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My landlord asked me today (via email) whether we plan to stay in the apartment and sign another lease in September. He mentioned there may be a small rent increase. He did not tell me what "small" means, although I suspect it will be $100 or less (current rent - $1600/mo).

I do not plan on moving even if the rent increases. What I am interested in is whether there is something I can negotiate for in return. Unfortunately, I think that a lot of options that could be used as negotiating points are not available to me:

  1. I already have a parking spot, there are 3 total in back and 3 units, so I doubt he would give me a second spot.
  2. Laundry is coin op in the basement and shared between all 3 units. There is nowhere in my unit where a washer/dryer could go.
  3. Unit was completely renovated prior to my moving in, so all the appliances are new and in good condition
  4. The apartment itself is also in good condition, only minor wear and tear from the 3 years I have lived here.

The answers in How does one effectively negotiate rent? are similar but the question is geared towards moving into a new place, as opposed to my situation which is a rent increase in an apartment that I have lived in for 3 years.

The only thing I can think of is increased snow removal. Right now the landlord pays someone to shovel part of the driveway, but not enough to get any cars out. The tenants have to do the rest, and it has caused conflict in the past. If I could get the LL to agree to shovel the entire driveway each time it snows (maybe 4-6x/year), that would work well. It would probably cost him an extra $30-50 per snowfall to shovel the entire driveway (I live in the Boston area). D

In this situation what other items might I negotiate for?

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Check MA laws, in CA the landlord must say what the new rent is going to be with the renewal notice, we can't say "small". –  littleadv Jun 17 '13 at 21:41
    
The landlord may have been fishing to see if you were going to continue for a 4th year. He wasn't ready to send you an offer until he gauged your mood. –  mhoran_psprep Jun 18 '13 at 10:01
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rational landlords work like mine and don't increase if you have few-to-no maintenance calls, pay on time, and they're overall undertenanted –  warren Jun 20 '13 at 19:26
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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Talking as a landlord, your main arguments are comps and the general increase/decrease of rent in your area. (And so are your landlord's arguments.)

  • Comps: how much do comparable units rent for? Look for similar units (same area, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, if your apartment complex is large enough even in the same apartment complex). In the US, Craigslist is a good tool for this. I'd even recommend you regularly check Craigslist, and keep track of all the comps you find, so you have historical data available for reference.
  • Increase/decrease in your area: check the Zillow Rent Index. For instance, as of this writing, San Francisco saw a 13.8% increase in the last year. If you're in a large city, look for the Zillow Rent Index in your specific neighborhood. If you were paying $1,000 last year, and rent prices generally increased by 10% in your area, an adjustment to $1,100 doesn't sound crazy.

And keep in mind: you want to stay, and most likely your landlord wants the same. It is in the interest of both of you and your landlord to adjust the rent, either downward or upward, to match the current market value. Your landlord most likely doesn't want to rent the property to you for less than he could rent it to someone else, but doesn't want to increase the price above the market value, as you might leave and he then might not be able to rent the property at that high price anyway.

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and increasing the rent and driving out a "good" tenant is dumb, too –  warren Jun 20 '13 at 19:28
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@warren Indeed. –  avernet Jun 20 '13 at 23:57
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Unless you are prepared to move out if your demands are not met, you might not have much bargaining power.

If you have a lease with a fixed termination date, there may be a clause in there to the effect that unless a new lease (or renewal or an agreement to extend the current lease under its current rental rate) is signed by both parties n months before the termination date, it is agreed that

  • the lease expires on the termination date and the renter will vacate the premises on or before the date of termination of the lease,
  • the landlord is entitled to enter the apartment in the renter's absence in order to show the apartment to prospective renters

Assuming that the n months in advance is 3 months in advance, and the landlord is concerned that you have completely forgotten the existence of such a clause, he is simply reminding you that you have to proactively tell the landlord that you want to renew the lease at which point negotiations begin on how much rent the landlord wants to charge and what, if anything, you will get in return for the increase in rent. If the rent increase is "small", the answer may well be that you cannot negotiate anything at all since the increase might be attributable to increased expenses for the landlord or inflation or what have you, and the landlord's attitude might well be "Pay the new rate or leave". On the other hand, a good tenant is a valuable asset and a landlord may well be interested in keeping you rather than looking for a new tenant since that costs money, opens up the possibility of the property remaining vacant for some time, and also of getting a tenant from hell to replace you.

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This doesn't answer the question. "In this situation what other items might I negotiate for? " –  mhoran_psprep Jun 18 '13 at 15:50
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Check the laws in your state, in some the lease changes to month-to-month automatically after a year unless the parties decide to sign a formal lease extension.

The renter has to give notice that they will or will not be staying beyond the end of the lease. They must also give 30 days notice before moving. The landlord must also give notice before changing the rent or asking the tenant to move.

Switching to month-to-month gives you the flexibility to move when you feel it is convenient. The landlord can raise the rate by giving notice if there are additional costs.

During your three years there he has recouped the cost of finding the tenant, and you have had stability. Each time the lease comes up for renewal there is a risk the tenant will be unwilling to stay, thus costing the owner money involved in finding a new tenant for the unit.

If the landlord insists on raising the rent, then ask for a switch to a month-to-month lease. You will now control your exit date if you need to move for any reason.

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Could you explain the last sentence above? If the landlord can give notice (one month notice?) that the month-to-month lease will not be renewed -- period --- (or, gives notice that the rent will change to a ridiculously high figure in order to induce the tenant to leave) the tenant does not have full control of the exit date. Indeed, the landlord might get rid of the tenant if someone else is willing to pay somewhat more as rent on a longer term basis. –  Dilip Sarwate Jun 18 '13 at 11:54
    
The landlord would have to have a new tenant in place, or be willing to risk having an empty unit. The OP implied it was a 3 unit apartment so having 1/3 of the apartments empty would hurt. Each year a landlord can decide not to rent the unit, or to raise the rent. Once the tenant signs the a 12 month lease if they need to move due to a job change, marriage (or divorce),... they have to break the lease or wait until the year is up. It is something to consider. By signing a new lease when it is not required they may be giving up an option they didn't even know they had. –  mhoran_psprep Jun 18 '13 at 12:01
    
"The landlord would have to have a tenant in place..." That is exactly the point of my last sentence. If the landlord gets a call from a prospective renter asking if he has a unit available, he might well say that he does not have one available for move-in today but will have one available at the end of next month. Then, if the prospective renter agrees to the terms (rent, move-in date etc) and signs a longer-term lease, the landlord can give notice to the month-to-month renter that the month-to-month lease will not be renewed. –  Dilip Sarwate Jun 18 '13 at 12:10
    
Month-to-month is not for everybody. But it is great for some people. They considered it a reward for staying the initial 12 months. Want to move out on the 17th of the month, you can do that. Want to move on a Monday when the truck is cheaper, you can do that. –  mhoran_psprep Jun 18 '13 at 12:15
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Given that the OP says I do not plan on moving even if the rent increases, the advice that "If the landlord insists on raising the rent, then ask for a switch to a month-to-month lease" is not very useful. There is no up side, only a down side, as far as I can see, since the OP does not want to move on a Monday because the truck is cheaper, and the advantage of terminating whenever is of no interest to him. On the other hand, a month-by-month lease can be terminated by the landlord at any time too, which is a disadvantage as far as the OP is concerned. –  Dilip Sarwate Jun 18 '13 at 15:43
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