No matter if you intend to relocate to an apartment during the winter or summer, make sure your finances are in order to handle the associated costs and prevent running out of money to pay for necessary expenses.
When renting an apartment for the first time, it is good to know what costs you will incur. It is common for renting to involve more than just making one-time payments for monthly rent, utility bills, and monthly dog fees/cat fees (if applicable).
Most property managers and landlords require move-in costs paid in full before taking possession of an apartment. So, before signing a rental agreement, establish what the move-in costs are associated with your tenancy. Learn how to review an apartment lease here.
Apartment Move-In Fees
When renting an apartment, breaking down your costs can help you prevent any unpleasant surprises. Before moving into your new apartment, you will be required to pay a number of fees between the time you submit a rental application and the time you sign a lease.
That said, here is a rundown of move-in fees and everything you need to know before moving into your new apartment:
What is a Move-In Fee?
A move-in fee is a non-refundable fee that tenants pay before moving in. The fee often covers expenses involved in the repair and maintenance of the apartment before moving in, such as painting and changing door locks.
Typically, the move-in fees prepare the apartment for you to occupy from the previous tenant. Previously occupied apartments often require a major overhaul to restore them to good condition. This usually requires a huge amount of money to cover the expenses, which could include replacing flooring, painting the unit, and replacing appliances.
The good news is that the move-in fees are typically less than the security deposits, so the landlord will cover the extra amount needed to repair the apartment before occupancy.
How Much is a Move-In Fee?
Move-in fees are typically what is paid on top of the security deposit prior to taking possession of the apartment (security deposits are often equivalent to one month’s rent or one and a half month’s rent). They usually include the first month’s rent, but could also include the last month’s rent as well. So, the amount you will pay upfront really depends on the amount of your rent. In addition, it can also be an application fee, non-refundable pet deposits, and any utilities that the community requires you to pay to them monthly.
Despite the fact that landlords have the right to set move-in fees at whatever amount they see fit, certain jurisdictions have laws or restrictions on the amount that landlords are permitted to charge. Learn more about Michigan security deposit law here.
What is the Difference Between a Move-In Fee and Security Deposit?
A move-in fee is paid to cover the cost of repairing the apartment before occupying it, and is non-refundable. In contrast, a security deposit is a refundable payment you make before moving in that could be used to offset any damages you cause to the apartment while you are a resident.
After your lease expires and you desire to move-out, the landlord or the property management company will conduct a move-out inspection to determine whether there are any damages caused beyond the normal wear and tear (see what is considered a maintenance emergency in an apartment). If there are any when you move-out, your security deposit will help cover the repair and maintenance. If the total cost of repair exceeds the security deposit amount, you may be required to pay an additional amount.
Expect to collect your deposit back in full if the landlord inspects the apartment and finds no damages and you paid your rent on time (see how to get apartment deposit back).
Can You Negotiate a Move-In Fee?
Yes, you can sometimes negotiate your move-in fees. Some landlords may be open to negotiating the move-in fees, so try your luck and lower your apartment upfront cost. However, it is important to note that not all landlords will agree to negotiate because they want to cover the repair expenses.
What Can I Expect to Pay as a Renter?
If you are moving to your new apartment, brace yourself for a range of expenses (read more about what bills come with an apartment here). It includes parking fees and security deposits, among others. Often, it is recommended to save up for up to six months worth of rent prior to moving. This gives you room to cover the upfront costs for apartment renting.
That said, here is a rundown of expenses you should expect to pay when renting an apartment:
Rental Application Fees
When looking for an apartment (rental process), one of the first costs you will incur is a rental application fee. Since they are used to offset administrative fees, such as conducting background checks (rental history, credit history, and so on) when processing your application, they are typically non-refundable. Learn more about how long an apartment application takes to be approved here
Although a rental application fee is not required, most landlords will not run your application without the fee.
Security deposits are paid upfront before you move into the apartment. Often, it is equivalent to one month’s rent to one and a half month’s rent. Although it is refundable, it is important to review your lease agreement to check the terms that are outlined in order to receive your security deposit.
Renters insurance is another cost all renters should obtain when renting an apartment. If something of yours was to get damaged in the apartment, like a laptop, renters insurance would help you make up the loss. However, without insurance, you may need to buy it on your own.
Most landlords require renters insurance before moving into an apartment. Read more about things to do before moving into an apartment here.
If you have furry friends, prepare to pay some pet rent and a non-refundable pet fee. On average, most apartment communities will charge you anywhere between $25 to $50 per month for pet rent. On the other hand, expect to pay anywhere between $100 to $400 for a pet fee (usually a non-refundable fee). Just be sure to read the apartment pet policy for all details.
First Month’s Rent and Last Month’s Rent
Many apartment complexes will ask for the first and last month’s rent, on top of the security deposit, prior to moving in. This usually serves as security if you were to terminate your lease before it expires or fail to pay rent during the term of the lease.
If you have a car, expect to pay parking fees as you move into your new apartment. The fees can fluctuate depending on where your apartment is located.
Plan for your utility fees when renting an apartment. The electricity bill is often the biggest of all utility fees. Use LED light bulbs to lower your electricity consumption and save money (Learn more on how to save money while living in an apartment here) on your energy bill. For more tips, see how to lower your electricity bill in an apartment.
Additional Occupant Fees
Some landlords charge these for each person living in the unit that is not the lease holder. Be sure to read your lease and see if these are included.
For many tenants, moving into a new apartment is an exciting time. If you are not prepared, however, the costs (i.e. administrative fee, security deposit, rental fees, application fees, etc.) can take away that excitement. Understand the cost associated with renting an apartment for the first time and plan your finances. If possible, make a checklist of all possible expenses you may incur. It is better to have a surplus budget than a deficit during the apartment search.