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Many renters are looking for ways to save money each month, especially after being hit with the yearly rental hike. Instead of calling your landlord to ask for a lower rent fee and hearing a quick “No,” try writing a letter to your building manager and negotiate a lower lease rate Here’s how to write your letter:

1.    Begin your letter with a cordial, business greeting (“To Whom It May Concern” is fine, if you don't know your landlord or manager's name) and state the intention of your letter (“I/We are writing in regards to the renewal of our lease at [insert address here]”).

2.    Next, state the date you moved in and the decline rate of property values in your area since that time. Given the state of the economy, most areas have experienced a decline in both purchase and rental properties, so this shouldn’t be hard to enumerate. Here is a recent example from the Wall Street Journal:

“On [date you moved in], we [names of tenants] moved into a unit in the aforementioned property. Since then, property values in Manhattan [replace with your city or neighborhood] have declined by 5.6% for two-bedrooms units, much more steeply than the nationwide drop of 0.4%. Further, apartment vacancies overall rose to 6.6% in the quarter from 5.7% a year earlier. [Replace with data about your local market, which is available at] Economists and real estate experts predict the decline to continue through 2009-2010.”

3.    Then, state facts about neighbors or vacant units in your building, if you have any. For example, are there or have there been any vacancies lately? If so, what were the advertised rental rates? If this number is less than you’re paying for a similar unit, be sure to mention this in your letter.

4.    Be sure to reference your credit score if it will help you gain favor with your landlord. Anything above 700 is worth mentioning. State that a rent hike seems inconsistent with the recent market conditions, especially since you’re such a great tenant with an impeccable record of on-time payment and a flawless credit history (only if this is true!).

5. Give them a reason to cut you a deal. Offer to sign a longer-term lease if they lower the rent. (This will, of course, only work if you're a good tenant.) You could also offer to do some minor work or cleaning around the building.

6. Thank the manager for reading the letter and state that you look forward to speaking with him/her soon regarding the matter. Have all residents sign and date the letter.

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A couple of other tips:

Keep it professional and friendly. Don’t threaten to move out of your apartment or sue your management company. This will only antagonize them and you might find yourself out on the street!

Be sure to retain a copy of the letter for your own personal records and follow up if you haven’t heard anything in three business days.

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