Consumer Publications List
A man applying
for an apartment was required to give the rental office a $100 deposit. He was
told that if he was approved and signed a lease, the money would be applied to
his security deposit, but that if he decided not to rent the apartment the money
would be refunded. He was approved, but decided not to move into the apartment.
The apartment complex would not return his money, saying that the application
stated that it could keep the money for damages suffered by his not renting the
paid $45 for a rental application fee. His application was not approved.. He
thought the denial was unfair and asked for a refund of the fee, but the
management company said the fee was nonrefundable.
Protection Division receives many complaints each year about rental problems,
including some from consumers who never even moved into the apartment in
When you find an
apartment you are interested in, many landlords will ask you to pay some
up-front fees. Before you turn over any money, you should be sure you know what
you're paying for and whether or not you can get the money back if you change
your mind about renting or if your application is not approved.
Before agreeing to
rent to you, most landlords will ask you to complete an application form and pay
an application fee. An application fee is any fee paid to the landlord before a
lease is signed to cover the cost of a credit check or other actual expenses
related to processing your application. Make certain the document the landlord
gives you is an application form, not a lease. You should not agree to sign a
lease until you are sure the apartment and the terms of the lease are right for
A landlord is
entitled to keep an application fee of $25 or less. If an application fee is
more than $25, any amount that was not actually used to process the application
must be returned to you within 15 days after you've moved in. If either you or
the landlord has sent a letter saying the rental won't take place, you are still
entitled to a refund of your application fee, less the landlord's
application-related expenses. You have the right to ask the landlord to provide
a written explanation of exactly what expenses were incurred, and what the cost
of each item was.
A security deposit
is your payment to a landlord to protect the landlord against any damage you may
cause to the property you rent. It also protects the landlord if you fail to pay
your rent or if you break your lease and the landlord incurs damages as a
result. Although a landlord may ask you to pay a security deposit when you apply
for the apartment, it is not wise to do so until you are ready to sign a lease.
If a landlord asks
for money to hold an apartment (sometimes called a "reservation deposit"), it
may not be clear to you that you are being asked for a security deposit. Before
you pay any money, you should confirm with the landlord that it will be refunded
if you decide not to rent or if the landlord decides not to rent to you. Ask the
landlord to write that information on the receipt. It could save you from having
to fight for it later.
Maryland law gives
you certain rights when you pay a security deposit. For example, the security
deposit may not be more than two months' rent. You must receive a receipt, which
can be included in the rental agreement. The landlord must put the security
deposit in an escrow account. The law imposes specific penalties on the landlord
if these rights are violated.
At the end of your
tenancy, the landlord has 45 days to return the security deposit plus 3 percent
interest, less any damages withheld. If the landlord fails to do this, you may
sue for up to three times the withheld amount, plus reasonable attorney's fees.
Before you sign a
lease or pay a security deposit, you should look at the unit you'd be living in,
not just a model. Often, the model units are nicer than the actual rental units.
If you are asked to pay a security deposit but you cannot see the unit you will
be renting, ask for a written statement that allows you a full refund if you
choose not to rent after inspecting the unit.
After you have
inspected the property and before you've paid any money or signed a lease, ask
the landlord for a written commitment to correct any problems you notice. Always
get all promises to clean or make repairs in writing before you sign a lease.
This is separate
from the list of existing damages the landlord must give you if you make a
written request within 15 days of moving in. The purpose of that list is to note
items such as carpet stains or scratches on a cabinet that existed when you
moved in, so the landlord can't deduct money from your security deposit for them
when you move out.
information, see our booklet Landlords
and Tenants: Tips for Avoiding Disputes. You can request a printed copy by
calling (410) 576-6500.
Maryland Attorney General's Consumer Protection
DivisionConsumer hotline: (410) 528-8662 or 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free
200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, MD 21202
410-576-6300 / 1-888-743-0023 toll-free / TDD: 410-576-6372