226 W 150th st.
45 W 139th St
40 Pinehurst Ave.
Photo By: Mathew Henry
Blog by Agent David McDaniel
Landlords and tenants share the most intimate thing two people can share: their home.
It’s an unusual relationship: most tenants never meet their landlord (or someone from management).
We are used to navigating relationships with our significant others, family members, co-workers and friends. These relationships take time, effort, and communication to work.
The Landlord/Tenant relationship is no different.
Keep in mind when dealing with Landlord or Property Managers that on the other end of the phone or e-mail is a human being with emotions and opinions too!
Gary Chapman is the author of the acclaimed “The Five Love Languages.” This book analyzes how people receive and give love. His 5 Love Languages illustrate different communication styles.
As New Yorkers we spend too much money on rent to not be totally satisfied with our living conditions. While I don’t expect you to LOVE your landlord, using these 5 Love Languages can help you build a better relationship with them and help you communicate with them more effectively.
Your relationship with your landlord is first and foremost a business one. And in business, time is money. The more efficient you can be with your e-mails and phone calls the more time they can devote to finding a solution.
Quality communication is the key. You increase your chances of a prompt and quality reply when you use the correct and preferred communication methods. Do they prefer to be e-mailed, called, texted? I always make the subject line my address, and keep the email as brief as possible. Highlight the issues, what needs repaired, or why you are contacting them.
Put your feelings on the back burner. In my experience landlords are not great about fixing your feelings/emotions, so it’s best to omit those from the email. Keep it factual and rest assured when the problems get resolved, so will your emotions.
Respect their time. Supers work hard and are fielding calls from many many tenants daily. For emergencies and large issues I ALWAYS contact my landlord/super. Ask yourself: Am I treating non emergencies like an emergency? Do you make an effort to call your super for non-emergencies during regular business hours? If the answer is no, you may seem like a high maintenance tenant, regardless if that’s true or not.
Pick your battles. Surely you can replace a light bulb, change a smoke detector battery, tighten a door knob or realign a sliding door. Take care of these tiny issues on your own without consulting your landlord if possible. (It’s probably faster to do it yourself than call someone in, anyway.) If you can’t manage on your own, wait until a larger problem arises or for a few smaller issues that can be addressed at once.
No, I do NOT mean actual physical touch between you and your landlord! Actual touching should in NO WAY be involved in a landlord/tenant relationship!
Think of this instead as physical touch/interaction with the physical property of your apartment. And are you AND the Landlord both making the effort to keep them in good condition?
∞ Does the landlord keep the common areas cleaned and in good repair?
∞ If your answer is no, do they know of the attention the apartment or building needs?
∞ Do you take good care of the apartment? Keep it clean?
∞ Do you dispose of trash/recycling properly?
∞ Do you notify the landlord when repairs are needed?
Landlords respect tenants who are contributing to the solutions to the problems whenever possible, and not just complaining about the problems/issues at hand.
ACTS OF SERVICE
Chances are that your actual landlord isn’t the one coming to your apartment to repair or assess maintenance issues. But your landlord DOES pay others to perform acts of service as needed. Exterminators. Plumbers. Electricians. Superintendents. Often your building’s super will assess any complaints and determine if it’s something they can fix, or whether a separate contractor needs to be hired.
Again, think about proper communication: If you have been talking to your super and he is unresponsive or not fixing the issues needed, your landlord or management company may not even be aware. Whenever my super comes to my apartment I always send management a brief update as to the reason why he was there, what he fixed/repaired, and any follow up questions or concerns. This follow up email is an act of service that you are capable of providing to your landlord and is crucial for instances where a plumber, electrician, exterminator or other company is needed to resolve an issue and perform an act of service.
