Finding a new place to live is always exciting, but it can be an exhausting process as well. With apartment touring, looking into movers, and researching various move-in fees for different communities, it can be overwhelming! Knowing as much as you can about the process can go a long way in taking some of the work off your back, especially when it comes to money. Some landlords will ask for several different payments back home, so it’s important to know the difference between move-in fees v. security deposits.

There are typically a few fees that go into a lease before the term begins. Pet deposit, first and/or last month’s rent, and security deposit are all fees to expect to pay when you sign the lease. Something that has been growing in popularity in the leasing field is adding a move-in fee. What does this pay for, and how does this compare to a security deposit?

A security deposit is a sum of money paid by the resident to ensure that they will take care of the unit during the time they live there. It is, as the name suggests, a security measure that the landlord takes to protect the apartment of damage or early vacancy. If the apartment is not damaged during the time of the lease, the resident is entitled to get some or all of the deposit back, because they held up their end of the promise to take care of the apartment. Typically, there will be a few things the landlord uses the deposit to fix, including marks on walls or stains in the carpet.

A move-in fee is different because it is not refundable. The resident won’t get the money back unlike with a security deposit. Some communities charge move-in fees to cover charges that take place between one resident leaving and another moving into the same unit. This can include things like changing directories, getting keys and locks changed, reprogramming buzzers, or updating mailboxes. The fee typically covers alterations made before the new resident moves in.

Move-in fees have been embedded into lease terms fairly recently and new residents seem to have mixed reviews. Some landlords will charge a much smaller move-in fee but no security deposit so that they don’t have to keep track of damages, and also to ensure that they keep some of what’s being paid to them. Computerized credit may have had a hand in this new kind of fee because landlords and property owners know that they can report residents for failing to pay rent.

There tends to be a lot of difference between move-in fees v. security deposits which is an important distinction. People are want to prefer one kind of payment than the other for any number of reasons. Residents should note that there can be a bit of leeway and flexibility with rental situations. It can be worth the effort to try and negotiate the fees and deposits associated with signing a lease and moving in. There are also laws about the return of deposits that protect you, so be sure to read up on what your rights are. Once you know what all your money is going towards, it’s easier to make a decision on what apartment community is right for you.