Dear PoPville – $500 move-in fees = normal?

Photo by PoPville flickr user philliefan99

“Dear PoPville,

It’s my first time applying for an apartment from a management company, and I was just informed that there would be a $500 move-in fee to clean the apartment before I can enter the property, in addition to the $45 application fee. Is this standard operating procedure? I always thought that clean up was the domain of the landlord and to be paid out of the rent/security deposits. It seems rather exorbitant to me, and makes me want to pass on this place.”

$500 sounds high to me – what do you guys think is a realistic move-in fee?

40 Comment

  • That sounds pretty ridiculous. I thought that the cleaning fee was usually taken out of the security deposit of the tenant who left. I’d keep looking for another place, sounds like this place nickels and dimes their tenants.

  • I’ve seen move-in fees of $100 tops, but nothing higher than that. I agree that you should be wary of a place that would do this.

  • It is common among big property management companies and is usually in lieu of a security deposit.

    • Same – I paid a move in fee of a similar amount, and did not pay a security deposit. Less money out the door at the front of the lease, but you don’t get it back at the end.

      • Sounds like it would be worth it for being spared the hassle of having to fight for the security deposit later.

      • If that’s the case then you might as well throw a killer party (PCU-style) on the last night of your lease and charge entry to make back your money.

    • I guess throwing away $500 in the beginning is better than not getting back the $900 deposit you were expecting when you move out.

  • reasonable fee = $0. I have rented 5 places in dc and never been presented with a “move in fee”. find a better place because it’s probably indicative of the type of experience you’ll have living there. as in, if you have a pest problem or plumbing problem, my bet is they won’t take care of it for you and you’ll end up spending a lot of time/money fighting with them.

    • Move-in fees are completely reasonable in theory. They can be used to cover the costs of many things including: having someone on-hand from management to lock elevators, prop open doors, lay/hang protective padding; clean-up/haul-away after moves; etc.

  • Assuming that this fee is in addition to a security deposit, one can usually negotiate to reduce or eliminate such a fee. Contact the leasing agent and state that you will not be paying the move-in fee and if that means you have to give up the apartment, so be it. It can’t have any worse results than just walking away without having the conversation.

  • That is very high. I have heard of move-in/out fee’s or deposits being collected to reserve the elevator and offset the costs of removing the inevitable scuff marks of moving, but never have I ever heard of a fee to clean the apartment after the previous tenant. Not a SOP.

  • me

    When moving into the condo I bought a few years ago, there was a refundable (upon moveout) $500 charge in case I damaged any common areas. That being said, I think that $500 for cleaning is absurd. Ask if you can hire your own cleaner, as it would be much cheaper. However, anytime I moved out of a place, I was the one on the hook to have it cleaned before the new tenant moved in. Seems super shady to me.

  • 500 for a “pre” cleaning? If thats actually the case, then it is pretty odd. However, if you are moving into someones private condo, condo associations frequently have high move in/out fees (I’ve seen $750) to pay for the damage done to the building during.

  • I just moved out of a nice condo place where the move-in fee was $500. The fee had previously been $300, but they raised it because a lot of the older tenants were complaining about young people renting there. Not only that, but they wanted me and each of my three roommates to pay the $500. I absolutely refused and got my landlord involved. It was ridiculous and I am glad to be out of there. My current place was $100 to move in.

  • Sure, it’s totally normal for a town with overinflated rental prices and people asking for prospective tenants to bid on their properties.

  • em

    Our condo building charges non-refundable move-in / move-out fees ($200) plus a refundable key ($25) and damage ($500) deposit for the elevator (checks are returned if no key loss / damage). Yes, it sucks – but most of the professionally-managed buildings we looked at charge similar fees. A $500 non-refundable fee sounds pretty high, though.

  • If it is a condo building, it could be the landlord passing along a fee imposed by the condo board. Condo boards do this to discourage renters as renters seldom treat a property (including the common areas) as well as owners. Also high proportions of rental units can have a negative impact on mortgage options as well – as lenders seek to avoid complexes with high ratios of renters.

