VOLUME VIIIRealtors and Move-in Fees: What You Need to KnowBy Peter BrownBefore a new tenant collects any keys, move-in fees are (usually) mandatory. In addition to the security deposit, when a Realtor is hired to help with the rental process, the move-in charge should be an immediate discussion between the Realtor and the property owner. Here’s why Realtors need to understand the purpose of this charge, as well as how and when to collect it.

Why Do Realtors Need To Collect Move-In Fees?
Landlords have the flexibility to set their move-in fee rates. These funds are used to prepare the unit for habitation, to make fixes to the condo or home, or to repair any accidental damage for a tenant moving into the location.

What Do Move-in Fees Usually Entail?
Unlike security deposits, move-in fees are non-refundable and cover typical predicted costs to update or improve a unit before renting it out, such as painting, new appliances, deep cleaning, reprogramming security systems, and creating new mailbox or unit keys.

Who To Make Funds Out to With Move-in Fees
Before tenants pay move-in fees, Realtors should advise them to make the nonrefundable funds out directly to the landlord. Move-in payments will be collected directly without regulations. However, Realtors should remind their clients that they have a right to recoup their security deposit funds in the event that the lease is terminated later—as long as there is no property damage or missed monthly payments. (Security deposit funds are held in a separate account with limited access.)

What To Do With Move-in Fees When Tenants Pay Them
If the landlord (or condo board) requires move-in fees ahead of time, those should be collected from the Realtor by the agreed-upon date, and to the specified company or landlord on the application. Once paid, the tenant’s Realtor should immediately turn over all funds to the listing Realtor, property manager or landlord.

How To Get Paid
While Realtors do not make any money off the move-in fees, they do receive a commission elsewhere. In landlord markets such as Texas and Florida, the Realtor receives a broker fee, the first month’s rent as commission, on the day that the lease is signed. Unfortunately, if the rental deal falls through (ex. missing or dishonest information in the application, background check failure, tenant decides not to move), the Realtor will not receive any earnings. This is why it’s essential that all parties agree on the leasing terms beforehand, and the paperwork is filled out completely.

Collecting Fees Could Mean Repeat Clients
While Realtors handle quite a bit of paperwork between showing rentals and getting the lease approved, collecting these fees in a timely manner is an essential part of the job. As the liaison between the landlord and tenant, the tenant will appreciate that the Realtor knows exactly what’s owed ahead of time and how those funds are handled.
And property owners will be relieved that they don’t have to chase a new tenant around for initial move-in costs. If everything goes smoothly between all parties involved, this may also be an opportunity for repeat business from both that tenant and that landlord at a later move-out date, too.