What Are Move-In Costs? How To Be Prepared For Them

Getting excited about moving to a new place can be exciting!  Starting a new job, locating to a new city, or just changing your scenery, moving into a new apartment can be a really enjoyable experience.   However, there can be unanticipated fees that accompany moving into a new place.

Especially if you are a first-time renter, there are some things you need to know about Move-In Costs so that you don’t get caught unaware during that first month. 


Utilities.  Those things that you literally cannot live without.   Electricity. Water. Gas. Unless you are renting out a tent, you are going to have to have all of these for the duration of your lease.

Electricity varies from place to place.  Some municipalities have their own system, and other times you go straight through the power company.  Same way with natural gas; although with gas, it is way more common to work with the gas company a complex has than a city office. 

The manager of the complex will be more than happy to pass along their number to you.

A couple of calls are going to have to be made to the Utility’s offices to get these all moved over to your name.  There can be some hidden costs here.

Many times, these services will charge a fee to change these services to your new place, and also there can be a security deposit just like the apartment charges. 

This protects the companies against people who unfortunately do not pay, especially during their last few months of rental, and have to have these services shut off involuntarily. 

Make sure to ask the apartment manager what the numbers are for these services so you can call and ask if there are any initiation fees before moving in.  A normal security deposit for a utility company is around $50.

Internet and TV

These two services are always and forever changing.  Between their service agreement and length of the term, there is always something new and different going on with these. 

Many times, apartment complexes will have a Preferred Provider, which means that 10 different cable or satellite companies can’t come in and run their wires all over the place……just one company.  

This doesn’t mean you are going to get a bad deal, probably just the opposite, but it does tie you into whatever deal that particular company has at the time.  

It is common that Internet Service Providers and TV are the same company, so bundling can be a good option if you want both the internet and cable TV. 

But if you simply like to use the streaming services instead of getting traditional TV, you can just go on the internet and forego the rest.  

Make sure before you move in and want to hook up all of these services, that the company doesn’t have an installation fee.  Additionally, try to get them to agree to a term of service that is the same duration as your lease agreement.

They often will do this, even if it is a shorter-term than their normal residential term if you are part of an apartment complex the company services. 

Credit Check

Landlords often time require a Credit Check to be done before allowing you to sign a lease agreement.  A Credit Check allows them to see not your personal financial information, but if you are in bankruptcy, have liens against you, or if you have financial or legal problems that could be an issue for them if they rent to you, then it may be an uphill battle trying to lease from them.  

Usually, these Credit Checks are around $20 but can go up to $50. 

Background Check

The same concept of a credit check, a Background Check allows an owner or manager to determine if you have any personal issues that would preclude them from renting to you. 

It answers questions like: Have you ever been evicted before? Do you have any outstanding warrants? Are you a sex offender? Do you have any legal issues that they may need to know about before renting to you?  

Background checks are very common these days and can be done extremely quickly through various online services.  The fees for these Background Checks range between $25-$75 depending on how comprehensive the check is.

Move-In Fees

The actual fees that have “Move-In” behind them.  

These fees may feel like what a security deposit is designed for but are different in a couple of ways.   

The first is that they are non-refundable, your security deposit is.  

Secondly, they are used to make small improvements such as cleaning the carpet and painting and patching holes before you move in.  More often than not, the security deposit abandoned by a less-than-stellar tenant is not enough to cover making the apartment whole again before you move in.  

The actual Move-In fee is designed to improve those things in the apartment that need to be improved upon in your apartment specifically.   

The cost of these Move-In Fees varies from absolutely nothing at all to $300-$500 depending on the cost of your monthly rent.   Make sure to ask the manager about any and all Move-In Fees charged by the complex itself before putting in an application so you know exactly how much moving in is actually going to cost you. 

Renter’s Insurance

Renter’s insurance is something that the owner of the complex has nothing to do with.   It is completely designed to protect the renter against something bad happening to their property or someone in their apartment. 

Some complexes will make you get this insurance as their own policy doesn’t adequately cover all the potential items or situations that may arise if an unforeseen calamity happens.  Other complexes don’t care if you have this coverage or not. 

Renter’s insurance is usually the cheapest when you bundle it with the same insurance you use for your car and other possessions, as they will give you a discount for having more than one policy. 

But ultimately, insurance premiums will depend on your credit history, income, and past history with insurance claims in general. 

If you have a bunch of valuable items and want to make sure you retain the value of those items if something unforeseen happens, then it is prudent to get this insurance.  It will also protect you if you or someone else in the apartment gets hurt during your stay.

Renter’s Insurance not only protects you and your possessions but also protects you if someone tries to sue you because they were injured at your apartment. 

Get renters insurance quickly and easily online with Lemonade.com with, then everything becomes simple and transparent. They take a flat fee, pay claims super fast, and give back what’s left to causes you care about.

Make sure to ask your apartment, or look on their website, to see if they require their tenants to obtain their own renter’s insurance. 

First Month’s Rent and Deposit

The largest expense you will have when moving in. 

The vast majority of apartment complexes will require at least a month’s rent, if not more, for the security deposit.  Many upscale complexes will require two month’s rent.

The idea behind this is to protect the owner against damages the tenant may inflict on the property while they are residing there and gives an incentive for the tenant to treat the place kindly while they are in it.  

On top of the security deposit, you will be required to pay your first month’s rent at the same time.  So, an apartment complex with a monthly rent of $700 is going to cost, at minimum, $1,400 at the time you sign your lease.  And this does not include the other fees that are mentioned above.   

You can absolutely get your security deposit back as we have discussed in other articles(Link to other Security Deposit article), but that all depends on how you treat the place while you are there. 

Treat it and your fellow tenants good…….you’ll get your security deposit back. Give the manager reasons they have to do work to the place after you leave…….Well, you can kiss that month’s rent goodbye.   

Make sure you realize that when renting an apartment for the first time, that there are more costs to consider during the move-in process than just the monthly rent amount.  From Utilities to the Internet, to the First Month’s Rent and Security Deposit, those things can all add up to unexpected expenses if you are not prepared for them.   

Knowing exactly what to expect before you show up to sign a lease agreement is a great way to prepare yourself for any and all costs associated with your move-in, and ensure you have enough money allocated to cover them. 

A quick call to the manager of the complex can clear up many of these potential costs in just a few minutes.  

Finally, request a copy of the lease agreement be emailed to you so you can be assured of what costs the apartment complex requires, and what costs you will need to research on your own.

Recommended for You:

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John Boettcher

Co-Founder of Apartment School and a previous renter turned owner of many multi-family properties across the United States, with many years of experience in all aspects of the apartment, real estate, and investing world.

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