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Building move-in fees: Are they necessary, and why?

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Q. Why do landlords, co-ops and condo buildings charge move-in and move-out fees, and what's a typical charge for each kind of building? Are they ever refundable? 

A. Movers never set out to damage walls, floors, ceilings or elevators when they're hauling your boxes and furniture from curb to apartment—it just happens. That's the reason why buildings charge new residents a few hundred dollars or more to cover the cost of wear and tear, even if they're not directly responsible for any repairs, our experts say.

“Wear and tear, the plaster corner rounded by too sharp a turn with the dolly, the gouged plaster wall from the tipped over crate, the cracked ceiling fixture from too big a couch tilted upright, the elevator doorframe dented from [the] countless jiggling of everything going into and out of an elevator and the incessant use of moving boxes to barrel through unlocked, closed doors all leave telltale signs of damage, increased with each move in and move out,” says property manager Thomas Usztoke of Douglas Elliman Property Management.

Not all buildings charge move-in fees, and each landlord and condo/co-op board will have its own way of handling the expense. But a $500 non-refundable fee is most common across building types, Usztoke says. Likewise, real estate broker Shirley Hackel of Warburg Realty pegs a typical charge at $500 to $600. Occasionally, buildings charge more; for example, the Century condos on Central Park West ask for as much as $1,000, while the Laurel condos on the Upper East Side want $750, she says, noting that "it's tough to generalize."

Other buildings may require a deposit instead, “which is more a good faith gesture and would be returned to you if no damages were incurred,” says Gordon Roberts, a broker at Sotheby's International Realty. Those also range from $500 to $1,000, says Hackel. However, refundable fees are on the wane, according to Usztoke. Often, they lead to arguments between residents and management about what damage occurred—and when—particularly “in a high-volume building where repairs are often addressed only after several destructive moves rather than with each move,” he says. 

Also, don't expect to bargain down the rates: "These fees are never negotiated," Hackel says, "at least not in my 33-plus years of doing business in Manhattan."

Related:

Rent Coach: What?! My landlord blindsided me with move-in fees

16 tips for an (almost) stress-free moving day

A little-known moving timesaver that's worth its $500 price tag

Insider moving tips from a small landlord


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