Real Estate Law| Deposits, Utilities and Applications
Deposit: Most landlords will require that you pay a deposit at the time you fill out the application. If there is no application, you will pay the deposit at the time you say you want to rent the apartment. This is called a security deposit. When it is paid in advance, it is really a holding deposit. If there is no application, the deposit serves also as evidence of your agreement to rent the apartment. In return, the landlord agrees to hold the apartment for you and not rent it to someone else. If you move in, this holding deposit becomes a security deposit to guarantee that you will abide by the lease and won't damage any property. More about that function later.
If you don't move in, you will lose your deposit. It becomes the landlord's to keep. It pays him or her back for having held the apartment for you and losing the opportunity to rent it to someone else. Now that you don't want it, he or she must re-advertise and may to find someone to rent it right away.
Remember, the landlord gets to keep the deposit, even if you gave it to him or her only two hours ago and someone else rents it from him or her immediately. Don't pay a deposit unless you are sure you want the apartment.
Utilities: When pricing apartments to fit your budget, don't forget utilities. Some apartments are all bills paid; most are not. Ask the landlord what the average utility bill will be and add a $20 cushion in your mind. Most landlords will tend to underestimate utility costs. If you want a really accurate amount, ask the tenant who is moving out. You should also check with utility companies to find out if you are required to post a deposit to receive service.
Beware of model apartments: Some apartments have a model apartment for you to view. No one has ever lived in this apartment, so it will be in perfect condition. Ask to see your actual apartment. If the apartment is an older one, beware. Your actual apartment may have many battle scars. If the complex is new, there is a better chance that what you see will be what you get.