Updated: May 1
Leasing and rental standards vary from county to county and region to region in the United States. States’ laws vary on the matter of landlords charging fees to tenants. Some states limit the amount of fees that can be charged to tenants while other states leave the matter up to the parties as prescribed in the lease agreement.
In Florida, courts will enforce the agreements with rental applicants and the lease agreement as long as the terms do not contradict mandates under Florida Statute ch. 82, pt. II and are not unconscionable. Florida courts recognize the parties’ freedom of contract wherein the parties can agree to terms and conditions, including cleaning fees, maintenance items, and imposition of certain fees prescribed by the lease agreement.
For example, one Florida circuit court upheld a lease provision that provided for a carpet-cleaning fee to be paid from the security deposit upon the tenant vacating. Bergren v. Wyatt, 11 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 407a (Hillsborough County, 2004). Moreover, the Florida Supreme Court has ruled that the “parties are free to contract around a state law so long as there is nothing void as to public policy.” Franks v. Bowers, 116 So. 3d 1240, 1247 (Fla. 2013).
Fees are charged to rental applicants and tenants to cover the administrative burdens imposed on the landlord (or the landlord’s agent) to provide the rental service to them. Here are some common fees landlords charge applicants and tenants:
Rental Application fee: This a fee that rental applicants pay to cover the cost of the landlord screening their application and the time that the landlord spends to review and process the rental application. The amount of application fees vary, but in general application fees may range from $30 to $50 per application. See source. There may also be additional application fees, such as pet application fees (see below).
Move-in fee. This fee is charged to tenants who sign a lease agreement to become a tenant of the property. This fee is designed to cover the costs of moving a new tenant into a property and covers the added administrative burdens of the landlord, including communications with the tenant, preparing the lease agreement and addenda, communicating with the owner about any issues that arose during application process, performing a move-in inspection, and the like. Move-in fees range, but one source states that move-in fees range from 20% to 50% of one month’s rent. See source.
Late fee: This fee is charged to tenants who fail to pay their rent on time. This fee is essentially a penalty imposed on the tenant when the tenant fails to comply with the lease agreement and doesn’t pay rent on time, as well as helping to cover the costs that the landlord spends for having to handle a delinquent tenant; for example, preparing and delivering late notices. Late fees vary, but one source states that a standard late fees equals 5% of the monthly rent. See source.
Pet Application fee: This fee is charged when a tenant applies to have a pet on the premises during the tenancy or for the privilege of having the pet during the tenancy. If a tenant applies to have a pet in the rental property, the landlord may charge an application fee to cover the additional burdens imposed on the landlord to process the application of the tenant and the time spent to communicate with the tenant regarding the pet application. There are also third party pet screening services that help landlords in this screening process, and the tenants are responsible for the costs associated with that service. Pet application fees may range. As one source states that pet fees may range from $50 to $500 per pet for the privilege of having the pet in the premises during tenancy. See source.
Cleaning fee: This is a fee that the landlord charges the tenant to clean the property upon the tenant’s vacating the premises. The rationale is simple: the tenant used the property for the rental period and thus should be the responsible party to clean the property when the tenant vacates. The cleaning fee may vary. As one author pointed out, “If a unit was rented out in a brand new condition and returned very dirty, the landlord could charge $200 to $500 dollars to get things clean depending on what types of dirt and trash have been left behind. In fact, that number could go even higher depending on the size of the house and problems.” See source. Some landlords may charge a flat fee for cleaning in the lease agreement rather than waiting until the move-out to determine the cleaning fee. This provides certainty to the parties and allows the tenant to plan on the fixed cost of cleaning. Other landlords may require the tenant to provide the landlord with proof of professional cleaning upon vacating the property, the tenant’s failure of which results in the tenant paying the landlord the cost of the professional cleaning service plus the landlord’s administration fee for having to coordinate the cleaning service.
Maintenance fee: If the tenant damages the rental property or causes the need for repair, the landlord may charge a fee to cover the cost of repairs and the added administrative burdens of having to coordinate repairs to the property when the tenant causes damage or some need for repair. Some landlords may perform the service themselves (or through a third party vendor) and charge the tenant the cost plus any administrative burdens of having to fix the problem on the tenant’s account. The maintenance fee may vary depending on the kind and severity of violation, or the landlord may charge a “cost plus commission” as a standard fee.
Move-Out Fee. This fees covers the added administrative burdens on the landlord for handling the move-out process, including landlord burdens such as, confirming vacation of the premises, preparing final accounting on the property and tenant account, performing a move-out inspection of the premises, determining any security deposit claims that need to be made, preparing a security deposit claim (if any), preparing the security deposit for refund to the tenant, and the like. As one source stated, “Move-out fees are more typical in high-rise apartment buildings, but they can apply to a wide range of rental units. Move out fees are nonrefundable, and usually range from $150 to $350.” See source. Landlords are having to cover costs of operation more and more as the burdens of being a landlord increase, and one such way to is to charge a move-out fee.
Lease Violation fee. This fee is charged as a penalty to the tenant when the tenant violates the lease agreement and also serves to help the landlord cover the added administrative burdens of handling a tenant in violation of the lease agreement. The amount of the lease violation fee is determined by the severity and kind of violation involved. The more serious the violation, the higher the fee will be. The more serious the violation, the higher the fee will be. One common example is when the tenant has an unauthorized occupant. In that case, the landlord may charge the tenant a fee for the occupancy of the unauthorized occupant, say, $500 for month of unauthorized occupancy (see source), or charging a $75 fee per day of the unauthorized occupancy. Other violations may include, for example, an homeowner association fee, unauthorized pet, parking in an restricted area, failing to turn utilities on in the tenant’s name, failing to notify the landlord of a repair need, adding a restricted amenity in the yard (e.g. trampoline), putting too many nail holes in the walls, and the like.
In summary, landlords charge fees to tenant to offset the costs of doing business with tenants and to handle lease violations. If fees weren’t charged to tenants for property upkeep, additional services, or lease violations, the landlord may find that running a profitable rental business is impossible. For this reason, landlords should consult with a landlord-tenant attorney to draft a application agreements and lease agreement that suit the landlord’s goals and enables the landlord to charge certain fees for those instances. Or the landlord should hire a property management company that has the infrastructure in place to protect and serve the landlord’s financial interests in his rental business.
If you need a property management company to partner with and help you manage your rental property, contact aDoor Property Management, LLC in Pensacola, FL.