If you're apartment hunting these days, you'll likely pay apartment application fees. While those fees used to be $20 to $50, some renters are now being asked to pay hundreds of dollars without guaranteeing they will get the apartment.
McKenzie and Erick Willett have finally found a new apartment.
But they are bitter after losing nearly $400 in application fees at the complex they really wanted.
"It said it would be an $80 per adult application fee, plus $220, for a total of $380," Erick Willett said.,
$380 sounded steep. But desperate and with a new baby, the Willetts paid it, only to learn "our application was denied due to something being in our credit history."
Even worse news: The complex was keeping the $380.
"I was under the impression it was going to be refundable," Erick Willet said.
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What can you do?
Clare Trapasso with Realtor.com says application fees are the new norm for renters, and even condo buyers, to help landlords determine your eligibility.
"Often, that's for a credit check or for some of the work they're doing in the back office to get that apartment ready," she said.
Whether you get that money back varies by location. A handful of states have fee regulations or caps in place. But others have no limitations at all.
Trapasso says once you pay a fee, ask if any of it is refundable.
"It never hurts to ask to get a refund," she said, "especially if you don't get the place."
But she says it's very unlikely you'll see that money again.
Some red flags to avoid when looking for a new place:
- Landlords charging a fee just to view an apartment.
- Being charged a fee if there are no units currently available. So ask in advance.
We visited the complex that denied the Willetts, Seasons on Chelsea, where a manager pointed us to their website.
There it says, "All application fees are not refundable for any reason." McKenzie Willett says it is unfair.
"Having a new baby, and all the expenses, this is a lot of money to us," she said.
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