    It’s similar to DC’s approach to gun laws: if you make it enough of a PITA for those who want to comply, eventually, even decent people say: “why bother?”.

    • I don’t know why the landlord wouldn’t just build that into the rent.

      • Sure, they could, but they don’t because then the monthly rent would look higher. Actually, the rent would BE higher, AND the landlord would have to come up with the upfront cash, rather than the tenant. The landlord would also be looking at a greater potential loss if the tenant bails before the lease is up.

        Also (in reference to the original question), condo boards of nicer buildings approve high fees of this sort because it keeps out the riff-raff.

        • Really, it would increase the rent??

          Seriously, though, I think an extra $50/month might be less of a turn-off to a potential tenant.

          • They could be limited by rent control, in which case the $500 is their way to up the effective rent beyond what rent control allows.

  • If that $500 is in addition to a security deposit, I’d seriously consider walking away from the place, because that’s crazy and the place will probably charge you for each and every little thing.
    But it seems reasonable if it’s in place of a security deposit.

  • I just put down $500 in lieu of a security deposit. Most places I’ve looked at asked for an application fee (usually $40 to $50) and a move in fee of $500 or 1st month’s rent and security deposit equaling a month’s rent.

  • Most management companies take a commission fee for each new apartment rented (typically the greater of $500 or up to a month’s rent). The landlord can choose to pass the cost through to the tenant or absorb it.

    I’m part of a newly formed Cooperative in NW DC, and this fee is something we’ve discovered from picking a new management company.

  • That’s about what I paid when I moved into the Embassy Apts. at Mt. P and Harvard Sts. a few years ago. They are/were managed (they’re condos now) by Borger, a big management company. Like the other posters said, no security deposit, and they use it to paint and clean the apartment.

  • That is absolutely absurd.

    • Agreed. It’s ridiculous to make the incoming tenant pay for costs associated with the previous tenant.

      I can see (as JMC said earlier) charging for the actual work that moving in requires — putting up protective padding in the elevator. But no way should that amount to $500.

      • Sorry, I omitted an “etc.” — I meant to write “putting up protective padding in the elevator, etc.” Obviously the padding is not all that might be necessary.

  • I had this on my lease as well. I basically called and said that it would be cleaner when I moved out then when I got there (which is true). They took it out of the lease so its basically a security deposit instead of a cleaning deposit now….who knows if I’ll get it back in reality, but you bet your ass I’ll fight for it.

  • Did you move into an apartment run by New Washington Land Company? They charged me $500 for move in on top of a security deposit. I can’t wait to move out at the end of the month – I love our landlord but the move in fee is just one of the reasons I wouldn’t recommend them to people.

  • I live at Archstone and they charge you a $500 move in/amenities fee. BUT no security deposit. So, I think if its in lieu of the security deposit then for big buildings its normal. If not, I would keep looking.

  • This was standard in my old building (The Allegro on 14th St in CoHi), and we had a security deposit in addition to that. Then again, it was a brand new “swanky” building, and they had a habit of nickel-and-diming pretty much wherever they could and raising the rent like clockwork every year.

  • I paid a measly $200 deposit and got it all back after 3 years in the building.. move in fee? 0$

  • My landlord of the condo I rent triednto do a 500 move in fee. I told him to waive it or I walk. He waived it. It’s unreasonable but everything is negotiable.

  • Regarding the picture: I guess we now know what Matthew Lesko’s brother drives.

  • Our condo board charges $500 for move in and $200 for move out. Rentals are bad for condo buildings. They can hurt re-sale and always impact the buildings reserves negatively. If you were an owner in a building, you’d understand completely. We are considering raising ours to $750 soon. Most of the larger condo buildings in the Logan/Shaw area are considering the same increases from what I hear. Since there’s usually 10 – 15 applicants wanting to rent your condo coming with an hour of posting it online, I’d say paying $750 for a move-in fee is not a problem. We have no issues getting it for our building and it’s a great way for the owners to build up the building reserves. Thanks renters!

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