Looking for an apartment? Here's what you need to know about hidden rental fees

John Gregory Image
Wednesday, July 19, 2023
Looking for an apartment? Watch out for hidden rental fees
ABC7 On Your Side is saving you money on your next lease by taking a look at hidden rental fees.

The White House says it is cracking down on so-called "junk fees" for housing rentals, such as application fees and convenience fees. But what can you do to save money on your next lease?

In the latest edition of ABC7 On Your Side, we spoke with a real estate agent who said there are many ways landlords are charging residents for more than the base rent amount.

Mike Kaeding, CEO of Norhart Real Estate, said that can include shared utility fees and internet restrictions.

He said some properties may not individually sub-meter your apartment unit.

"That means you may be paying for your neighbor's excessive use. On top of that, if you don't have individual meters on each unit, on average, people tend to spend more or use more utilities and so the cost for everyone tends to rise."

Tips on how to reduce your energy use and save on your next electric bill

When the temperatures go up, so does your electric bill and that cost can run some families thousands of dollars a month.

Kaeding also added that many properties will restrict the internet you can access.

"They do this because it's a profit center for them. They're actually paid by internet companies to limit that access."

He said the number one thing people can do is simply ask about what those internet costs are so you're able to fairly compare that against other properties.

Some properties may also charge technology or amenity fees such as trash pick-up, use of a community gym or the convenience of paying online. Listing those charges as fees let's properties show a lower rate to get you interested, but you still end up paying more.

The White House is working with Zillow, Apartments.com and AffordableHousing.com to make those charges more transparent. But if the property you're looking at isn't listed there, or hasn't been updated yet, you still might miss some of those costs.

Still, the more prepared you are overall, the better chance you have of lowering those monthly costs. Kaeding recommends negotiating.

"Just go and look at the markets and see other properties and have them compete against each other," he said. "They want you to move in, and the more information you have about their hidden fees, the better you can negotiate with them."

Once you are ready to negotiate, here's how you can prepare:

- Be informed on the local rental market. Know what amenities similar properties are offering and at what price.

- Be prepared to negotiate different lease terms, such as offering a different move-out date or extending your lease in exchange for lower rent.

- Make sure any negotiation discussions you have are in writing. If you spoke with your landlord in person or over the phone, send a follow-up detailing your conversation.

- Have a backup plan in place so you can walk away if you can't reach a deal.

Join us every weekday morning on Eyewitness News at 5 a.m. for our new segment, ABC7 On Your Side. John Gregory has you covered on money-saving tips, including tricks to save on your bills, smart negotiating tactics, plus where you can score free stuff!