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Upfront Costs When Renting: What Do You Need to Pay? 

If you’re thinking of renting a new apartment, you’re probably aware that there are bills you need to consider. When renting, you have to plan for the various costs associated with the lease process. These include the first month’s rent, a security deposit, an application fee, the last month’s rent, and fees if you have a pet. However, the question we get most from tenants is, “What are the upfront costs I have to pay?” 

In this guide, we’ll cover the common upfront bills you need to pay. Second, we’ll discuss some upfront fees you should consider to help plan your rental budget. As trusted property managers in Philadelphia, we have the expertise and experience to help you start your rental journey prepared and with everything you need to make an informed decision. 

Application Fee 

One of the first costs you might encounter when renting is the application fee. The application fee actually covers your landlord’s expenses related to a thorough tenant screening process. In Philadelphia, this fee is usually between $25 – $100 and paid to begin the rental application process. 

Application fees can vary depending on your landlord or property manager, and they are typically non-refundable. Even though they increase your initial costs, they’re a normal part of renting in many areas. 

Average Cost: $25 – $100, depending on the area and complexity of screening. 

First Month’s Rent 

The first month’s rent is almost always required upfront by landlords. It acts as your initial payment to begin the rental agreement. It’s the cost of your first month living in the apartment. This upfront fee ensures that you have secured your right to occupy the rental property starting from the first day of your lease.  

Remember, this isn’t an extra charge or a deposit. It’s just your first payment towards your rent. It’s the same amount as your regular fixed monthly payment per the lease. 

Average Cost: This depends on the location and specific rental property. However, rent across the US averages $1,713 according to RentCafe.

Security Deposit 

The term “security deposit” is one you have probably heard of. This refers to the money your landlord collects before moving in. Typically, the security deposit is equal to one month’s rent, but it can vary depending on the lease agreement and applicable local laws. 

In Philadelphia for example, during the first year of the lease, the security deposit cannot be more than two months’ rent. But, unlike the application fee, this deposit is refundable. Let’s say you leave the apartment in great condition and fulfill the terms of your lease – if so, you should get this money back at the end of your rental period. 

For the duration of the lease, the landlord will hold your security deposit. If you cause any damage or owe rent when you leave, then they can rightfully use some or all of the deposit to cover those expenses. But if there’s money left, landlords must return it to the tenant within a specified timeframe as directed by local laws. 

Expert tips for beginners: Before you move in, complete a walkthrough with your landlord and document anything that’s already broken or damaged. That way, you both have a record and agree on the unit’s condition. This critical documentation helps ensure you won’t get blamed for damages later when you move out. 

Average Cost: Typically 1-2 months’ rent, but some states have maximum limits. 

Last Month’s Rent 

In some states, the last month’s rent is also included in the upfront costs a tenant must pay. This means you pay the rent for your final month upfront when you sign the lease. In Philadelphia, it’s common to pay this along with your security deposit

Just like admin fees, the amount you pay for last month’s rent can vary depending on the landlord or the place you’re renting. Even though it adds to your upfront costs, paying last month’s rent is a common practice in many states. 

Average Cost: Depends on your monthly rent per your lease agreement.

Pet Rent vs. Pet Security Deposit 

Pets are often regarded as a member of the family, but if you want to move your pet into a rental, there may be an extra fee. Many landlords choose to charge an additional pet security deposit or monthly pet rent – or both! However, how are those two different from each other?  

  • Pet Rent: This is a fee you pay on a monthly basis along with your rent. and you can’t get it back. That said, a pet fee can be between $25 and $100 for each pet, depending on the property and your specific agreement. It often depends on how big, heavy, or the type of pet you have. So be prepared to answer questions about your pet and their health history as part of the application process. 

Average Cost: $25 – $100, depending on the landlord and pet type. 

  • Pet Deposit: This is a one-time payment. Landlords usually ask for $200 to $500 per pet. This money acts as a security deposit in case your pet damages anything. Unlike pet rent, you can get this money back if everything’s okay when you move out. 

Average Cost: $200 – $500, depending on the landlord and pet type. Not all landlords offer this option. 

Moving Costs 

Moving costs are often underestimated, but you might want to put this into your budget as an upfront cost as you prepare to rent. Moving costs vary depending several factors such as whether you hire professionals or decide to move yourself. 

If you choose to hire professional movers, the cost you will depend on the distance of the move, the volume of items being moved, and any additional services you might need, like packing and unpacking your belongings.  

Average Cost 

  • Local Move (within the same city): $500 – $2,000 (DIY) or $1,000 – $4,000 (hiring professional movers) 
  • Long-Distance Move: $1,000 – $5,000 (DIY) or $2,000 – $10,000+ (hiring movers) 

Remember, these are just averages, and the actual costs can vary depending on your location, the specific apartment, and your situation. But if you do decide to reach out to professionals, do so well in advance, as the schedule of reputable movers can fill up quickly. 

How Bay Property Management Group Can Help 

Let’s say you’re finally ready to rent after preparing all the upfront costs we mentioned above. Bay Property Management Group in Philadelphia has a team of dedicated leasing agents and reliable property managers who can assist with anything you need throughout your rental process. 

But, if you’re a busy landlord and want more time to enjoy life without the daily stresses of owning rentals, BMG can help. We handle everything from finding good tenants to maintenance and making sure the rent gets paid on time. Contact us today to learn more about our property management services throughout Baltimore, Philadelphia, Northern Virginia, and Washington, DC!