that you are willing to put your own safety at risk if you can save a few bucks? Or is it that you are pissed that your landlord hasn't addressed your concern. If the latter, you're not in much of a position to negotiate. Your dissatisfaction with how your landlord has addressed problems in the past is not a reason to expect a rent reduction - its a reason to move.

I think that the best that you can do is say that you would like to sign a new lease, but make it conditional on them evicting the squatter and ensuring that others cannot enter the building in the future. You can ask for a rent reduction as well, but I wouldn't expect anything.
posted by googly at 3:31 PM on April 10, 2005

The idea of using the homeless guy as leverage doesn't sit well with me. I think your leverage may come mostly from the reality of the occupancy rate (are there empty units or full with a waiting list?) and how the apartment cost compares to others nearby.
posted by rolypolyman at 3:31 PM on April 10, 2005

oi'm not sure how googly gets from the building work not being caused by your landlord to it not affecting the rent. the rent should reflect how much someone will pay to live there. people don't want to live next to a building site so will pay less, hence the rent should drop.
posted by andrew cooke at 4:11 PM on April 10, 2005

How would I go about renegotiating the terms of the new lease

You say, "I won't sign this lease, but if you reduce the rent from $foo to $bar, I will. This will keep me here, and you know I'm a good tenant, it will save you the inevitable costs of fixing up the normal wear-and-tear from my residency, it will mean you don't have to worry about who the new tenant might be, and whether they want to set up a meth lab or whatever, or if there will even be a new tenant. The rent I'm proposing is fair because it takes into account the ways in which the apartments aren't worth as much any more, what with the homeless people in it and the construction next door scaring off potential residents."

and would these issues give me any leverage?

I wouldn't bet on it, especially if you're dealing with a multi-property company.

Long-standing vacancies would give you leverage, as would a stream of people looking at your building and picking somewhere else to live.

I'd guess your realistic choice is going to be between paying the new rent as it is in the lease and moving.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:14 PM on April 10, 2005

ROU_Xenophobe, Truly an excellent answer--I want to contract with you to do some labor negotiations for me --succinct, fair, conceptually inclusive, and pragmatic. Frank
posted by rmhsinc at 5:24 PM on April 10, 2005

Seriously, ROU_Xenophobe: that's a great answer.
posted by letitrain at 6:08 PM on April 10, 2005

Standard negotiating step: know what your best alternative is to your final offer. In other words, find out what other apartments are available, how much you would have to pay, estimate the cost of moving (psychic or otherwise), and then figure out how much rent reduction it would take to keep you from moving. It may be zero, in which case you should say that you'd like to have your rent reduced by $xxx for Y months, and the homeless person dealt with, but you don't say that you'll move if this doesn't happen, because you won't.

Other things to keep in mind:

* No matter what you have already put up with, your landlord probably isn't going to compensate you for that, or feel any need to take that into account (even though you have complained). That's the past.

* You're more likely to get a one-time reduction (for X months) than a permanent reduction in rent, so you're better off asking for (or at least expecting) something less than a permanent decrease. For example, you might ask for a reduction during the (expected) period of construction.

Good luck.
posted by WestCoaster at 7:31 PM on April 10, 2005

I'm not sure ROU_Xeno is right about not getting a reduction - the WSJ ran an article recently about softening rental markets because of the large percentage increase in home buyers, the result of low interest rates for so long.

Also remember, every day that unit is empty costs your landlord money. If you move out and it takes 1 week to pretty it up enough to show it and 3 weeks to get someone in it, that's 1 month's revenues lost. So if you're paying $1100 a month and want a $100 a month reduction that means $1200 less a year for your landlord... only marginally more than the $1100 they WON'T get that month it's empty.

All of this doesn't account for one very important point, however - people are not always logical in their negotiating decisions. Your landlord might have an aversion to every moving downwards in his/her price, no matter how much it costs in real dollars. Depending on the reaction you might alternately request a month free, a common signup promotion for apartments in my area here.

WestCoaster mentions an important point - the key to successful negotiation is deciding ahead of time what you're willing to walk away from. So decide if this matters enough to deal with the headaches and additional costs of moving.

I'd suggest pondering that question, deciding what the real cost is to you in moving and writing a brief note (since it sounds like your correspondance is primary in writing) saying that you overall like living there and would prefer not to deal with the expense and hassle of moving, however you have seen X deals in the area, have Y concerns about the current property conditions and think Z factors would create difficulty for them in placing someone new in the property. Given those things you're like to pay R monthly if you sign a new lease.

I think if you present that clearly and succinctly (under 1 page) and perhaps give them some options (waive the first month of the new term if they are unwilling to reduce the montly amount) you'll have about as good a chance as any to get them to do this.

Keep an eye on the deadlines in your current lease regarding how quick they can demand you get out and when you have to sign a new lease. Use them to your best negotiating advantage.
posted by phearlez at 9:28 AM on April 11, 2005

When I lived in Boston, my roomate and I renegotiated the terms of our lease even after we'd signed the new one by writing to the landlord and stating why we thought the rent wasn't fair. We checked around and found that new people moving into the building were paying a lot less. Also, a guy got shot 8 times on our front step right after we signed the new lease.

In a very matter-of-fact, non-threatening tone, we said that we were reliable tenants and that, given the going prices in the area and the shooting and whatnot, they would probably have a hard time getting someone else in there at the prices they were asking. We said we would move out unless they cut $300 off of our rent and let us sign a whole new lease - so they did.
posted by nyterrant at 11:15 AM on April 11, 2005

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