Renewing Your Apartment Lease? 8 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Do
For renters, there comes a critical time when you must decide whether to stay or go. When it comes to deciding whether or not you’ll be renewing your apartment lease, there are a number of important factors to consider. Here are just a few of the questions you may want to ask yourself when your lease is up.
- Do I have the option of going month-to-month?
- Are there any major changes to my lease terms?
- Is there a price increase?
- Are there any new or additional fees associated with my renewal?
- Why did I decide to live here in the first place? Are those reasons still valid?
- Is there a different apartment within this building that would be a better fit?
- Are there any lease terms I could negotiate?
- Is there a more attractive apartment available that could better suit my needs?
1. Do I Have the Option of Going Month-to-Month?
Before signing on for another six- to 24-month lease, you may want to find out if going month-to-month is an option. In many cities and states, it is commonplace for a lease term to expire with the tenant having the option to continue living in the apartment from month-to-month, only requiring a 30- or 60-day notice to vacate when they decide to move out, says U.S. News and World Report.
While this type of flexibility has obvious benefits, there are a couple of things to consider. One benefit of agreeing to a longer lease term is that, in most cases, your landlord can only increase your rent cost upon renewal. In a month-to-month arrangement, your landlord could have the option to increase your rent each month, according to U.S. News and World Report. It is also common for shorter lease terms to come with a higher rent to start, adds U.S News and World Report. The shorter the lease, the higher the potential that the landlord will have to fill that apartment with a new tenant when the current lease is up, and for the landlord, the cost associated with this may include cleaning, painting, advertising and time spent showing the apartment.
2. Are There Any Major Changes to My Lease Terms?
If you were to renew your lease, will the terms remain the same? Ask your landlord directly about any changes, and then carefully compare your current lease with the new one to help ensure there are no surprises. Potential changes to look for may include price increases, building rules and changes to other costs like parking, pet or amenity fees.
3. Is There a Price Increase?
One of the biggest factors to consider when deciding whether or not to renew your lease is the rental cost. Rent increases upon renewal are far from uncommon, and often reflect changes in the local and global markets, cost of living increases, tax increases and improvements and maintenance of the building and apartment, says National Association of Realtors. Decide whether the proposed rent increase is reasonable in relation to both the factors listed above as well as to your own financial situation.
4. Are There Any New or Additional Fees Associated With My Renewal?
In addition to your rental cost, there are often other fees associated with renting an apartment. These can include but are not limited to: parking fees, pet fees, amenity fees, utility fees and storage fees. Ask your landlord whether these costs will remain the same or increase upon renewal. If you made a security deposit when you first moved in, you may also want to ask if or how renewing your lease could affect this. If your other costs have gone up, it is possible that your landlord could request an additional deposit, according to The Balance. This cost increase is often justified by considering the factors listed above (changes in the market, cost of living, cost of building improvements, etc.) as well as the additional wear and tear the apartment may receive due to an extended tenancy.
5. Why Did I Decide to Live Here In the First Place? Are Those Reasons Still Valid?
A lot can change over the course of a year or two, both for you as an individual, and for your apartment building and neighborhood as well. Take the time to consider all of the factors that made you decide on this location in the first place, and then reflect on whether or not those factors still apply. Some questions you could ask yourself include:
- How has the neighborhood changed since I first moved in?
- If the neighborhood has changed, do I personally consider these changes to be positive, negative or relatively neutral?
- Do I plan on bringing a pet into my household in the near future? If so, is my building pet-friendly? What are the costs associated with renting as a pet owner?
- How is my commute now compared to when I first moved in? If my job has changed or I do my shopping somewhere new, is this location more or less convenient now?
- Did the noisy neighbor finally move out (or did one move in)?
- Is my social life the same now as it was when I moved in? Do I enjoy spending time with my neighbors? Are my friends living within close proximity?
6. Is There a Different Apartment Within This Building That Would Be a Better Fit?
If you still love the apartment building and neighborhood you’re currently living in but want to downsize or upsize, you may want to ask the landlord if there are any other apartments available in the building. It is also important to understand what terms, costs and actions that are required to either transfer your lease or sign a brand new lease for the new apartment.
7. Are There Any Lease Terms I Could Negotiate?
Generally speaking, it is often more beneficial for a landlord or property management company to retain a current resident by having them renew their lease than it is to try and refresh the apartment and find a new tenant. This being said, you may have the advantage of being able to negotiate some of the terms of your current or proposed new lease. Here are a few examples of terms you could try to negotiate:
- The length of your lease: If you would prefer a shorter lease term (such as a three- to six-month lease), this is usually associated with a higher monthly rent cost. With the hopes of a renewal, however, your landlord may either offer to keep your rent at its current price while allowing for a shorter lease term or give you a discount off a typical shorter lease term cost. On the flip side, if you know you’d like to stay put for a while, you could propose locking into a longer lease term in exchange for a rental cost consistent with or lower than you are currently paying.
- Additional fees: Pet fees, amenity fees, parking fees, utility fees and storage fees are all additional costs that you may be able to negotiate. You could ask to have one or more of these fees waived or reduced upon renewal.
- Apartment updates and upgrades: If you’re facing renewal, then that means that you’ve already been living in the apartment for some time. Consider what the landlord might want to update or upgrade to attract higher rents if the apartment were to go on the market again, and then ask which updates and upgrades would make a rent increase worth your while. Examples include updating the fixtures and lighting, polishing or refinishing floors, replacing or deep cleaning carpets and applying a fresh coat of paint.
8. Is There a More Attractive Apartment Available?
If your circumstances and reasons for moving into your current place have changed, there might be another apartment community that may be a better fit. Perhaps you’ve moved jobs and would like to live closer to your new office, or you’re thinking about adopting a pet and need to find a pet-friendly building. You might also find that there are some other communities nearby that may offer lower rent, more community amenities and updated fixtures. A lot can change over the course of a year or two; it’s possible to still like your current apartment very much, but be ready to move on to something that is now a better fit for you.
After reviewing the questions above, you may be able to make a more informed decision about whether to renew your current lease or move on to a new apartment. You’ll also be better equipped to approach your landlord with some possible compromises that may help make your renewal work in favor of everyone’s benefit.