Throughout the pandemic, people have been leaving big city apartments for country-living in spots where quarantining is a bit easier. The exodus has left some landlords scrambling to fill vacancies. If you are in the market for a new apartment—or even getting ready to renew your existing lease—now is the time to make a play for a lower monthly payment, not to mention those extra perks and amenities that will make your day-to-day living a lot more pleasant. Here are six things you should negotiate every time you sign a new lease.
The monthly rent
Many people think their monthly rent is an immovable price, but your landlord sets it, which means they can change it. Trying to negotiate lower rent can be nerve-wracking; the risk of losing your apartment outright is a big fear. In the current climate, however, you may have more pull than you think. As housing attorney Samuel J. Himmelstein told the real estate site Brick Underground “[t]he vacancy rate is going to go up, and landlords will be more interested in trying to retain their tenants to keep their cash flow going.”
Take a look at the vacancies in your building and find comparable rates for similar apartments in your neighborhood. This will help you determine how much you should be paying and balance that against how much you would like to pay.
If the landlord is holding firm on the monthly rate, try to negotiate a free month of rent.
Length of the lease
If you know you’re staying put and you’re worried about rent increases at the end of a lease, ask for a longer term, which will lower your overall rent costs in the long run.
The average lease length is twelve months (one year), which is a fair lease term; after a year, you generally will know if you want to stay in the apartment or move on. If you are renewing a lease or feel like you really love the new digs, you can ask for a longer lease—two years or even 18 months are common asks, whichever you feel will best fit your needs. Most landlords will welcome the idea of having a permanent tenant for a longer period of time, securing that monthly income and lowering their turnover rate. Be sure to check the lease breakage fees built into the contract, because if anything goes wrong during your rental period and you need to leave early, you want to be sure you can get out for a fair price. (By the way, you can also negotiate the breakage fees in the negotiation process.)
Having a home with all of the pleasures you enjoy is important, so before you sign your lease, negotiate the ability to make small changes. Refacing cabinets or changing door knobs are small things that can really change the look and feel of the space. Since you’ll be living in the home and not the landlord, you want the ability to make it yours, even if only temporarily.
Cleaning your apartment is absolutely your responsibility. You won’t ask your landlord to wash your dishes, but you can ask for deep-cleaning services to be included in your lease. A professional cleaning company can do things like clean baseboards, shampoo rugs, clean and dust ceilings, and wash windows. If included in your monthly rent, this kind of service would make spring cleaning a breeze.
If you have the option for a dedicated parking spot, I recommend snagging one right away as part of your lease. This will be more expensive in larger cities like NYC, where a dedicated spot runs an average of $430 a month, but it’s definitely worth it if you can lump that ask into your rent negotiations. If you have a car, you understand the trials and tribulations of street parking; a guaranteed spot saves you the added costs that come with parking tickets and saves you the hassle of searching for a spot late at night or moving your car for street cleaning.
Ask for the option to move into a better unit
Outgrowing the space is pretty common when it comes to apartments. Maybe you are adding to your family and need more bedrooms or a better layout. Or you just have accumulated more stuff. When signing your lease, negotiate the option to move into a bigger or better unit in the building when one becomes available. You’ll get first notice when new apartments come on the market and have the ability to expand if you need to. Also, ask for a referral bonus. If you send other tenants their way, ask for a cash reward or money off that month’s rent. It’s the least they can do for helping them fill their empty units.