Landlords always want to raise the rent when a lease is renewed, but a little research could earn you a lot of leverage.
Q: I live in a market-rate apartment in Kensington, Brooklyn, with reasonable rent. My lease is up for renewal soon and I want to stay. But I haven’t heard anything from my landlord yet, and I’m worried the rent will go up a lot. What’s the best way to approach the property manager about a lease renewal? Would it help if I agree to a two-year lease?
A: Landlords should send out lease renewals for market-rate apartments anywhere from 50 to 90 days before the lease expires. Call the property manager and ask when you can expect to see yours, because you need to plan for the coming year.
Landlords set rents based on market conditions, and sometimes they hold out on sending renewals for as long as possible to see if conditions turn in their favor. In Brooklyn, rents are inching up. The median rent in Brooklyn was $2,850 a month in April, up 0.3 percent from the same time a year ago, according to a Douglas Elliman report.
Will your landlord include a rent increase in the new lease? Probably.
“They’re always trying to increase the price. It’s pretty much an unwritten rule,” said Josh Sarnell, an associate real estate broker with Citi Habitats.
Before you sign a renewal, find out what’s happening in your neighborhood and your building. Scroll through StreetEasy listings to see how much rent landlords are asking for comparable apartments. Visit a few to see what else is out there, and confirm that your apartment is worth what you’re paying. Find out how long other vacant apartments in your building have been on the market. Is the landlord offering concessions? Are units taking weeks to rent?
If you do get hit with a large rent hike, ask to negotiate it. Worst case scenario, the landlord says no.
“It’s not set in stone,” Mr. Sarnell said.
Point out that you are a tenant in good standing, and use the information you’ve gathered to make your case. Your willingness to sign a two-year lease could help if the landlord prefers stability over rapid rent increases. Ultimately, your leverage comes down to the strength of the market: If management thinks it can get the rent it’s asking from someone else, it will probably hold firm. If the apartment might sit vacant for a month, you’ve got a chance to work out a better deal.
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