Dear PoP – Tenant rights question

Photo by PoPville flickr user AWard Tour

“Dear PoP,

I’m moving out of the condo that I rent at the end of the month, and the building management is charging me an unreasonable (I think) amount to do it. They’re asking for $150 as a “move out fee” and $85 to cover the costs of a security guard who will supposedly guard the unlocked front doors (to the building) while the move is taking place.

The $150 fee is not for covering costs in case my furniture damages their elevator or door. They’re requiring me to give them a $750 security deposit check for damages, which they’ll return to me at the end of the move.

This is their policy — I had to pay it when I moved in as well, but it’s been several years since then, and I’ve had more time to stew over it. It also was not in my lease; my landlord only casually mentioned that there were move-in fees for the building.

So my question is — does anyone know if I’m obligated, legally or otherwise, to pay these people just to remove my belongings from their building? I feel like it’s a hostage fee!”

I think if it’s their policy and if it’s in the lease then, even though it sucks, you gotta pay it. What do you guys think? Is this an unreasonable fee?

26 Comment

  • Seem unreasonable to me. Just move out. if you already have a place, you dont need references. They could sue you, but for that amount, its not worth it.

  • POP, the individual said it’s not in the lease. But I agree, they may have to suck it up. My building has this fee as well. Paying the fee allows you to reserve the elevator in my building, so not paying could suck in that regard. Otherwise, it really is a garbage fee.

  • It may not be in the lease, but it’s almost certainly in the condo rules, and the lease almost certainly says you have to follow those. So yeah, you probably have to pay it, but it’s worth asking the owner if he/she will pay it, or at least split it with you, unless he/she informed you of the rule prior to renting.

    • Most individual landlords renting out condos forget to include this provision. But yes, it is totally legal but it should be in writing or the CC&Rs should be mentioned.

  • I would just move and challenge them to come after you. Though I wonder if they’ll just take the $235 out of your security deposit.

    juts goes to show, you can be a slumlord at any income bracket.

  • Being obligated to pay it legally is different than having to pay it practically.

    If you were moving in and you refused to pay it, you’d have a problem with your landlord and the building. But you’re moving out. I’d tell them that I believe the fees are unreasonable and that I refuse to pay.

    What are they going to do? They could come after you via lawsuit, but it’d be in small claims court (and NOT landlord-tenant court, since you’d no longer live in the building). If they actually went through the trouble to do that, it’d be absurd first of all. But more importantly, you’d have the option of just paying them the fee at that time, or going to court and telling the mandatory arbitrator that you believe the fee is ridiculous. Worst case scenario would be that you have to pay it.

    So, bottom line: you’re almost certainly legally obligated by the reference to the condo rules in your lease, but practically you ought to let them sue you for it. Just move out and wave goodbye. I can’t believe that they collect these fees from most people.

  • Stop whining, you knew about the fees before you moved in, you admitted that. Your landlord mentioned fees, if you failed to ask how much specifically then it is your error. If you thought the fees were too high you should not have signed the lease and moved in. Mentioned casually to you or not, the fees were mentioned and you accepted them by signing the lease. Moving out and sticking the landlord with them (potentially) makes you a bad tenant, don’t blame the landlord for this one.

    • Dear PW Neighbor,

      Per terms you agreed upon by posting, you must pay the Telling People to Stop Whining Without Contributing Anything to the Discussion Fee.

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  • These moving fees suck, but they’re so very common (my building has them as well). I suspect it’s to discourage people from moving in and out too frequently? Or to gouge money from helpless residents?

    If it’s not in your lease, or any lease addendums or other documents you signed though, I personally don’t see why you’re *obligated* to pay it. I think, with my building, the condo “justifies” it as their fee for holding the elevator and opening the cargo gate. HAH! Worse, the building said that we were supposed to only move during business hours (like I really want to take a vacation day off work to move). So what’d we do? We ended up skirting the rules by using a van instead of a moving truck (so we wouldn’t have to use the taller cargo entrance) and moving our stuff in a back door. If you can try getting away with moving out through any other entrance, go for it.

  • I think the fees are ridiculous also. If it’s not in the lease, I would not pay it.

  • If you didn’t sign an agreement that you would pay it, don’t. If it’s in the condo agreement and you didn’t sign anything from your landlord obligating you to follow the condo agreement, the burden is on the landlord. They should have done their homework before writing a shoddy lease.

  • the fees are to a) discourage excessive moving in and out and b) to cover the extra admin costs of processing a move. the building manager has to manage the elevator schedule and do a pre- and post-move inspection to determine if there is any move damage to the building which takes time and hence money. one could argue that move-ins/outs should be part of the regular running of a building but each condo board has its own way of running a building and determining thresholds for recovering costs and incentivizing certain resident behavior.

  • Unfortunately, this whole exhange and the logic behind it is what gives renters a bad name. The condo building is primarily the home to most condo owners and absentee landlords like yours are an exception.

