How to Negotiate Rent & Concessions

Originally posted on August 31, 2022 3:00 pm
Updated on August 24, 2022 12:09 am

Rental prices quickly hit a historic low in NYC at the peak of the pandemic. However, they’ve bounced back just as quickly. Some of the rent pricing might seem outrageous, but believe it or not, such apartments are still in demand by many who are looking to move. Your mind may be wandering to negotiating at some point, but NYC landlords rarely agree to lower the rent before you sign. In some desirable spots in the city, you might even be faced with competition with those who are willing to pay more than the asking price to snag the apartment. You can definitely still find apartment bargains if you know where to look, but these sorts of chances aren’t everywhere anymore. So what do you do?

What Are Concessions?

Even if the landlord of the apartment you’re eyeing doesn’t do negotiations on rent, you can bring up concessions. Concessions are incentives that make rentals more appealing. Some landlords will tell you upfront what concessions they offer to attract attention. These may come as “x” amount of months of free rent, having the broker’s fee paid for, reduced security deposit, complimentary amenities, included appliances, or free internet included with the rent.

When to Negotiate Rent or Ask for Concessions?  

There are some situations where it is easier to ask for a rent reduction and/or concessions. Learn the market you are renting, and perhaps you can negotiate a fairer price than what the landlord is asking for. Compare listings across boroughs. You may find more listings that are more affordable simply because they aren’t located in a “hot” neighborhood. From there, compare the apartment to other listings in the same neighborhood. You might come across apartments that might be harder to rent, reasons being: right under a noisy overpass, located by restaurants which may increase the chance of pests, the space hasn’t been well taken care of, or is located in an older building. You can check for the desirability of a listing by checking how long the apartment has been on the market. If you come across any of these situations or one that compares, it might be easier to ask for a bargain. This can be done like you are shopping at a place that does price matching. Simply saying something like, “XYZ is offering X reduction in rent OR ‘concessions’ at this price. Can you match what they are offering?” This is a good way to negotiate if you choose between apartments in the same area that are close in amenities and price.

Seasons can come into play when asking for deals too. There is more flexibility to negotiate during the slower months of NYC’s rental cycle. If you’re looking for an apartment between November to March, you’re more likely to come across apartments with more concessions or have the ability to ask if there’s any way you can get a better deal. Of course, the best part of finding an apartment during these months is that you can offer to move in right away, and instead of signing a 1-year lease, offer to sign a slightly longer lease (around 15-16 months). This lets the landlord relist the apartment during the summer, which benefits them as they can now rent out the apartment during the prime rental season. With something that benefits them, landlords may be more willing to negotiate and/or offer concessions. 

How to Negotiate as a Current Tenant

If you’re someone who is already living in an apartment but is about to experience a rent increase, there are points to talk about with the landlord that might get lower your new monthly rent. Act like you’re on the search for a new apartment. It is a must to learn about the neighborhood around you and research the prices. This way, when it’s time to negotiate with the landlord, you will have knowledge of the rental market and numbers to match. This is a sure method so that you don’t accidentally ask for something unreasonable in which the landlord will most likely take all negotiations off the table. The only way this method would not work is if the increased price is still lower than the apartments around the neighborhood. 

If it’s time to renew and your lease ends during the slow months of the rental cycle, ask the landlord if you can sign for another couple of months until summer, when the rental cycle picks up again. Again, this will benefit the landlord and thus may benefit you in the long run. It doesn’t hurt to add the little things if your rent increases when renewing your lease. Pointing out how you’re a good tenant, always pay rent on time, quiet, or anything else that would aid in the negotiation, use it. It may or may not help, but it never hurts to try.

Of course, no matter how much you research or try to negotiate, some landlords will refuse. This really depends on what kind of building you’re looking to rent in, as well as neighborhoods. More likely, smaller building landlords will be the ones that are more open to negotiations and offering concessions rather than bigger, better-known apartment landlords or management companies.

What Happens After Negotiations?

No matter what it is that is decided on, whether that is your negotiation going through or the landlord agreeing to add X amount of concessions into your rental, it is an absolute must to get everything in writing. Rental scams are a big issue and can sometimes happen, no matter how careful you are. “If it’s too good to be true…” really applies to NYC housing. Instead of Facebook Marketplace, you might want to consider using verified sites like Renthop or even contacting a real estate agency that helps with rentals. Writing agreements down can help you and the landlord if either party tries to lie later down the road. A verbal agreement isn’t certain and isn’t permanent. This can heavily go against you as the landlord can insist that there were never negotiations in play, even if you spent hours researching and then talking to them about it. So, always, always get your rental agreements in writing, including the negotiations that worked and concessions that were initially offered or later asked for. This applies to those who are subleasing as well. If it’s not in a contract, it might as well not exist. 

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