Rent Coach

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

By Mike Akerly  | February 13, 2014 - 2:24PM

Q. I'm planning to rent an apartment in Queens. Now that I've signed the lease, the landlord says I have to pay a move-in fee right now and put down a deposit when I move out.  Our lease doesn't say anything about this. Can I cancel the lease because the landlord failed to disclose this info?

A. Probably not, but there are a number of issues to take a look at.  As a starting point, it’s probably worth giving your lease a thorough read to see if there are any provisions that may be relevant.  For example, it’s common to see language that says the tenant must follow any rules or regulations put forward by the building’s management company or the board of directors (in the case of condos and co-ops).

If there is such language, you would be required to abide by those rules, as would the owner of the apartment if you're renting from an individual (though they could agree to cover the fees for you).

Even if there is no such provision and you discover that you're not obligated to pay the fees, you would not have the right to back out of the lease.  Instead, the landlord would have no legal right to collect the fee but the lease would remain in effect.

The landlord could agree to waive the fee or release you from your lease (or in the interest of resolving a stalemate you could agree to pay all or part of the fees).  In the worst case scenario, your landlord might refuse to let you move in without receiving the fees while asserting that you remain obligated to pay the rent under the lease. In that case, your only option would be to go to Housing Court to force your landlord to follow the lease and hand over the keys.  But the cost, time, and potential consequences of going to Housing Court may far outweigh the value.

Move-in fees can typically range from $250 to $750 whereas move-out deposits can reach even higher. The fees are typically associated with costs borne by the building such as reserving an elevator or paying extra for staff to remove boxes.  However, it’s also a good way for the building to add to its reserve fund or operations budget by getting each resident to pay a small, one-time contribution.  Deposits are equally important as they help ensure that the building owner will not be left with the bill for repairs of damage caused by tenants or their movers while bringing an apartment full of furniture in or out of the premises.

Remember: It’s always good to ask what fees are associated with the rental.  Those may include broker fees, move-in/move-out fees, move-in/move-out deposits, pet fees or deposits, application fees, and amenity fees.   

Mike Akerly is a New York City real estate attorney, landlord, and real estate broker. He is also the publisher of the Greenwich Village blog VillageConfidential.     

Note: The information provided here is for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice and cannot substitute for the advice of a licensed professional applying their specialized knowledge to the particular circumstances of your case.

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