    Your landlord only owns his or her unit. Your rent only goes to your landlord. The condo association as a whole is responsible for the upkeep of the building’s common areas – replacing carpets, repainting hallways, fixing broken doors that were propped open during a move, etc.

    The move in/out fee for renters and for new owners – at least in our 30-unit building – is intended to cover the cost of these repairs and any additional janitorial services following a move.

    Any jerk willing to sneak out on an expense they already agreed to and screw the people who own the building is probably also willing to deface their property by scratching the walls, denting the elevator, dumping dirt out of planters, etc. during their move and not clean up after themselves.

    Most who pay the fee also are unlikely to clean up after themselves, but at least contribute to the clean up. The fee is not there to “get you.” It’s there to help preserve people’s property and investments. Be an adult and pay the fee.

    • I would imagine that given this particular city, the landlord probably pays a fairly hefty (several hundred dollars a month) condo fee. It’s not like they’re totally “screwing the people who own the building” by renting out their unit. If you don’t want to deal with living in a city with a LOT of transients, while sharing common spaces, buy a house. Or, only buy in a condo building that limits renters.

  • If it’s not in the lease that you’ll pay the fees, then why not make the landlord responsible? His problem.

    If it’s not in writing, it doesn’t exist as an obligation.

  • Jonathan,
    The situation that you have just described seems like the rationale for a deposit, not a fee.

    If a tenant or new owner moves in or out, and does not make any damages to the property or make a mess, why should he/she have to pay for repairs or janitorial services?

    • No, it’s a rationale for both. There are costs associated with every move that Associations – especially those unfortunately enough to have a lot of renters in the buildings – have to eat without this fee.

      The fee to me – in a building that recently started a relatively low one – is to encourage landlords to have longer term residents and hopefully more responsible one. If you were given the choice between someone who would follow the condo rules that every resident, owner or not, has to follow or one that will complain…which will you pick?

      Renters give themselves a bad name. Not fees.

      • Again, it’s not like the Association fees aren’t being paid. This is a city full of transients due to the nature of government – administration changes, etc. It’s hardly logical to think that folks are going to stay in their shoebox condos for years and years. I don’t mind the idea of a deposit, but it’s preposterous to think that you’re ALWAYS going to keep a lot of long-term residents in downtown Washington and that no one will ever move.

        • Then people who disagree with those fees shouldn’t live in condo’s rented out. I know that the large number of renters in my building lowers the value of my unit, so the lease that can be done is fees to encourage longer-term, more stable residents.

          A deposit should go to the landlord for the unit, but the damage done and administrative costs associated with moves is too much for a larger building to absorb if there are a lot of renters (and yes, there are administrative costs).

          • It is generally expected in an apartment building that the building will cover maintenance to the building. It is generally expected in a condo building that the maintenance will be covered by the condo fees. If the fees aren’t high enough to maintain the building, raise them. If you don’t want renters, you can rule to not allow them. But these things would affect YOU, too. And that’s sort if the issue with shared space, now isn’t it?

            And actually, it works both ways. In fact, you’re screwing the good tenants doubly – you want good tenants so you make them pay more as punishment for what other people have done, and then screw them even if they keep things nice while moving. I’d think a deposit would be more appropriate and would provide actual incentive for people to not wreck your walls. Moving is expensive enough as it is.

            As a long-term (nearly 5 years) and very good tenant, I would be HIGHLY discouraged by somewhere that charged several hundred dollars to move out when there are thousands of apartments, condos, and houses that don’t. So you’re simply going to wind up with the people who don’t give a damn about your property, now that they’ve already been charged for damages that they haven’t caused, they might as well cause some.

  • The fees are actually pretty low compared to most of the newer condo buildings. We kept our move-out fees at $200 but raised the move-in fee to $500 and are going to raise them again to $750. We lost out on a couple of move-outs so we get them when they move in! You need to think about the owners of the units in the buildings. They are the ones who end up paying for service repairs, etc. to their elevator(s), re-painting the lobby, repairs to the front door, etc. from all the wear and tear that a move-in and move-out does. If you owned a unit in the building, you’d want the same fees in place to cushion the costs that you will incur as a shared owner of the building.

    • A “move-in fee” of $500-$750 would be a deal-breaker for me if I was looking to buy a condo. Sure sign that you are moving into a building of jerks.

      • You got that right. Totally ridiculous. Unless every person moving into that particular building is throwing around open buckets of paint in the lobby, there should never be an excuse for a move-in fee that high.

      • So, if everything else was exactly right about the condo you intended to buy, you would forego it for… $500?

        Obviously you have never bought a house before. For a dirt-cheap condo, say $200,000, $500 represents 1/4 of 1% of the cost of the unit. You will be far more disgusted by thousands of dollars in other fees, I assure you.

        That’s like saying you wouldn’t use an ATM to withdraw $20 because they charged a 5 cent transaction fee.

  • me

    Here’s a thought- do you have to pay before moving out? My old condo building had to actually turn on the freight elevator before it would work, so I’m wondering if they will keep it off unless you pay beforehand.

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