Apartment Lease Renewal

Apartment Lease Renewal: How to Avoid the Renter Apocalypse

Published on September 21st, 2016
By Jennifer Oppriecht

It’s almost apartment lease renewal time in Madison, commonly referred to as the Renters Apocalypse. Take action, or zombie renters on the prowl may rent your apartment out from under you.

Yes, it’s that time of year. You can see them shuffling down Johnson Street, or growling their way up Langdon. The apartment-searching zombies are out in force, relentlessly seeking out unsigned renewal leases.

To help you prepare for the impending Renters Apocalypse, we’ve compiled a complete list of “Don’ts” –  things you absolutely must avoid at renewal time.  Read it ASAP! They’re coming!

A List of "Don'ts"

Important: You don’t have “squatters rights”

There is a big misconception among newbie renters (and some veterans too).

Leases don’t automatically renew.  You as a renter don’t have right of first refusal. You may think you’ve got squatters rights, but you don’t. Property owners don’t HAVE to let you renew (but they usually want you to).

Now that you understand that harsh bit of reality, onto the don’ts!

Don’t delay renewing at your own place

There’s a simple rule of thumb: If you KNOW you want to stay, don’t delay.

Renewals are determined by demand, and your property owner is in the business of renting apartments. If someone wants your apartment and you’re hesitating to renew, you’ll likely lose it.

If you live in a great place but you’re procrastinating about renewing, then don’t be surprised if it’s here today, gone tomorrow. Talk to your property owner; they’ll likely know what demand is like for your place and can let you know if you can afford to wait longer.

Don’t think people will overlook your place

Remember how cut-throat you were last year when you were searching for the ideal place? Expect someone cut from the same cloth will be on the prowl this year. And they’ll likely find your place. Remember, the zombies are coming.

Don’t NOT talk to your property owner / landlord

We’re no fans of using a double-negative in a sentence, but please don’t NOT talk to your property owners about renewing your lease, even if you’re uncertain.

Property owners – aka landlords – don’t want to lose a good renter. So even if you’re hemming and hawing, they might be able to quickly reassign you to another apartment, or rent other apartments similar to yours first, just in case zombies are trying to claim yours. So talk to them…or don’t NOT talk to them.

Think twice about renewing and then subletting

An unconventional tactic is to renew and then sublet your apartment. It gives you the flexibility to stay if you’d like, or leave if other options beckon. Your apartment owner may have subletters waiting in the wings, but timing is key…wait too long and those on the waiting list will have moved on.

Renting and subletting are risky tactics

For more info on lease renewal, check out the following posts:

Little known facts about renewing your lease in Madison

More Q&A about renewing your lease in Madison

Listen, we’re not joking about the zombies. These two guys were.

Sorry, We’ve Also Got Tips for Zombies

Ok, full zombie-supporting disclosure.

Steve Brown Apartments is a property owner, and we are subject to market forces. We need to rent apartments to stay in business, so we have no choice but to go along with the demand from the Renter Apocalypse – we get calls for showings for August 2017 rentals as early as August 2016. With that, we have some tips for the relentless zombies.

Don’t wait if you know what you want

If you have your heart set on a place, don’t wait on it. Inquire ASAP. Even if the property is unlisted, call the property owner direct. (Use your best zombie voice.)

When you find a place, call the landlord ASAP.

Don’t wait on these hot neighborhoods – er, buildings

People always think that neighborhoods rent the fastest. That’s no longer the case.

It’s actually the building, not the area. The fastest to rent will be:

  • New(er) high-rises with good reputations and posh digs
  • 5-10 bedroom party houses
  • Inexpensive studios and rooms
  • Inexpensive one-bedrooms
Don’t panic if you’re looking for a “normal” apartment

Here’s how the timing generally plays out:

  • Move on the inexpensive rooms, studios, and one bedrooms before winter break, as that’s when they start to sell out.
  • Move on houses and high demand buildings in October and November, the year prior to move in (eg. October 2016 for an August 2017 move in)
  • Rent all other one and two-bedroom apartments before Spring Break, this is when they start to sell out.
  • If you aren’t picky, wait until July on three and four bedroom apartments in high-rise buildings that aren’t in high-demand. There is more supply than demand and they’ll likely be discounted.
  • If you aren’t picky and don’t have to be in a place by a certain time, wait until mid-August. People make all kinds of last minute changes and you can get a really great place for a steal. The key here is you have to be flexible.
Don’t trust a rendering or model if you’re renting sight unseen

If you’re interested in renting in an building that’s currently under construction, your tour will likely consist of viewing a generic rendering and a floorplan, or a 3-D model. (Don’t eat the model or step on it, zombie friend.)

Some property owners will include high-end furniture, rugs, or wall hangings in their model. That’s fine, but don’t expect that to appear in your apartment. Ask the property owners specifically what will be included in the apartment before you sign the lease.

Don’t forget to consider the floorplan when renting sight unseen

Along the lines of the previous tip, when you’re renting sight unseen, ask about all the specifics in the floorplan.

For example, what’s the height of the ceiling? How big is the patio, and what does it look out onto? What kind of flooring is included? Do all of the bedrooms have windows? Is there a balcony? Do the windows open? How big is 10’x10’, really? This post we wrote about renting sight unseen contains many relevant questions.

Don’t think all style and no substance

Some of the new apartments popping up in town offer all the amenities, such as swimming pools and fitness centers. We know zombies like a dip in the pool, but be careful about sacrificing function, quality and service to get all that amenity bling. How many bodies are in that pool every night and how often is it cleaned?

Make sure the apt. will satisfy your day-to-day needs.

For example, do your closets have doors? Are the windows tiny? Do they open? Do you have windows in your bedroom? How much staff do they hire? How often are common areas monitored and cleaned? Look at all the specs, and see where apartment owners skimped on the stuff that really impacts your day-to-day living.

Don’t forget to ask about the construction

A place that looks great may not sound great – at least on the inside. Apartments made with skimpy walls won’t keep the noise at bay.

Older buildings tend to have more solid construction, so inquire as to how the walls are built. They should have special baffling foams for soundproofing between the walls and floors. It makes a big difference and will help you zombies muffle the sounds of your victims.

Don’t neglect amenities

The top priority when you’re going to school or working downtown is to make your day-to-day life as easy as possible.  City living can be hectic, and little struggles – like finding a parking spot – can cause big delays.

Look into the extras apartment owners offer that are beyond the walls of the apartment. Parking, on-site security, fitness centers, online rent payments – that are all items that can take the grrr out of the daily grind.

Don’t fall victim to the rent scams

In the heat of the moment, when you’re rushing to the get the hot property, you’re vulnerable to rental scams.  And believe us, they’re out there. Scams like the middleman scam, the non-existent rental scam, and the sublet scam are all out there.

This post provides details on each of the apartment rental scams, along with what you need to do to protect yourself. (PS – if you actually find a person conducting the scam, feel free to eat their brain. No need for due process here.)

Beware - rental scams are out there!

Don’t just rely on apartment listing websites – go straight to the property owners

Zombies, current apartment renters are not the only ones who get to talk to the owners. You can contact landlords directly, and ask what’s on the market.

They may have just talked to a renter that day who decided not to renew. If the online listings haven’t been updated, then you’ve got the scoop. Pick up the phone!

The Renters Apocalypse is Upon Us! Take Action!

Ok renters (and zombies). Time is running out. Zombies will take to the streets – some even the moment after they sign their current lease.

Plan your next move and avoid losing your apartment and/or having your brain devoured. The Renters Apocalypse is here!

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