The hidden costs of renting an apartment

students moving into new apartment with new hidden costs

As you look for your next place to live, be aware of all the potential expenses.

While you may end up missing your college’s unlimited meal plan, you’re undoubtedly thrilled to be getting your own place and leaving dorm life behind. But as you take one of the first steps into adulting, make sure to consider more than just the base cost of your rent when you’re setting aside money for your new pad. If you don’t budget for things like application fees, renters insurance, and other fees associated with your apartment, you might find yourself trying to figure out where you went wrong. Here are seven things to think about before you sign your lease.

1. Application fee

You may have to hand over money before you even set foot in your new place. When you apply for an apartment, you often have to pay a nonrefundable fee for management or ownership to process your application, and check your background and credit — even if you aren’t approved or don’t end up renting the apartment. The average application fee runs around $25–$50.

2. Security deposit

Forking over a security deposit is a given, but make sure what you’re being charged is legitimate. It’s typically no more than one to two months’ rent, but check what’s legal in your state to make sure you’re not being over-charged. And don’t assume you’ll get it all back. Before move-in day, photograph the condition of the apartment — and share those photos with the apartment manager — so that you’re not on the hook for existing damage when you leave. Always read the fine print to see if any of the security deposit is nonrefundable — sometimes landlords automatically keep a portion for move-in or cleaning fees.

3. Utilities

You’ll likely have to pay out of pocket for essentials like internet, but be sure to ask what utilities are included with your apartment, if any. If you’re responsible for things like water, gas, and electricity, find out what the average monthly cost is for each service so that you can work it into your budget. Many utility companies may offer the option of making a standard monthly payment based on your expected use, which can sometimes be helpful for your budget. You’ll typically pay the same amount for 11 months, and then on the 12th month, you may pay more or less depending on your overall usage during the year.

4. Pet fee

Another perk of striking out on your own is that you can get your beloved pooch back from Mom and Dad or adopt that kitty you’ve been fawning over. But even if your new pad is pet-friendly, your landlord can tack on additional fees for your furry roommate, like a pet deposit (which may or may not be refundable), pet fees, or pet rent.

5. Parking fee

Depending on how your apartment complex is set up, the owner or building management may charge you a fee for a designated parking spot, plus extras like a garage door opener or parking sticker.

6. Maintenance fees

Your new apartment building or complex needs to keep up appearances, so you might incur a monthly maintenance fee for things like lawn care, elevator repairs, and general upkeep. Even if you don’t use the fancy pool and gym, you may have to pay a monthly fee anyway.

7. Renters insurance

You might think that you don’t need insurance since you don’t own the place, right? But a renters policy protects what’s in the apartment. That means you can recoup expenses for damage caused by things like fires, major storms, or break-ins. Some places even require you to have renters insurance before you move in. You can expect to pay $15–$30 per month.

Getting your own place can be liberating and may be one of the highlights of being out of school and on your own. But as you’re comparing apartments, don’t just look at neighborhood, amenities, and proximity to your favorite restaurants — consider how each place treats some of the costs mentioned above. If you choose wisely and budget well, you’ll have the money you need to do the other thing you can do in a place all your own — furnish it with amazing finds.

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