What Apartment Rental Fees Can My Landlord Legally Charge Me?

A dollar bill on the table

You probably scratch your head when you hear the industry jargon that accompanies home ownership. But you figured renting is a lot simpler to understand. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. And every now and then you might come across a term you’ve never heard before. But before you start writing checks willy-nilly, you might want to take a closer look at its legality. Part of being a smart renter is never assuming your landlord knows best and doing your own research. While it’s your landlord’s job to collect certain apartment rental fees, it’s your right to know exactly what you’re paying for. If you’re a new renter to Los Angeles, here’s a guide to rental fees and other expenses of renting an apartment.

What are standard apartment rental fees?

LA real estate broker Melanie McShane helps us with the guide to rental fees. She says that landlords usually use rent payments to cover basic property expenses. This includes property taxes, insurance, and the mortgage. All these costs are inherently built into the monthly apartment rental fees. You can also expect to pay a nonrefundable application fee (used to run a background and credit check) and/or a security deposit in most cases. McShane says landlords may also include the following in your expenses of renting an apartment:

Pet deposit fee in apartment rental fees:

Landlords may charge a deposit per pet to cover pet-related home injuries. Additionally, as an extra security deposit to cover any pet-related damages to the property, as part of apartment rental fees.

Pool key fee:

A fee for the cost of making a pool key.

Extra key fee:

A fee for the cost of making an extra key.

Storage fee:

In some cases, the landlord offers extra storage for additional apartment rental fees.

Maintenance fee:

A landlord may charge a monthly fee when landscaping, pool cleaning, or general upkeep are necessary.

What are the lesser-known apartment rental fees?

Other, lesser-known apartment rental fees may also be applicable. Tenants in rent-controlled units are also subject to apartment rental fees that tenants in market rate apartments are not. If you’re not sure if this applies to you as expenses for renting an apartment, ask your landlord to further explain.

City tax portion in apartment rental fees: 

“You, as an apartment owner will be charged a city tax in Los Angeles. And a portion of that fee can be passed along to tenants,” says McShane. To be exact: business tax liability on income collected from rent in Los Angeles is $1.27 per thousand dollars if the unit isn’t exempt.

Rent registration dues:

You need to know if your building falls under rent control. The Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Division allows owners to pass down half of the registration fees to tenants. However, landlords must give a 30-day notice before charging this annual apartment rental fees. And they may only collect in June (having notified tenants in May). Once these dues are paid, the landlord must then provide a copy of the certificate proving the building was officially registered as rent-stabilized.

Systematic code enforcement fees (SCEP): 

This is another fee that only owners of rent-controlled buildings pay. The fee covers building inspections so that each unit meets city codes. This type of apartment rental fees can be passed on to the tenant, but only in 12-month installments (and it must be under $5 per month). As with the registration fee for rent control, this fee must only be collected with a 30-day notice.

And it’s not every day that landlords are required to pay their tenants a fee, but the sun shines on LA renters. According to city law, tenants in rent-controlled buildings are entitled to a few pennies back from their landlord in exchange for a security deposit.

“You as tenants should be aware that landlords in rent controlled buildings will pay interest on the deposits that are held,” says McShane. “It is a minimal amount, but you are entitled to it.”

If a fee shows up that you don’t recognize or doesn’t seem legitimate, don’t be afraid to question it. Ask your landlord for a breakdown of expenses for renting an apartment and any applicable fees, and if you are still unsatisfied (or find the landlord less than compliant), contact the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles or the Los Angeles Housing Community Investment Department. As with all financial transactions (including your rent), ask for a receipt!

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