I feel qualified in suggesting this since my advice has saved me personally over $1200 a year, and close to $600 a year for a friend of mine. It's the art of negotiation. I say it often, but it never hurts to ask.
Typically when lease renewal time hits, your apartment complex will send you a notice of renewal. The new lease terms will ALWAYS include a rent increase. Why? Well if you ask the apartment complex, they will give you bologna about how it's just standard. I realize most people would just pay the increase. I am not most people.
My advice is to first understand the contract you have with your apartment complex or landlord. Most leases require you to give notice 2 months before your lease is up that you do NOT plan to renew. This is a key step, because if you forget to give notice, your hands are essentially tied once you start to negotiate and the complex does not go down on price.
Once you give notice, you put the complex on notice that you are serious and will move if they do not work with you on price. You should visit the apartment's website to try to obtain a current rent price as if you were a new customer moving in. If the apartment does not list prices online, have a friend call and ask current rent prices.
Once you know what they are charging for current units for new renters, use this information in your favor and ask for them to match the price. It took persistence on my part, and I even took it to the corporate level, but in the end they matched the price.
I went a step further and watched the apartment's website for months. This gave me the ability to know when rent prices were the lowest, and that was when I went in for the negotiations. In the end I ended up paying even less than my current rate, so instead of an increases, I ended up paying less than before!
Also, if you are having problems with your apartment, neighbors, safety issues, etc...you must make sure to notify your apartment complex in writing. Written complaints leave a paper trail that the complex cannot pretend do not exist, and can also aid in a rent reduction.
How to Save Money Part 2 UPDATE is here