Move In Fees vs. Security Deposits: Weigh the Pros And Cons

By: ROS Team

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You might be excited about moving to a new city. But finding an apartment in a new city can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t have prior experience with renting. In your pursuit to find a dream house, you will encounter some unfamiliar terms.  This will probably include terms related to move in fees and security deposits.

When you find a new apartment, your landlord is likely to ask you for a security deposit or a move-in fee. The terms might sound the same but they aren’t. With this in mind, it is important that you know the difference between move in fees and security deposits so that you can properly weigh their pros and cons.

Move In Fees

Move in fees might be confusing for the majority of new renters.  These fees are non-regulated, meaning landlords have free reign in determining. How much they will charge a new tenant to move into an available unit. However, the general practice is to set move in fees at a range between 30-50% of the monthly rent.

Move-in Fees

A landlord may also ask for additional fees depending on the expenses they incurred while preparing the apartment for a new tenant. These may include the costs of making minor repairs and repainting the apartment prior to move-in. The funds may also be used for any future repairs necessary once you move in.

Landlords must mention that move-in fees are non-refundable in the lease. So that the tenant fully understands that they will not receive all or any portion of the fee at the end of the lease. If a landlord does not bring up move in fees. It is a good idea to ask about them before moving in so you can budget for the additional fees.

Pros of Move In Fees

  • Move in fees are usually 30 – 50% of a month’s rent. So the additional costs are affordable and manageable for most tenants.
  • The fees go towards making any repairs or upgrades to your new apartment before you move in. Which will mean you won’t have to be inconvenienced with those repairs later.

Cons of Move In Fees

  • Move-in fees are non-refundable.
  • Since move in fees are very low, the landlord might not be able to cover the cost of necessary repairs if the apartment needs major repairs.

Security Deposits

Unlike the move-in fee, a security deposit is a refundable amount that is paid to the landlord when moving in. A security deposit of the apartment is subject to the terms of the rental lease.  If you stick to the lease terms, you will get your security deposit back when you move out.

Security deposit amounts are subject to some regulation, but landlords can still assess whatever fee they deem appropriate. Traditionally, the fee is 1-2 month’s rent. The landlord is supposed to keep the security deposit in a separate bank account. The information about the bank account must be shared with the tenant.

Security Deposits

There are two main reasons why a security deposit may not be refunded in its entirety when the tenant moves out.  The first reason is if the tenant caused major damage to the apartment while living there (i.e. broke a window).  However, normal wear and tear do not count against you and shouldn’t reduce the amount of your security deposit.

Read Also: Security Deposit: How much Can a Landlord Charge in NYC?

The second possibility is if there are any outstanding fees due at the end of your lease such as a missing rent payment. Depending on the extent of the damage. The tenant may or may not receive most or any of the security deposit back.

Pros of the Security Deposit

  • Tenants are more inclined to take good care of the property because they don’t want to lose the funds paid towards the security deposit. Which is refundable at the end of the lease.
  • Accepting a security deposit provides an additional layer of protection for the landlord and the property since repairs can be made using the tenant’s security deposit.

Cons of the Security Deposit

  • Security deposits are regulated by the state, which means lots of paperwork is involved and there are restrictions in place that govern how landlords can use the funds; landlords are subject to penalties if they violate the rules.
  • Disagreements may spark lawsuits if the landlord doesn’t refund the entire security deposit amount to the tenant upon move-out.  There may be a dispute about the amount of damage and repair costs that resulted in the reduction security deposit amount that was refunded.

Which is Better?

From the tenant’s perspective, a security deposit looks better than move in fees since security deposit funds are paid in advance to cover any repairs to the tenant’s apartment.  As long as the tenant respects the terms and conditions of the lease and does not do any major damage to the property. The tenant will get the money back. On the contrary, move-in fees are something that the tenant is not going to see again once he or she pays it to the landlord.

From the landlord’s perspective, move-in fees are preferable to a security deposit even though the security deposit makes tenants take care of the property. Landlords are attracted to it because they are more comfortable when there are no administrative hassles associated with collecting them as they are not regulated by laws.


  • A security deposit is refundable while the move-in fee is not.
  • Move-in fees are not regulated by the state but security deposits are.
  • Security deposit fees tend to be more than move in fees.

Related Article:

Move In Specials – Everything You Need to Know About It
Apartment Security Deposit – Everything You Need to Know