A reader asks "What is a move-in fee?"

It’s rather late on a Sunday and I know I haven’t posted in a couple days. Again.  So I was searching for a topic to write about and came across a question that seemed like basic info, but realized that this might be new to some buyers.

A kind reader asks:

what is a move in fee?  I am seeing more and more of this – No security deposit – but a $100 – $200 "move-in" fee – what is this?

There are typically move in fees for condominium associations and there may be move-in fees for some kinds of apartments.  Plus, if you have located a rental in a condominium building, you would be subject to the same move in fee normally charged to a new resident when he or she buys the condo and moves in.

Let’s start with an apartment move-in fee.

These are less common, but perhaps are becoming more so as a clever marketing ploy.  An apartment complex might offer to do away with a security deposit, but charge $200 as a move in fee.  This way, the apartment complex makes a few extra bucks without the hassle of documenting damages and deductions to your security deposit.  With the advent of computerized credit reporting, some big management companies may feel comfortable in not charging you a security deposit.  They know that they can report you if you make a late payment to credit reporting agencies which might be more than enough incentive for you to pay your rent rather than the old fashioned security deposit. 

Then there are condominium move in fees.

This is more common in big buildings with elevators.  A condominium management company will typically require a few hundred dollars for a fee, and a couple hundred dollars more as a deposit.  The fee usually covers the maintenance man locking off the elevator, and perhaps a security guard to watch the back door during the move.  The deposit guarantees against damage to hallways and the elevator. 

You are also subject to the move in fees in a condominium building even if you are a renter.  Sometimes these fees can be quite high.  If you come across a building with an outrageously high move in fee, you can assume that the Condo Association is trying to discourage renters from moving into the building.

In the case of a condominium building, however, you probably are going to still pay your landlord a security deposit on top of the building’s move in fees.