A federal hidden-fees initiative led major rental websites to announce “total rental fees” notices early in the process: Zillow, Apartments.com and AffordableHousing.com.
WASHINGTON – President Biden and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia L. Fudge announced that several of the biggest rental housing search platforms will increase transparency of housing fees. The three rental-ad websites agreeing to make the full cost of rental easier to understand early in the process include Zillow, Apartments.com and AffordableHousing.com.
“Too often, renters are hit with unexpected fees on top of their rent,” HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge said in making the announcement. “Today’s announcement shows the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to lower costs for renters and build a fairer, more transparent rental housing marketplace.”
According to HUD, fees can “be a serious burden on renters.” It also provides an example: “Rental application fees can be up to $100 or more per application, and … often exceed the actual cost of conducting the background and credit checks. Given that prospective renters often apply for multiple units over the course of their housing search, these application fees can add up to hundreds of dollars.”
Companies and the planned changes
- Zillow is launching a “Cost of Renting Summary” on its active apartment listings. It claims to have 28 million unique monthly users on its rental platform. The tool will enable renters to easily find out the total cost of renting an apartment from the outset, including all monthly costs and one-time costs, like security deposits and application fees.
- Apartments.com will announce later this year the launch a new calculator that will help renters determine the all-in-on-place price of a desired unit. It will include all up-front costs as well as recurring monthly rents and fees. The Apartments.com Network currently lists almost 1.5 million active availabilities across more than 385,000 properties.
- AffordableHousing.com, the nation’s largest online platform dedicated solely to affordable housing, will require owners to disclose all refundable and non-refundable fees and charges upfront in their listings. It will also launch a new “Trusted Owner” badge that “protects renters from being charged junk fees by identifying owners who have a history of adhering to best practices, including commitment to reasonable fee limits, no junk fees, and full fee disclosure.”
In addition to the rental website announcement, HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research released a brief that highlights state, local, and private sector strategies to encourage fairness and transparency in the rental market. The guide includes actions to reign in excessive or unfair application fees and limit allowable fees and deposits at the time of move-in or lease signing.
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