We've been living in an apartment since arriving in Washington state in August 2008. We decided to rent since real estate is expensive up here and because we'll only be here for about two years.
We like our apartment and have paid on time for 11 months. Three weeks ago I got a surprise when I noticed a letter attached to our door. It notified us that if we renewed our 12 month lease early we'd be able to get one month free rent and 10% off our water & trash bill. We sat on the offer for two weeks because my wife was a bit interested in moving closer to her job. Eventually, she decided that it was a good deal and we renewed the lease.
This is the third time i've lived in an apartment as an adult. The first time we broke the lease after living there for just 3 months (we found a house we liked). The second time I was in grad school.
My advice to those living in or considering an apartment:
(1.) If you are already residing in an apartment complex, check the apartment's website for current rates. I found that the rate for our floor plan actually decreased by $15 per month. Had I not looked at the website, I would not have been able to renegotiate a lower rate.
(2.) Some apartment complexes are actually willing to negotiate your lease payment. They would rather minimize the # of months an apartment is vacant and will sometimes entertain rates that are below what's advertised on their website.
(3.) If you're moving into an apartment, check the cable jack before calling to get your cable turned on. In one of three apartments I've lived in, the cable jack was already hot. The cable company was a bit lazy and never turned off the cable from the prior tenant. Had I known this, I would have got free cable until they figured out their error. This was in 2001. I'm not sure if cable companies have gotten any better with service terminations.