I wouldn't go as far as to say my last landlord was a slumlord, but he wasn't winning any awards for his fair business practices either. From the moment I signed the lease, he found some clever ways to charge more than just the rent. Unfortunately, I've run into this type of landlord in the past. Call me unlucky, but I've learned a lot from this experiences; namely, how to avoid paying a landlord's bogus charge. Here are a few examples.
A few years ago I adopted a dog and had to move to a new apartment that allowed pets. Not being familiar with the pet ownership, I just assumed I would pay a bigger security deposit. I ended up renting a "pet friendly" apartment only to find out that I would be charged $25 a month for pet rent, which is essentially an additional monthly fee beyond the pet deposit.
You can avoid this yourself by asking upfront. As soon as the landlord says he accepts pets, ask if he charges pet rent, then go somewhere else if he does. There are plenty of rentals that do not charge a monthly fee just for being a pet owner.
My last landlord included a clause in the lease that said he would charge a $100 cleaning fee to be deducted from the security deposit if the apartment was not cleaned to the condition it was when the tenant moved in. Fortunately, I read the lease, saw the clause and was able to save myself the fee by taking photos of the apartment when I moved in. When I moved out, I cleaned the apartment from top to bottom and took another set of photos. The landlord did originally deduct the fee, but after I sent him both sets of photos he sent me another refund for the full $100.
Some state laws put a limit on the amount of late fees a landlord can charge, but many states do not have that law. I live in a state that allows the landlord to basically charge at will. A few years ago I rented from a landlord that charged $45 for the first day and $10 for each additional day the rent would be late. Unfortunately, I figured it wouldn't be a problem because I would never pay late. Then one month I had to go out of town suddenly and ended up being four days late on my rent and having to pay $75 in late fees.
Stuff happens and you may end up having to pay your rent late. Save yourself the financial hassle and look for a landlord with a reasonable late fee.
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