Fees Explained

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Often, when renting hidden fees can be as bad as they are on your phone bill. However not all of the fees you might be asked to pay are 100% legit. Which ones are and which can you argue?

Broker's Fee: Yes, this one is legit and you can expect to be charged only if you are working with a rental agents. A broker's fee, also known as a finder's fee, can only be a maximum of one month's rent (and in this market, it will be one month's rent). If you rent directly from a landlord, they cannot charge a broker's fee, even if your landlord also happens to be a real estate agent. It is illegal to charge a broker fee for a property that you own.

How should you handle this? If your landlord tries to charge you a broker's fee, what do you do? Well, it depends. If the landlord is an agent you can report them for acting unethically. If not, you can't really take much action. Either way, you don't want to sign a lease with a landlord who is trying to take advantage of you financially this early in the game.

Application Fee: Possibly to the shock of your landlord/agent, application fees and background checks aren't okay. However many landlord's won't consider you as a tenant unless you pay for a credit check, so it might be worth it to just pay up. For more information, click here.

Lock Fee: Yep, your landlord can charge you the cost of changing the locks when a new lease begins. The cost to change a lock, security deposit and first and last month's rents are the only charges your landlord can collect before you move in.

Late Rent Fees: If you are late paying your rent, your landlord cannot begin to charge you late fees until it is 30 days overdue. However they can begin the eviction process immediately. Any late fees should be clearly outlined in your lease. To avoid problems, be sure to pay your rent on time, every time.

Pet Fees/Pet Rent: Let's start by breaking this down into two categories. There is (1) a one time pre-move in pet fee and (2) a monthly pet rent. If the one time payment is not refundable (i.e. it will not be returned to you even if there is no damage), it's probably not technically allowed. However, if it acts more like an extra security deposit it is okay as long as the total deposit doesn't exceed one month's rent. Ideally, if you and your pet don't cause any damage you will get all of this money back. If you are violating your lease by having a pet, your landlord can evict you on those grounds.

Monthly pet fees or pet payments are basically a negotiation to your regular rent. Just as you can haggle about other aspects of your agreement this is something that you've negotiated. In exchange for your landlord permitting you to have a pet, you pay more in rent. Generally pet rent is thought to be legit.
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Subletting Fees: This is where the waters get murky. If there is a chance that you will be subletting make sure the conditions you will follow if and when you do are very clearly outlined in your lease. Ask if there is a subletting fee and make sure the amount is clear outlined in your lease.

If you feel you are being strong armed into paying more than you should, it might be best to walk away and find a landlord who you trust to treat you fairly. However, if you wish to pursue these issues you should consult the Mass Consumer Hotline at 617-973-8787 or on there website.

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