Leverage Your Tenancy with 9 Upgrades

According to Business Week, rental prices dropped in many major markets around the country.  A rental prospect might be offered some incentives, but what advantage does the market offer an existing tenant?  A perfect opportunity to leverage your tenancy and ask for what you want.

By opening up a dialogue with the owner or property management company, you may find they are receptive to suggested improvements including those that reduce building-wide energy usage.  Even a smaller result - like a greener unit and some energy savings in your own pocket - is worth a conversation or two.

Here’s the idea: start with asking your property manager if they would like to make the world a better place.  If you’re a renter with 2 or 3 months left on your lease, undecided whether or not to renew, you’re probably in a pretty decent bargaining position.  While it’s doubtful the management company will reduce your rent – this is difficult to get by the owner –  they may be able to at least make some upgrades to your apartment.  If these include energy efficiency or water conservation features, that will put more money in your pocket in the form of reduced utility bills.

Even if you know you’re not going to be moving, think of the planet.  Just pretend you’re playing poker and bluff your way to a more efficient, greener unit.  Do some research before you start, maybe even find some rebates and hand them over to the manager.  Your upgrade request may feel a lot sweeter and more achievable when the manager talks to the owner later.

Here are nine things to ask for 60-90 days before you renew your lease:

  1. New Refrigerator If your refrigerator is more than ten years old, it is a huge energy hog.  When your management company uses government incentives and rebates to install a new Energy Star model, it becomes a win for them, a win for you in lower electricity bills and a win for the planet in terms of reduced greenhouse gases. Check out our refrigerator calculator to see how much yours is costing you.
  2. New Dishwasher While you’re asking for that new fridge, why not suggest they replace your old dishwasher as well?  New Energy Star models use much less water, conserve more energy and may save up to 500 lbs of CO2 over their lifetime.  There are also incentives and rebates to help your landlord make this upgrade.
  3. LEDs Ask to have all of the interior light bulbs replaced with LEDs (light emitting diodes).  LEDs use 60% less energy than CFLs (compact fluorescents) and last five times longer.
  4. Low Flow Showerhead with a Pause Feature Request that management install low flow showerheads that use less than 2.0gpm (gallons per minute).  New models are so good you may not even notice the difference, but even if you do, you’ll be using at least 20% less water and saving energy at the same time!  Remember your water utility or district may offer rebates.
  5. Faucet Aerator Since they’re replacing the showerhead, they might as well install an aerator on your bathroom faucet, right? With a 1.0 or 1.5gpm aerator you can cut your water consumption by 20-30%.  Rebates.
  6. High Efficiency Toilet While we’re on the subject of bathrooms, you might suggest management install a dual-flush toilet – one that uses 0.8/1.6gpf (gallons per flush) – or at least ask them to consider a High Efficiency 1.28gpf single flush model.  Be sure to mention that rebates may be available.
  7. Weatherization Often when we think of upgrades we overlook the obvious.  Ask your manager to caulk, weatherstrip, add insulation where possible, seal your windows/doors and around plumbing fixtures.  These small, inexpensive improvements can save 20% on your heating and cooling expenses.  Assistance may be available through LIHEAP.
  8. Flor Carpet Tiles If your carpet has seen better days, ask for a replacement with a sustainably produced product like Flor Carpet Tiles or other renewable flooring material.
  9. Double-glaze Window Panes Many apartments are cold because the glass is single pane or the seal has broken between the double panes.  Replacing even one window in a bedroom might allow you to keep the thermostat several degrees lower at night.

Personally, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that new refrigerator or dishwasher, but in this economy your landlord may be willing to make some upgrades that are good for you, good for the property and good for the planet.   Showing an interest in these types of features may not have an immediate effect, but it may start the ball rolling toward more sustainable property management in the future.

It may not be a new flat-screen TV or a month’s free rent like the new tenants get, but you’ll be saving the planet.  What’s more important?  Remember, you never know until you ask.  Good luck and let me know how things turn out.


  1. Posted February 14, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Super post, Need to mark it on Digg

  2. Posted February 14, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Ilias. Resident renewals are important to property managers right now, so why not use that to your and the world’s advantage!

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