Landlords always have to balance the need to raise rent (to keep up with the rising costs of owning a building), with the need to keep apartments rented and vacancy rates down. This usually means that, whenever possible, they love keeping good tenants from year to year, and avoiding the time, hassle, uncertainty, and expense of finding new ones. Here's what you can do to tip the scales in your favor, avoid a rental increase, and happily sign your lease for another year.
1. Negotiate a Multi-year Lease: If you know you want to stay put for a couple of years, talk to your landlord about one long lease for the duration of your time there. A two-year lease, for example, will lock in a price you know you are comfortable with, with no large surprise after twelve months.
2. Know the Market: If your landlord tries to raise your rent, do some research, and (kindly) let them know where your apartment stands in relation to others in the area. If it's way out of line, chances are good your landlord will reconsider before you head off to find another place for less money.
3. Know Your Rights: Laws vary from state to state, so make sure you know what your landlord is legally allowed and not allowed to do. That might include increasing rent more than once a year, increasing it above a certain percentage of your rent, or not giving you enough notice before the increase takes effect.
4. Offer Your Services: Anything you can do to reduce the landlord’s costs will make you more desirable and valuable as a tenant. In exchange for the same rent for another year, offer to make small improvements to your apartment or building instead— things like painting, or shoveling the walk that winter. It saves the landlord from having to find and pay someone else to do those same things.
5. Make Referrals: If you know a vacancy is coming up in your building, spread the word among friends and colleagues. If an apartment rents based on your referral, the landlord will see you as a resource, and likely want to keep you around for another year.
6. Talk To Your Neighbors (If You Dare): If you find out one of them is paying $200 less than you are, that's good info to have in your back pocket. You also might find that one of them is moving out soon, and you can ask to take over their apartment for a lower rent. If you landlord can rent your current space for more money, chances are good they will jump at that opportunity.
7. Be A Model Tenant: If you pay your rent on time, don’t request unreasonable changes to your apartment, and are generally nice and not a pain in the ass, you are an attractive tenant. On the other hand, if your landlord knows you as the person who can’t change their own lightbulbs without calling maintenance, or constantly demands improvements, there’s little incentive for them to keep you around at the same price.
8. Make Yourself Human: Call the landlord if you are having financial problems, and ask them to reconsider —especially if it's a real person, versus a corporation, that owns your building. All landlords aren’t all mean, and if they are aware of your individual situation, there’s a better shot that they’ll be a human in return.
Of course, not all rental markets are equal — landlords have more bargaining power in high-priced Boston than, say, Saint Louis, where rental housing is plentiful and inexpensive. And sometimes increases in taxes and utilities make a rent hike necessary and justifiable. But, for those of you who have successfully negotiated the same rent from year to year, what do you think made all the difference?