So you’ve made your rent budget and you’ve been good and remembered to budget for basic utilities like internet, cable, electricity, gas and even water. But what about those sneaky expenses you didn’t think about and are now stuck with because you signed the lease without reading it closely?
Here are some extra expenses to watch out for and ask about when apartment hunting:
1. Pets. Do you have a cat or a dog? If you want your furry friend to reside with you it could cost you extra. Some landlords require a one-time deposit upfront for an animal and others require a monthly surcharge. And some ask for both. Still others require nothing at all. And some buildings have a no pet policy. If you do have an animal, make sure you ask about the added costs upfront-you don’t want to be surprised when you’re already tied into a one year lease! Fido could cost you a cool $10-75 a month with a $100+ deposit. Woof?
2. Heating/Air Conditioning. If you are renting somewhere where opening your refrigerator is warmer than stepping outside during the winter months, heating will be an especially important thing to inquire about. If it’s included in your rent, great! If not, the monthly cost could be pretty steep, $200 a month in places like Chicago. Sweaters might become a staple in your wardrobe…indoors. The opposite is true for air conditioning-when it’s hot hot hot outside, you might be tempted to turn your apartment into your own personal igloo but before you push that button, make sure that frigid air isn’t going to freeze over your bank account. Especially because, unlike heat, air conditioning is almost never included in the cost of the rent and it can be just as expensive.
3. Waste Removal. Some buildings (usually the newer ones) have a separate charge for waste removal, especially if they recycle. Now, we all love to be good to the environment and it helps us sleep better at night knowing our waste is being disposed of responsibly. But how much better do we sleep? $20-70 a month better? Because that could be just how much is tacked on to your monthly rent to dispose of the same garbage tenants of other buildings can just throw into a dumpster. Think about it.
4. Storage. It’s pretty common for apartment buildings to have some sort of storage option for all that crap (I mean, stuff) we haul with us from apartment to apartment. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about: the fake Christmas tree you pull out once a year, that guitar that never gets played, a statue of Abraham Lincoln you thought was cool enough to drag back from that flea market 5 years ago. You get my point. Even if a storage space is assigned to your unit, make sure storing things in it doesn’t cost extra. And make sure all your stuff will fit. If it doesn’t-get rid of it or you’ll be paying $50-170 a month to store it in a storage unit. Prices vary wildly city to city and unit to unit so check your local Public Storage for the most up to date and precise pricing. But you might have to get used to only seeing Honest Abe on your $5 bills.
5. Parking. Attention everyone but New Yorkers: you have a car. You need somewhere to store it. Some buildings have garages, which are usually included in the rent (and also contribute to a higher rent) but a lot of the more budget options don’t. So you’ll have to get a street permit or find a garage of your own and these options cost money. Garages can cost anywhere from $50-$150 a month and street permits depend on the neighborhood and the city, but for example, in Los Angeles in the neighborhood of West Hollywood, street permits cost: $15, and you still have to move your car on street sweeping days.
Bottom line: make sure you know exactly what is included in your rent and make sure it is in the terms of your lease. Then make sure it fits into your budget.