Summer is traditionally one of the busiest seasons for rentals in New York City, but in the age of Coronavirus, soaring unemployment, and working from home forcing many of us to rethink our living circumstances, all bets are off. And, for anyone looking to renegotiate their lease – or sign a new one – the renter has the upper hand for possibly the first time in decades.
Last month saw 30% more rental listings in the city, but there were 35% fewer leases signed, compared to this time last year.
And all the evidence points to a willingness on the part of landlords to cut a deal. According to StreetEasy, between April and June, 34.7% of all Manhattan rentals got a discount. The median reduction was 6.7% ($221) per month.
Michael managed to renegotiate the lease on his Hell’s Kitchen two-bedroom apartment to a seven-month period, with a 50% cut on both the first and last month’s rent, adding up to nearly a $600-a-month drop in payments
“With a month free, it came out at a saving of nearly $300 a month.”
Alexis is in the middle of a two-year lease on her one-bedroom apartment, and has spent the last two months negotiating with her landlords for a better deal. Next week, she moves into a different apartment in the same building that is around $50 a month cheaper. “But,” she says, “with a month free, it came out at a saving of nearly $300 a month, for an apartment on a higher floor with a better layout. I was also relieved of my obligation from the second year of my lease.”
These are her pro tips:
1. Be nice! “Most of the people that we are communicating with are not in charge and do not hold the purse strings,” she reasons. “Yelling at the people who are the messengers and the gatekeepers isn’t effective. I am perfectly comfortable arguing with legal staffers though. In my opinion, they signed up for that job.”
2. Be persistent. “Don’t give up and don’t give in, because that’s the end of the ballgame.”
3. Do your research. “How many apartments are available in your area? How many are available in your building? Go online and check out the listings. Give a breakdown of the costs listed. Rents have been reduced, although not nearly as much as they should be because landlords aren’t stupid enough to flood the market.”
4. Justify your reduction. “I tried for months to appeal to the massive unemployment rates, the dire circumstances, and overall shift in economic resources,” she says. “Nobody cares about that because it is not a convincing reason for anyone to do business with you.
“Instead, it was better to highlight that I consistently paid my rent on time. I was a tenant in good standing. It was also not a bad idea to note the reasons why retaining me instead of pursuing another tenant would be more efficient.”
The recent rise in crime is also a deterrent for potential new renters, she points out.
“Basically, I have been consistent; I have been vetted; I am willing to deal with the negative changes that have taken place in the neighborhood.
“Nobody cares what we can afford or what we would like to pay. They only care about filling the units with the best candidates. I recommend playing to the strengths of your situation. A lot of our situations are shitty, but we all have positives to emphasize.”
5. Accept the reality of the situation. “You are not in this alone, but you are bargaining alone,” she says. “No one is coming to bail us out any time soon. Each of us has to figure out this shit show on our own.”
Are you a tenant who has renegotiated a deal? Are you a landlord willing to meet your renters half way? Tell us your experiences and tips. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.