Before You Negotiate Your Lease Renewal, Decide What You Really Want

It’s that dreaded day far too many months before your apartment lease actually ends: When the renewal notice comes, and you have to decide to stay or go way faster than you wanted to think about.

The key to a successful negotiation may be in what happens before you respond to your landlord’s renewal notice, Nancy Simmons Starrs wrote for the Washington Post. If you decide you’d like to stay put (because, heck, moving is expensive), figure what you want most from your landlord.

For instance, if rent has skyrocketed in your area, you probably won’t get your landlord to agree to decrease your rent, but you may be able to convince them to keep it the same for one more year.

If you anticipate being happy in the space long term, you can offer to sign a longer lease in exchange for a more amenable rate. If you think you might be headed out of town before the next year is up, you can ask for a shorter lease (but be prepared to a bit pay more for the convenience).

Don’t rush through the renewal paperwork before taking a look around your apartment and thinking about what you really need—or would simply make your time there more enjoyable.

Let me tell you how I did it. When I renewed my lease the first time, I asked and my landlord agreed not to raise the rent. I followed one of Simmons Starrs’ tips—“Remind the landlord of all the ways you have been a great tenant and will continue to be a great tenant”—and called to mind in a cordial email that I was an easygoing renter who always paid on time.

The second time I renewed, I was still a solid tenant, but my landlord said he had to increase the rent. I let him have that $29 per month (I know, small potatoes), but made a few upgrade requests. Could I have newer, nicer miniblinds to match other units? Could I please have a new microwave, or at least a replacement handle instead of the method the previous tenant had used to MacGyver it together? Could I please paint the living room a neutral colour of my choice that would save my eyes from the butter-beige shade I had hated since day one?

He said yes to all three, and he got the new fixtures installed before I even signed the paperwork.

And, to be honest, my next lease renewal is going to drop into my mailbox any day now. I think about it a lot. I’d love to know what other aspects of a rental renewal you’ve negotiated successfully.


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