Moving into a new apartment or condo can get complicated and expensive, with a number of upfront costs before the landlord hands you the key. These charges might include the last month's rent, a security deposit, cleaning charges or pet deposits. The charges that show up in your move-in costs depend on the individual landlord, and not all apartments require the last month's rent. The rental agreement should outline these charges and any refunds available when you move out.
Your Charges Will Vary
Although the landlord makes the call on what charges he levies before you move into an apartment, you will probably pay something besides your first month's rent. He may charge any combination of fees, within limitations. He may also let you in with just one month's rent, though that's rare. Pay attention to the wording on each charge and find out your total move-in cost. Also notice which ones are refundable. Typically, anything labeled a "deposit" is refundable. Don't be afraid to ask questions before you write the check.
Last Month's Rent
Your landlord may plan for when you move by charging for your last month's rent upfront. This ensures you don't skip out just because you're leaving and he'll never see you again. This is usually not a deposit and not refundable. However, the tenant won't have to worry about paying that last month's rent when the time comes because his upfront payment will be applied to the final month of the lease. Not all landlords charge up front for the last month. Often, they'll go with a refundable security deposit to cover themselves.
You're more likely to find a security deposit in your move-in bill than the last month's rent. This deposit covers a multitude of issues, from covering the landlord in case you skip out to paying for damage if you trash your apartment. Security deposits are almost always refundable, but check your rental agreement and ask your landlord about it. When you move out you might have to put forth extra effort to get your money back, which means cleaning your apartment thoroughly and fixing any damage before you leave. If you leave the apartment in poor condition, chances are you won't get your security deposit back. More than half the states limit how large a security deposit can be, usually one to three months' rent.
Your landlord may hit you with a cleaning charge before you take over your apartment. This helps offset the cost of making the place livable and fumigating it. If the cleanup job isn't completed before you move in, you might be able to negotiate a lower cost in exchange for you finishing the job. It doesn't hurt to ask.
If you have a pet, your landlord can ding you for a pet charge or deposit. Depending on the wording, this fee may or may not be refundable. Some landlords may tack an additional amount to your rent instead of collecting a deposit. A pet charge may vary according to your pet's size and breed. No matter the form a pet charge takes, it covers the cost of any damage your pet does to the apartment and grounds.
Al Bondigas is an award-winning newspaperman who started writing professionally in 1985. His print credits include the "Mohave Valley Daily News" and "The Mohave County Standard." Bondigas studied journalism at San Bernardino Valley College in California.