Reduce Your Rent with This Simple Letter

Property values are down, times are tough, and the Wall Street Journal details how to use the current economic situation to significantly reduce your rent with this simple fill-in-the-blank letter to your landlord. Photo by Editor B.

WSJ’s Mary Pilon and her roommates were none too pleased to discover that their new neighbors had secured a lease for $300 less than their lease, while they received a $100/month hike in their rent. After sending the letter below to her landlord, Pilon shaved $300 off her rent.

To Whom It May Concern:

We’re writing in regards to the renewal of our lease at [insert your address here].

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. [I used footnotes here to cite the WSJ story. I suggest also putting in data about your local market from local papers, etc..] Economists and real estate experts predict the decline to continue through 2009-2010.

In our building, that has meant facing an empty unit for several months. Units similar to ours have been rented in recent months to tenants with credit scores and incomes lower than ours at even cheaper rates than what we’ve paid. A rent hike seems inconsistent with recent market conditions and unfair to paying tenants like us with flawless records.

We’ve confirmed that a unit nearly identical to ours is renting at $2,350 a month for a one-year lease. We ask that our lease, at the least, should match that. This would satisfy your interest in keeping our unit occupied and our interest in staying in our apartment at a reasonable rate. Ideally, a discount would be lowering our rent to $2,100 a month for a one-year lease. [At first, I thought this was too bold, but I’m glad I started low.]

As one property manager recently told The Wall Street Journal: “If they’re good payers, we will give them a discount.” Here we are, good payers, asking for a reasonable discount. The $50 off our current rate [original manager] and Ms. Pilon spoke about is inconsistent with other rates in our building and current market activity and projections.

We look forward to continuing the conversation and hearing from you shortly.

[Names and contact information of tenants here]

Seems simple enough, right? Give the WSJ article a read to for a few more tips and details on how the author handled her landlord, and if you’ve done your own rent negotiations, let’s hear how you approached your landlord and how it turned out in the comments.

Windows 7 Upgrade Details for XP and Vista Users

If you’re planning to upgrade your current PC to Windows 7 when Microsoft releases their new OS, there’s good and bad news for XP and Vista users. Here’s a closer look at your upgrade options.

Upgrading from XP to Windows 7

Pros: According to tech site Ars Technica, XP users can purchase a cheaper “upgrade” version of Windows 7, despite XP’s version gap. (Normally only users who purchased the latest OS get the cheaper upgrade option.)

Cons: Windows XP users will have no direct upgrade path. That means that in order to upgrade to Windows 7, you’ll have to do a fresh installation of Windows 7 and manually migrate your files and apps to Win7—so you’ll want to make sure to back up XP before upgrading or just dual boot XP and Windows 7.

Upgrading from Vista to Windows 7

Pros: Unlike XP, Vista users do get a direct upgrade path to Windows 7, so your files and apps should migrate to Win7 without any problems. (You should always backup before upgrading to be safe, and just to hedge your bets, you may also still want to dual boot Vista and Windows 7 rather than installing Windows 7 over Vista.) Vista users will also get the cheaper upgrade price.

Cons: It probably won’t affect most users, but the Vista-to-Windows-7 upgrade paths are actually limited by version in the following ways:

  • Windows Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Home Premium
  • Windows Vista Business to Windows 7 Professional
  • Windows Vista Ultimate to Windows 7 Ultimate

If you don’t follow one of those three upgrade paths, you’ll have to perform a fresh install.

Be sure to check the Ars post for a more detailed rundown of the differences, including a discussion of the fate of your Windows Vista Ultimate Extras.

Organize All Your Paper with a Central Home Binder

No matter how digital your life, your doctors, sports clubs, and children’s teachers won’t be at the same level. A “Central Home Binder” is a convenient, centralized way to keep all your life’s paper together.

Sue at the Unclutterer blog uses a simple 1-inch binder with a plastic cover to keep her family’s paperwork in one location—right next to the cookbooks, in fact. Here’s her other equipment and basic tab setup:

The Categories (one per binder tab):

  • Contacts
  • Health & Fitness
  • Food
  • House
  • Travel

The Tools:

  • Simple Binder
  • Tabs
  • Plastic Pockets for In Between Tabs

As the author notes, even if you’re a devotee of your digital address book, unnecessary or occasional phone numbers, like phone trees for children’s groups and events, fit nicely into the “Contacts” tab, while the rest are self-explanatory. This system can be bolstered with a number of online paper templates, like the previously noted Household Notebook forms.

Buying Vista This Summer Could Mean a Free Windows 7 Upgrade

A tech site noted for getting its Microsoft leaks right has posted details of a Windows 7 upgrade program, which would give buyers of the higher-end Vista versions a free copy of the new OS.

According to Tech ARP’s details, pulled from a document sent to computer manufacturers in early December, a consumer who buys a copy of Windows Vista Ultimate, Business, or Home Premium on or after July 1, 2009, through Jan. 31, 2010, could obtain a free upgrade to Windows 7. Those dates can be shortened or modified by the manufacturers themselves, but Microsoft, in its Technical Guarantee Program, seems fairly set upon July 1 as a start date. And if the documents are right, Vista upgraders will get the equivalent copy of Windows 7 for free—Windows Vista Home Premium goes to Windows 7 Home Premium, Ultimate to Ultimate, and so on.

It’s not an entirely new program for Microsoft to offer free upgrades within a certain calendar radius of a new release, but it seems like a valuable bit of information for anyone reluctant to buy a new system because of Vista concerns—this summer, in other words, might be a safer jump-in point. But check the fine print with any system maker before going ahead, of course.