5 things that could inflate your rent before lease signing

Anyone who has ever paid rent knows the price can be steep-and there are ways landlords can increase your rent before you even sign the lease.

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Anyone who has ever paid rent knows the price can be steep.

And there are ways landlords can increase your rent before you even sign the lease.

"If a landlord finds that a renter might have something that could be potentially damaging to the property or a disturbance to the neighbors, they might be more likely to charge extra rent or a fee that a renter might have to pay upon taking a lease," Ralph McLaughlin, Trulia's chief economist, told Business Insider.

Since there are many factors that could raise your rent, McLaughlin suggests avoiding landlords who offer a range in their price—though the practice is usually only common when landlords are listing multiple units.

"Landlords who offer a range means that they have some discretion on what they advertised the place for, so they might offer a tenant the higher end of that," McLaughlin said. "It's better to find a landlord who is specific in the amount: no more, no less."

If your landlord does offer a range, here are five factors that could cost you more in rent:

Having a Pet

One of the most common reasons your rent could be higher than your neighbor's is your furry friend, according to a study by McLaughlin at Trulia. Many landlords may increase rent or charge more for the security deposits if you have a pet.

Based on the study, there are three major fees that are likely to cause rent prices to go up with your pet: a pet fee, a pet deposit, and a monthly pet rent.

A pet deposit is a refundable fee paid upfront to the landlord on top of your regular rental deposit. A pet fee is similar, except it is not refundable. Pet rent is a monthly nonrefundable payment paid in addition to regular rent, according to McLaughlin.

The study also calculated these average fees in 25 of the largest US rental markets. The average pet deposit fee is around $175; the average pet fee is around $117; the average pet rent is about $9.

Having More People in Your Unit

The legal number of persons allowed in the unit varies from state to state. But rentals are usually listed for a particular number of occupants, with the common accepted persons per unit being two per bedroom, plus one extra person.

If the number of people living in the unit exceeds the number listed in the contract, a landlord could charge extra rent.

"If it's a one-bedroom place, and you split it with a friend, a spouse, or a partner, and you also want to have two other people living there, the landlord might charge extra or charge a higher security deposit," McLaughlin says.

He also suggests checking the city or state policies or laws on occupancy rates to make sure you're within the legal guidelines, and that you aren't being charged unnecessarily.

Having a Contract That's Too Short or Too Long

According to McLaughlin, most leases are a year in length. Having one for less than a year can increase your rent. Having a lease for more than a year can also increase your rent.

"Like a mortgage, longer term payouts tend to need to be at higher rates than shorter term payouts—the same might apply to renter leasing," McLaughlin said.

If it's a shorter lease, the landlord might adjust your rent and charge you for the period of time where they are not receiving a renter or are looking for renters to replace you. With a longer lease, landlords might charge a higher fee because it means that they can't increase the rent as much as they would were they to bring in new tenants.

Subletting Your Apartment

If you plan on subletting your apartment for part of your tenancy, there could be an extra down payment or fee because of the potential risk or costs associated with taking on a sublease, though this is not as common, McLaughlin says.

The legality of subleasing depends on which state you are in as well. In some states you are able to sublease your apartment, even if your contract with your landlord says otherwise. Rentlaw.com will let you look up subletting laws by state.

Owning Equipment That Could Damage the Property

According to McLaughlin, your possessions could affect how much you pay.

Having a lot of things to store, belongings that are potentially damaging to a property or equipment that might create disturbances, like having a treadmill or greasy kitchen equipment, could inflict a higher refundable—or nonrefundable—fee.

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This article was written by Jessica Mai from Business Insider and was licensed as an article reprint from March 23, 2016. Article copyright 2016 by Business Insider.
The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Fidelity Investments cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any statements or data.
This reprint is supplied by Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC.
The third-party provider of the reprint permission and Fidelity Investments are independent entities and not legally affiliated.
The images, graphs, tools, and videos are for illustrative purposes only.
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