What Apartment Rental Fees Can My Landlord Legally Charge Me?

You’re accustomed to scratching your head when you hear the industry jargon that accompanies home ownership (don’t worry — you’re not alone), 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 and which — as your luck would have it — involves forking over some more of your hard-earned cash. But before you start writing checks willy-nilly, you might want to take a closer look at its legality. We’ll be the first to say that there are some awesome landlords out there, but there are also plenty who don’t exactly have your best interests at heart. 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 — especially because “typical” charges vary between rental markets. If you’re a new renter to Los Angeles, here’s a list of legal apartment rental fees your landlord may ask for.

What Are the Standard Apartment Rental Fees?

According to LA real estate broker Melanie McShane, landlords usually use rent payments to cover basic property expenses, including property taxes, insurance, and the mortgage — costs that are inherently built into the monthly rent. 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 charge a:

  1. Pet Deposit Fee: Landlords may charge a deposit per pet to cover pet-related home injuries and as an extra security deposit to cover any pet-related damages to the property.
  2. Pool Key Fee: A fee for the cost of making a pool key.
  3. Extra Key Fee: A fee for the cost of making an extra key.
  4. Storage Fee: In some cases, extra storage is offered to tenants for a fee.
  5. Maintenance Fee: A landlord may charge a monthly fee when landscaping, pool cleaning, or general upkeep are necessary.

What Are Lesser-Known Apartment Rental Fees?

Other, lesser-known fees may also be applicable, though some will be built into the rent and will not be visibly apparent. Tenants in rent-controlled units are also subject to fees that tenants in market rate apartments are not. If you’re not sure if this applies to you, ask your landlord to further explain.

  1. City Tax Portion: “There is a city tax in Los Angeles that apartment owners are charged, 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.
  2. Rent Registration Dues: If your building falls under rent control, your landlord is required to notify you. 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 fee, and 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.
  3. 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 fee 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.

“Tenants should also be aware that landlords in rent controlled buildings should pay interest on the deposits that are held,” says McShane. “It is a minimal amount, but they 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 an itemized breakdown of your rent 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!