If the idea of covering security fees and first month’s rent is preventing you from finding a rental, you’ll be glad to learn that you have options. Between state and local government programs to local nonprofits, Catholic charities, and beyond, there are all kinds of places you can get help with your security deposit.
In this article, we’ll help you understand which move-in fees you might need to pay and how to ensure they’re fair. We’ll also provide guidance on where you can look for assistance with your security deposit and first month’s rent as well as tips for negotiating your move-in fees.
Move-In Fees: Security Deposit, First Month’s Rent, and More
Any time you move into a new rental unit there will be a collection of expenses in addition to the rent you are expected to pay.
Common fees include:
- Last month’s rent
- Utility deposits
- Move-in fee
- Pet deposit and/or pet rent
- Application fees
- Security deposit
Fees vary greatly depending on whether you’re moving into a privately-owned unit or a building managed by a large corporation. Renting through a leasing agent usually involves application fees, whereas you might not always have to pay when renting directly from the property owner.
There are laws outlining the limits to what landlords may charge for some of these fees, particularly a security deposit. Before you begin your house hunt, familiarize yourself with the security deposit laws in your state to ensure you won’t be taken advantage of.
As you search for a rental that’s within your budget, always inquire about any move-in fees you will be required to pay.
And remember, there may be a few additional expenses when moving in that you should budget for. These include set-up fees for internet service, cleaning fees, and the cost of hiring movers, among other things. Think through your move carefully and outline all of the possible expenses you may incur.
Questions to ask about move-in fees
When it comes to move-in fees, you don’t want to leave any room for confusion. Ask your landlord to outline exactly what expenses you’ll be responsible for and when they are due.
Some move-in fees, such as the security deposit, are refundable, while others may not be. Have your landlord outline which fees are refundable and what the stipulations are. For instance, your security deposit may be withheld if anything in your rental is damaged.
Before you sign a lease agreement it’s imperative that you are completely clear on what you need to pay, by when, and whether you should expect a refund when you move out.
Again, you should also familiarize yourself with your state’s laws around move-in fees to ensure your landlord is charging fairly.
Where to get help with your security deposit
The following are a few places you look to come up with the funds to cover your security deposit and first month’s rent. Depending on your specific set of circumstances, you may qualify for some and not others. With some careful research and persistence, you’ll surely come up with the cash you need.
There are a number of nonprofits that provide grants and assistance to low-income individuals, or individuals facing financial hardships. These exist at both a federal and a local level. A quick Google search of “nonprofit” and “housing assistance” plus your city or state will reveal a myriad of options you can explore.
Net Wish and Modest Needs are just two examples of these types of organizations. They are independent nonprofits and offer support to individuals and families under financial duress. There is no guarantee that you will receive funding through any of these organizations, but it never hurts to apply. Many of them allow you to apply for grants for anything you may need, whether it’s help with your security deposit, the cost of hiring movers, funds to buy bed linens, or whatever else you may desperately need.
There are also nonprofits that specialize in preventing homelessness. If you’ve recently been evicted, have been homeless, or are at risk of becoming homeless, you may qualify for assistance through such an organization.
One nonprofit alone may not be able to cover all of your moving expenses, so plan to apply for multiple grants. Remember, every little bit counts.
Local Government Organizations
You may not realize the number of local government organizations that are available to assist you. If you’re not sure where to turn, contact your local city hall and ask where to turn for assistance with housing or move-in expenses.
Additionally, you can contact 2-1-1, which will connect you with the social services providers you need. This is a fantastic service, as you will be paired with a local specialist who is familiar with all of the relevant organizations in your area.
If you’re at a total loss for where to begin, these two options are sure to save you a lot of time by putting you on the right track.
Faith-based charities such as The Salvation Army and the Saint Vincent de Paul Society offer a variety of programs to help families and individuals find safe housing, earn a consistent income, put food on the table, and more.
The programs offered through these types of organizations tend to vary by location, so it’s best to contact your local branch to see how they may be able to help you.
Often these types of organizations have programs that work to prevent homelessness and help families establish long-term housing. This may include rent assistance, as well as help with security deposits. Sometimes they can even help cover your utility expenses.
These charities typically focus on supporting low-income individuals and families, and you may be required to demonstrate need in order to qualify for assistance. You may also qualify if you have been affecting by domestic abuse, a natural disaster, or another special circumstance.
Security Deposit Guarantees
If you have a decent credit score and steady income, you may qualify for a security deposit guarantee. These guarantees are a form of insurance that you can purchase which will cover what you would ordinarily pay for a security deposit.
The advantage of the security deposit guarantee is that you can purchase them for a fraction of the cost of what the security deposit would cost. In the event that you cause damage to your rental, the cost of repairs will likely be covered by your security deposit insurance and will be paid directly to your landlord.
Some landlords may still prefer to receive a security deposit in cash, but many landlords probably prefer to have their unit rented and generating monthly income, rather than sitting empty while they continue looking for tenants. If you qualify, this type of insurance policy enables you to rent a place with less cash out of pocket while still providing the landlord with protection from damages.
There are many different companies offering security deposit guarantees, so be sure to shop around for the best deal.
Earn extra money with odd jobs
If you don’t qualify for assistance with your security deposit with any of the organizations we’ve discussed this far, don’t despair. You still have plenty of options.
Odd jobs can be a fantastic way to round up the extra cash to cover your move-in expenses. They may be more time consuming than receiving help through an assistance program, but once you get started, you’re sure to appreciate the additional cash flow.
With the modern gig economy, it’s easier than ever before to earn some extra money through apps like Uber or Lyft, Door Dash, Instacart, Thumbtack, and more.
The great thing about these services is that many of them accept new service providers on an ongoing basis. Additionally, most of them will hire you without the need for a formal interview process, which means you can start earning money in a very short period of time.
Reach out to your friends, family, and colleagues to see if anyone knows of any opportunities to earn a bit of extra money. You could help people with dog walking, lawn maintenance, household chores, and more.
Don’t be afraid to get creative. Many people have tasks they’d love to hand off to someone but just haven’t had the time to make a job posting. Save them the trouble by identifying ways you can help and offering services directly.
Don’t hesitate to negotiate move-in fees
You can see by now that there are all kinds of creative ways to find the money to cover your security deposit and first month’s rent.
But before you go handing any cash over, you should keep in mind that some of these fees may be negotiable.
This is more likely to be the case if you’re renting directly from the property owner as they will know exactly how much money they need to make from their rental. They don’t have a boss to answer to the way a leasing agent does.
Remember, finding reliable tenants is hard work and landlords don’t want to risk having their units sit empty. If you can convince them that you’ll be a great, long-term tenant, you might be able to find wiggle room with some of the fees. Providing excellent references from previous landlords and strong character references is a great way to start negotiations.
Even if you can’t negotiate your move-in fees down, just remember that with plenty of research and help from some of the resources covered above, there are all kinds of ways to pull together the extra you need to cover the deposit on your next rental.
For more options, see our full guide to finding help paying the rent.