By Stephanie Lynch
If you recently found the perfect apartment — congratulations! It can be pretty time consuming to find the right area, amenities, landlord and price. There’s nothing better than walking into an apartment and instantly clicking with it.
While signing the lease to your new apartment may be exciting, most apartment tenants, especially new ones, don’t realize there are more fees than the typical security deposit and first month rent.
To help you with these so-called hidden fees, here are 10 costs most novice renters don’t know or think about:
1. Application fees
Most apartments will charge a small application fee when you’re ready to apply for the unit. While this fee is often small, usually around $25 to $50, this fee will have to be paid regardless if you get accepted or not. Keep in mind if the fee is more than $50, you may want to question your landlord’s tactics.
2. Last month’s rent
While it’s normal to collect the first month’s rent up front, some landlords may ask for the last month’s as well, because some tenants try to use the security deposit towards the last rent payment. If this is the case, plan on spending three times your rent (first month, last month and security deposit) just to get in the door.
These fees tend to apply to buildings located in cities. If parking is limited in your apartment’s area or the apartment has some sort of parking garage, ask if a parking fee applies. Fees can greatly vary depending on the geographical area, it can be less than $100 per month, or as much as $500 a month in major metros, such as Chicago or New York City.
4. Elevator fees
Elevator reservation fees (sometimes called move-in/move-out fees) are, again, commonly seen in larger buildings in larger cities. Since you can’t move a couch or dresser up the common stairwell, you will more than likely have to reserve the service elevator – an elevator designed to move bigger items. Depending on the apartment’s policy, this fee can be as high as $1,000 per move.
5. Broker fees
Working with a broker won’t be free in most of your larger cities. If you’re using the services of a broker, plan on spending at least 12%-15% of the yearly rent to compensate them for their time. Depending on your situation, some people find these fees to be worth it, while others feel it’s best to work on your own.
6. Pet fees
Apartments that allow pets will let you bring yours, but it will come at a premium. Whether it’s a cat, dog or bird, apartments may charge a flat fee at signing of the lease or a monthly premium, which is usually around $50 to $150 per pet. Unless it’s a service animal, you will want to make sure the apartment/landlord knows about this because if you try to hide the fact you do have a pet, a hefty fine – or even eviction – can haunt you in the future.
Does your unit have a washer and dryer? If so, that’s wonderful; you won’t have to worry about going to laundromat. However, if your unit doesn’t have one, you have to ask yourself a few questions: Does my building have a laundry facility? How much is each load? If not, where is the closest laundromat? It’s safe to say each washer and dryer load can cost about $2 to $3.
Be sure to know which utilities will be included when you sign your lease. Some apartments may be nice and include heat, while others will make you responsible for everything. Chances are you will have to pay the electric bill, but find out if you will be responsible for the gas, trash or water bill. And don’t forget that you will have to sign up and pay for internet and cable TV access. See this post for more detailed estimates about utility costs around the country.
9. Renter’s insurance
While renter’s insurance is optional with most apartments, some may require you have it, and you will have to provide proof. If your apartment has this policy in place, be sure to get insurance quotes ahead of time to see what a policy will cost you. You should be able to find a policy for under $200 a year.
10. Rent escalations
While this isn’t a fee up front, per se, it will happen sooner or later. Depending on where you live, plan on adding five to 10 percent to your monthly rent each year. If you’re paying $1,000 per month this year, it will more than likely be $1,050 next year.
Be prepared when signing an apartment lease, and do as much research as you can. By knowing these hidden fees, you will be able to properly budget every month and won’t have to worry about a surprise bill ending up in your mailbox.
Stephanie Lynch is from Howmuchisit – a cost-helping database designed to help consumers find out hidden costs in everyday transaction.