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9 Common hidden apartment fees to watch for when renting
Be prepared to pay a bit more for pets, packages, technology, utilities and lost keys
You probably pay close attention to how much rent will cost each month, but how closely do you pay attention to hidden apartment fees associated with moving in? Renter move-in fees charged by apartment communities are a common complaint in the Roost community. Many renters call them “hidden fees.”
While most apartment operators are trying to create a transparent experience for you, these wide-ranging extra charges beyond the security deposit might leave you wondering if it’s what you really signed up for? Not to mention (oof!) a financial pinch.
Hidden apartment fees for technology and utilities
Not all communities charge for the same items, and what they charge can vary greatly. Some properties bundle their fees into one monthly lump cost. A growing trend is for property management companies to bundle types of services together like technology and utilities in the apartment lease. This makes the payment process easier for the renter and the property.
1. Technology bundles fees
For example, there could be a technology bundle, which might include Wi-Fi, smart apartment features such as Nest thermostats, programmable lighting, and possibly keyless entry.
2. Utility bundles fees
Utilities are handled differently based on the apartment operator, especially when it comes to the water bill. In some cases, you might be sharing the overall cost for water with everyone in the building.
Yes, that means you can take as long of shower and do as many loads of laundry as you wish, but just keep in mind it could cause grumbling amongst your unknowing neighbors.
Some properties pay for heat and electricity. It might sound crazy, but this is why you’ll see windows open in some apartment buildings during the winter. That’s one way to drive your landlord crazy.
Additional common “hidden fees” to look for when renting
3. Application fees
Communities charge $50 to $75 to process your application and another $100 to $200 administrative fee for lease processing. Read here for more information on how your application gets screened.
Note: During economic hardships, or when occupancy levels fall below normal, many apartments will waive this fee to make their community more competitive.
4. Pet fees
Expect a $250 to $400 deposit fee for bringing a pet(s) into the rental, along with an additional monthly pet charge of $10 to $50.
Note: A portion of the pet deposit can be refunded based on the communities’ criteria. Charges vary for cats vs. dogs, and for additional pets, the second fee sometimes is discounted.
5. Trash fees
A growing number of property managers are partnering with outsourcing valet services to help with doorstep trash pickup — for example, from companies such as Valet Living, typically about $25.
6. Keys fobs and lock-outs
Residents who lose their key fobs will be charged about $50 for a replacement and if keys aren’t returned during move-out, there could be a charge of about $25.
Note: There is often a $10 charge for lock-outs, or $25 during the evening and $50 on weekends.
7. Package fees
Some apartment communities charge an annual handling fee of $20 to $60 and some charge by the month or per package (about $1.50).
Note: How deliveries are managed vary. They may provide lockers or they may deliver packages to your door. Whereas others may hold your deliveries in the leasing office.
8. Late fees
If you are late paying your rent, expect a $10 surcharge or higher.
Note: Again, given the economic situation many are facing, these fees often are waived.
9. Subleasing fee
If you choose to sublet your apartment, first make sure that is allowed. Otherwise, it’s one false move that can get you kicked out for a lease violation. If the property allows it, there could be a $100 monthly subletting fee tacked onto the rent.
Are hidden apartment fees negotiable?
You can try, but many property managers find it impractical — if not impossible — to negotiate small differences in a lease for each tenant. You may have better luck negotiating fees with a mom-and-pop landlord who owns just a few properties.
That said, the best time to negotiate is at lease signing. Research local market rates on sites like Zumper and ApartmentGuide to know what’s happening in your area. You may be able to get the property manager to match a rate of another comparable apartment or ask for a few months of fees waived.
What are property owners doing to improve transparency and reduce “hidden” apartment fees?
With the growth of social reviews — from Google, Yelp to Facebook groups, it’s easier than ever to find out what residents think of a property and its management. More and more property owners and managers are wise to this and doing what they can to improve the process and transparency to eliminate surprises.
“We are hearing from clients that they want to include more transparency in the leasing process, from top of the funnel down,” she says. “Our clients are interested in making sure there are no ‘hidden fees’ or processes for the renter, so prospects don’t feel like bait-and-switch victims once they start the application process.
“This also eliminates uncomfortable conversations with leasing team members who really haven’t had the opportunity to first build relationships with potential resident. It also reduces the emails and calls between the property and the prospect about what is required to apply and questions about fees, utilities, etc.”
— Virginia Love is a long-time property management professional who now works for Entrata, a property management software provider.
In addition to listing fees out in detail on popular apartment listing sites, many properties are incorporating other social media strategies to support residents. For example, RentGrata is growing in popularity where it connects prospective renters with current residents to ask questions and hear first-hand experiences.
“For a prospective resident to be able to speak with a resident at one of our communities, what better way for them to get a feeling for what it’s like to live there? It lets them get their questions answered – positive or negative – and go beyond the ratings and reviews. For prospective residents to be able to speak with someone else in the community is incredibly beneficial and helps them make quicker and informed decisions.”
— Wendy Simpson, VP of Marketing at Edgewood and Vantage Management
Getting your head around the extra fees before signing a lease
Before selecting your new apartment, talk to the property manager to understand all the additional fees. Add these to your budget and compare places side-by-side. You might be surprised that your first choice of rental is now outside your budget.
Read your lease carefully to make sure the fees you heard match what you see and sign to. A lease is a legally enforceable agreement, and you could find yourself in a predicament later on if you don’t follow the terms – the very ones you agreed to by signing on the dotted line.
Learning about possible hidden fees or move-in charges before you sign the lease will help to make living in your new apartment easier on your budget — and life a bit more enjoyable. Good luck!
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