Tenant negotiates a smaller rent increase
Shireen Gonzaga was not at all happy when she discovered -- at lease renewal time -- that the rent for her apartment just north of Baltimore was going up $100 a month. In 21 years in the neighborhood, she'd never seen a rent increase of more than $25.
Renters, take note: She fought back with facts. And won a major concession.
Gonzaga went on Rent.com and looked up the rates -- regular rates, not move-in specials -- for nice rentals near her. Here's what she pointed out to her apartment manager:
Somerset at Towson, she wrote, is advertising 1,170-square-feet apartments for $1,140 and 1,280-square-feet apartments for $1,170, plus it has a pool, playground and extra storage units. Versailles in Towson has 1,300-square-foot apartments for $1,312 to $1,556, plus a pool, fitness center and clubhouse.
She threw in a few more examples, and then noted that her complex has units under 1,000 square feet advertised at $1,250 to $1,375. Amenity: playground. Maybe.
"I've not seen a playground on the property," she noted in an email to the property manager.
Considering the competition, she wrote, "it's very hard to understand the market rate of $1375 for my apartment."
"Please let me know if my assessment of your market rates are incorrect, and if so, please explain to me how you arrived at the $1375 value," she added in her note. "Otherwise, I hope you will rethink the way you determine market values, and offer more realistic rental rates to your tenants (assuming you want to keep them)."
Result: The property manager offered her a 12-month lease at $25 more a month rather than $100 more.
Recounting this to me, Gonzaga said: "I wonder how many other tenants are aware that the so-called market rate is grossly inflated?"
Odds are, some renters are getting good deals and some aren't. It doesn't hurt to research -- like Gonzaga did -- to see if you have room to open negotiations.
"This experience has been quite an eye-opener for me," she said.