Phil Querin Q&A: Applicant Pays Application Fee - Can Landlord Also Charge a Move-In Fee?

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September 25, 2013

Question: I am confused about all the rules regarding applicants for tenancy. For example, after an applicant is charged an application fee, has been accepted and is about to move in to the home, does the landlord have the right to charge the new resident a "move-in" fee?

Answer: This question involves 90.297, which provides as follows: • Except as permitted in ORS 90.295 (fees for tenant screening charges) a landlord may not charge a deposit or fee, however designated, to an applicant who has applied to a landlord to enter a rental agreement for a dwelling unit. • A landlord may charge a deposit, however designated, to an applicant for the purpose of: o Securing the execution of a rental agreement, after approving the applicant’s application but prior to entering into a rental agreement. o Is so, the landlord must give the applicant a written statement describing: • The amount of rent and the fees the landlord will charge and the deposits the landlord will require; and • The terms of the agreement to execute a rental agreement and the conditions for refunding or retaining the deposit. • If a rental agreement is executed, the landlord shall either apply the deposit toward the moneys due the landlord under the rental agreement or refund it immediately to the tenant. • If a rental agreement is not executed due to a failure by the applicant to comply with the agreement to execute, the landlord may retain the deposit. • If a rental agreement is not executed due to a failure by the landlord to comply with the agreement to execute, within four days the landlord shall return the deposit to the applicant either by making the deposit available to the applicant at the landlord’s customary place of business or by mailing the deposit by first class mail to the applicant. • If a landlord fails to comply with these rules, the applicant or tenant, as the case may be, may recover from the landlord the amount of any fee or deposit charged, plus $150. Based upon the above, it is my opinion that it would be improper to charge a “move-in fee,” unless it was designed to secure the execution of the rental agreement before the applicant took occupancy. If the rental agreement is already signed, there is nothing to “secure” and the fee would be inappropriate.