Avoiding junk fees as a renter

To prevent the shock of unwanted fees, you first need to read the lease- every page and word.
Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 8:06 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - The White House is working to cut down on junk fees. You see them tacked on to things like concert tickets and hotel stays. And, in many cases, fees get added to your rent. But do you really have to pay them?

Renting is expensive enough in Arizona as it is. You don’t want to add junk fees on top of your monthly rent. “Junk fees are fees that are usually surprising, unexpected, usually unwelcomed by those who have to pay them,” said Jonas Bordo, the CEO of Dwellsy, a site for residential home rentals.

He’s also advising the White House on rentals and junk fees as they prepare a Renter Bill of Rights. “Landlords are always looking for an edge to get a little bit of extra profit out of their properties, and as a result of that, they are looking at creative ideas for new fees,” he said.

It may be hard to sympathize with your landlord, but many of them are just trying to make ends meet as well. To prevent the shock of unwanted fees, you first need to read the lease- every page and word. “This is a thing that every renter needs to do, and so few of us do,” Bordo said. “Just read the lease, and the lease is awful to read.”

President Biden is calling on federal agencies, Congress and private companies to provide honest, transparent pricing to Americans while working to get rid of junk fees for good.

If understanding your lease and all the fees seems overwhelming, ask the leasing office for help. If you know the lease, you know what they can and cannot charge you. “Frankly, any fee that you’re being charged that is not in your lease you don’t have to pay,” Bordo said. And you should absolutely read that rental contract before you sign it. Your signature is your agreement.

If you are fighting a fee you feel is unfair and that fee is not in the lease, turn to the Attorney General’s office to determine whether it’s legal. “The lease is a legal binding contract between you and your landlord,” Bordo said. “Any fee that’s not in the lease you should challenge.”

Some of the most common up-front fees are for applications, background checks, and security deposits. That doesn’t count ongoing fees if you get the apartment- like parking, utilities and pet rent.

Don’t sign the lease unless you clearly understand your financial responsibility as a renter and feel confident you can afford it.

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