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Five things to keep in mind when renegotiating your lease

There is more to renting than just blindly signing a new lease. Ask for a decrease in rent or for renovations to be made — and be prepared to offer a longer lease term in return. (iStock) (Worawee Meepian/iStock)

What are my goals in the renegotiation? Do you want to keep the rent the same as it is or ask for a lower rent? Offering a lease term longer than one year could help you in either case. Think about the timing of when this rental home will come back on the market, should you move at the end of the term. That sweet spot to end your lease is typically somewhere between April and August. That will make it easier for the landlord to rent the home to another tenant. If you are offering a lease term that ends in January, it will be harder for the landlord to rent the home to someone new, as that is a slower time of year in the rental market.

If you want to ask for renovations on the bathroom, you probably will not want to ask for a decrease in rent.

Understand things from the landlord’s perspective. Do a little research to see what the rents are in your neighborhood, so you have a better understanding of what the landlord’s expectations might be for a rent increase or for a new tenant. This will give you an idea of what is realistic to ask of your landlord. You probably have a good relationship with your landlord. And you will want to continue having a good relationship with your landlord, so it is best to be polite and reasonable in your dealings with them. Keeping a tenant in a rental property will save the landlord the expense of having to turn over the home to get it ready for a new tenant. It also eliminates the risk of the property being vacant and not having a rent-paying tenant living in the property for a period of time during the transition.

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Your record as a tenant. If you have been a good tenant that has paid rent on time, taken good care of the property, been quiet and not caused disturbance to the neighbors, been easy to work with when a repair needs to be made, then you will be a tenant a landlord will want to keep. Remind the landlord of all the ways you have been a great tenant and will continue to be a great tenant.

Small landlords are easier to negotiate with for a lower rent. Larger rental communities are going to be harder to negotiate with for a lower rent or keeping the rent the same for a longer-term lease. If the building cannot negotiate the rent, check to see what specials are being offered to new tenants. Often times they offer new tenants a special, such as waiving the amenity fee or a portion of free rent or a rental credit. Ask if the landlord can offer you the same special they are offering to new tenants if you renew your lease. If they will not offer you a special, ask for an update in the home or ask for your apartment to be painted.

You can go month to month after your initial lease term. Keep in mind that your rent can be increased with the notice stated in your lease at any time after that initial lease term is over. It is best if you renew your lease for one year or longer to avoid rent increases. If you know you are not moving soon and are happy where you are, then it is best if you can negotiate an affordable rent for a longer lease term. If you cannot get a rent decrease, then ask to keep the rent the same over a longer lease term. That will save you money in the longer run, as long as your rent is reasonable rent for the neighborhood. Not having to pay for the cost of moving is an additional savings, as well.

Nancy Simmons Starrs is founder and president of Apartment Detectives, a D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia apartment-search service.