Read the email one New Yorker wrote to get her landlord to lower the rent

  • In November, New York City resident Emily Faith wrote a carefully worded email to her landlord asking for a decrease in the rent on her one-bedroom apartment.
  • Since the coronavirus pandemic caused sharp drops in rents both in Queens, where she lives, and citywide, she was able to point to compelling evidence that nearby apartments were getting snapped up at major discounts.
  • Faith managed to score a concession from her landlord that represents a 6% price drop, a figure that matches the record rent decreases in her borough.
  • While NYC rents have plummeted to historic lows — some by as much as 30% — Faith's approach is notable for its use of data as well as upbeat yet convincing language.
  • She shared the exact email she used with Insider, which can be adapted for a rent reduction request in any area.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Attention, residents of America's cities: It's the perfect time to negotiate with your landlord.

Take it from Emily Faith, a recently laid-off New Yorker in her early 40s, who penned a carefully worded email to her landlord that resulted in a rent reduction.

The resident of Jackson Heights, Queens, shared her success story in a popular Facebook group sharing local housing opportunities and advice, and commenters started clamoring for a copy. She gave Insider a version that can be adapted to almost any geography and explained why it worked: pairing compelling statistics with an upbeat, polite tone. 

The numbers are on her side: Right now, many renters have the upper hand because the coronavirus pandemic has sent rents plummeting in urban centers across the country.

In New York, for example, they've dropped by a historic amount. While a 500-square-foot luxury apartment in Manhattan leased for $2,595 a month in June, a similar apartment went for a mere $1,800 in November, according to the New York Times' Stefanos Chen — a staggering 30% drop.

As a result, tenants like Faith are in a strong position to bargain down rental prices or gain other concessions from landlords. Landlords should be receptive to such overtures, given that most of them must maintain the cash flow to pay off costs like their own mortgages even if, like in New York, they face record-high inventory. (At least count, there are more than 35,000 empty apartments, which drives down prices.)

Faith knew this information when she received the lease renewal for her 875-square foot one-bedroom apartment. She'd been let go from a job, so lacked current paystubs proving income, and didn't have a wealthy guarantor to back her if she needed to fill out the application for a new apartment.

Faith also didn't want to give up her coveted rent-stabilized unit. (She declined to share her exact rent but the median and average prices for a one-bedroom in Jackson heights are both around 1,800 a month, according to Zumper and RentHop.)

"I knew I wasn't necessarily a good candidate to go out and take my chances to get some sensational deal elsewhere," she told Insider. "I'm in a rent-stabilized  apartment, where I have an increase limit protecting me from sudden exponential increases when the rental market recovers."

Having kept a close eye on the real-estate market throughout the pandemic, though, Faith knew the fair market value of apartments in her neighborhood was declining. "It would be easy to gather those facts to be able to put together a convincing case to negotiate the terms of my lease," she said of her thought process at the time.

"From where I was sitting, the worst they could do is say no," she told Insider. "The best is what actually happened. I was given a rider stating that upon the completion of my two-year lease, I would be awarded a month and a half of rent to apply to the end of my lease period." 

A month and a half of free rent is equivalent to a 6% reduction each month. It tracks with the data: In Queens, according to Streeteasy's report on November rents, prices dipped 5.7% from the prior year — a record drop for the borough.

And Faith scored that reduction even though it's much harder to haggle down the rent for a place you're already living versus a vacant one you're moving into. (Landlords figure that tenants would rather pay more than submit to the hassle of house-hunting and moving, while ones with vacant, money-losing units are eager to strike deals to get leases signed and cash flowing.)

Doing ample research on area price drops was an especially effective part of her argument, Faith explained, from identifying general trends via market reports from Douglas Elliman or other property data sites to citing examples of cheaper apartments in the neighborhood that were similar to her own.

"You'll want to include screenshots of similar apartments with listings on something like [Zillow-owned] StreetEasy to bolster your argument," Faith added. "I did that along with this email."

Keeping a positive tone was equally important, she added.

"When I wrote up my request, I was careful to keep everything upbeat and factual, leaving as much emotionality out of the equation as possible," Faith said. "The biggest thing I wanted to convey was the value I brought to the table, reminding them, 'Hey, this is what a good tenant looks like!' " 

She has shared her email with more than two dozen people already via Facebook.

Here's the template Faith crafted, though the parts in square brackets will have to be modified depending on a tenant's particular living situation:

Good afternoon,

I received a lease renewal in the mail from your office this week [or other timeframe]. Thank you. 

I have very much enjoyed being a tenant in the building at [list your address] for the past two years [or other time period]. 

In light of the events of the past year and the effect it has had on renters and real estate companies alike, here in the NYC [or other geographic] area, I feel it is important for both parties to recognize that the marketplace for real estate has evolved in the wake of this pandemic. 

I pride myself on being a respectful, courteous, and compassionate tenant in that my rent payments have always been on time if not early, even in the face of these uncertain times. I have even adopted the digital payment platform to ensure quick easy payment. [You could also include any obvious benefit during your time as a tenant, like if you worked in a community garden, etc.] 

However, I have done extensive research on how apartments in this area and all over the city with greater amenities have dropped dramatically in their pricing. Many real estate companies are offering two to three months of free rent in addition to dropping the base rent amounts for one-bedroom apartments to as low as [list amount of cheapest rent advertised in your area] net effective rent each month. I believe my apartment's fair stabilized market value has dropped below what the new lease has outlined, from [list your base rent] to something closer to [list your desired rent] per month. 

Each month, I have seen more and more tenants move out of the building here, so I know you are losing revenue streams. 

[Here, Faith listed specific issues with her building. She believes it is helpful for tenants to delicately outline any problems or recurring challenges with their unit or building. Think trash, maintenance, repairs, laundry, etc. Added Faith: "I believe it's valuable to point these laundry list-type items for leverage."]

Even with all of these issues, I know these are all things that can be solved. ["It's important to keep as much of this letter as possible on a positive note!" Faith said.]

For the reasons outlined above, I am asking for a rent reduction to maintain my tenancy. I'm happy to discuss when you have time. I'm including screenshots of local apartment listings to demonstrate the decreased fair market value as well. 

I'm convinced having decent hardworking tenants means more to you than collecting a few hundred extra dollars each month in rent. 

I look forward to your response. 

In earnest, 


Did this email, or another strategy, work for you? What's the best rent deal you've been able to negotiate during the pandemic? Write to Insider and let us know.

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