When searching for apartments without application fees, consult local ads found in the newspaper, and check online listings, such as the ones found on ApartmentSource.com. Some areas may not have apartments that lack application fees, so it is best to review all the available listings and ask in-person about fees.
The apartment application fee is used for the security of the landlord, who uses the fee to perform background checks. It is advised to ask whether this fee is refundable before paying it and to see if the fee can be counted toward the security deposit in the event of approval. Application fees run about $30 to $60, and costs that run higher than this are signs of potential illegal activity, indicating the landlord's business should be avoided.
Some landlords may reduce or eliminate the fee if they are offered a credit report and other information that they would have used the fee to check. Some landlords put up no-fee apartment advertisements, typically absorbing the cost of background checks in order to attract more applicants. Other landlords may do move-in specials, which involve waiving fees for a limited span of time while they look for a large number of renters.