WORDS OF AFFIRMATION
A thank you card or e-mail goes a LONG WAY! If your landlord had your super or a repairman fix an issue, THANK THEM. Drop a thank you note in with your next rent check. If you have an e-mail thread going, send a nice thank you email when the job is complete. Put yourself in your landlord’s shoes. How would you feel if you only heard from people when they needed something and they never expressed their gratitude? Chances are those are the people you don’t keep close relations with. You may think your rent check is thanks enough - but words of affirmation cost nothing! And don’t forget about the person who fixed your issue as well. Express your gratitude for them taking the time to hear your concerns and solve the problem at hand. Yes, it’s their job. But they are human. Who doesn't love words of affirmation for a job well done?!? People may forget what you said, but they won’t forget how you made them feel. And you never know when you may need their services again.
When I move into a new apartment I try to make a good first impression with my new super. The first time the super comes over to fix or repair something I give them a small gift. It can be a cash tip, a six-pack of beer, or even a homemade batch of cookies.
I have done this with every super I have had, and my calls and texts ALWAYS get answered. Even after hours.
Do I do this every time the super comes over? No. But the first time they actually FIX or repair something…you bet I do!
The Holiday Season is another time I feel it’s appropriate to give your super and porter a gift or cash tip. After all, they are an extension of your management company. If management hires a contractor to your apartment - at the very least offer them a glass/bottle of water. If you're asking yourself what gift you receive from your landlord… the answer is a lease renewal.
Using these 5 Love Languages establishes a good relationship with your Landlord and paves the way for the most important conversation you’ll probably have with them all year:
NEGOTIATING YOU RENT RENEWAL
The most common question I get asked by previous clients who love their apartment is how to negotiate rent renewals. I have had great success in negotiating my own rent renewals/increases. I think my success is a direct correlation to the positive relationship I have developed with the 5 Love Languages.
DAVID’S TIPS FOR NEGOTIATING RENT RENEWALS/INCREASES
1. Never feel like you just have to accept the rent increase without trying to negotiate. BUT remember to keep negotiations professional and realistic. And be cautious of take it or leave it approaches. Find the win-win!
2. To keep your expectations realistic, educate yourself on the current market. Look up apartments in your building or area online and see what the market value seems to be. If you are paying way less than what the market value seems to be, your chances of successfully negotiating MAY be lower.
3. Let your landlord know what makes you a good tenant. If your communication with them has been civil, or even positive during the course of your lease, chances are your actions will speak louder than any words used in your negotiations. Let them know why they are lucky to have you as a tenant. If you've never been late with rent, remind them. If you take care of the apartment and common areas and always dispose of trash/recycling properly, tell them. And if you're a quiet tenant with no history of noise complaints against you, make that point heard. Let them know why they should be happy you are occupying their apartment.
4. Give a reason you think the proposed rent increase is unfair. Be as specific as possible and keep it to the facts.
∞ Is the proposed rent increase higher than most apartments on the market?
∞ Maybe the super in your budding is unresponsive and this has been a reoccurring issue.
∞ Are repairs not being done, or not done in a timely manner?
∞ Perhaps the common areas are always dirty and the building itself is not well kept?
5. Do you contribute to the building/community in ways the landlord may not realize?
∞ Perhaps you clean the common areas yourself, or shovel snow from steps as needed?
∞ Have you planted a garden out front, or help clean litter from the grounds?
In my case, I help fill vacant units with clients as needed. It may not make a difference, but if you don’t tell them what ways you contribute to your building, besides writing a monthly check, they won’t know.
6. Find the Win-Win. At the end of the day, it’s a business relationship and your landlord is focused on their bottom line. This year I received a $100 rent increase. Based on a $50 increase the year before and a $0 increase after my first year, I felt that was too high. I negotiated a $50 discount per month for on time payments, since I had no history of late payments in 4 years. The landlord benefitted because on the books my rent is $100 higher. I benefitted because as long as I continue to pay on time, I only technically pay $50 more a month. We each benefitted from the outcome.
7. If they are unwilling to negotiate then ask yourself if it’s worth staying. If it is, work harder at developing a relationship with them so the next year you are in a better place to negotiate. If you feel it’s not worth staying, see what other options are out there.
David may have been born and raised a California boy, but his fast pace and energy make him a New Yorker and heart.