Unexpected Expenses Ate Up Our Rent Savings

mover with boxesWhen we moved in August 2012, we were very excited because it took us less than three months to pay back our moving expenses from the amount of our rent reduction ($287.27 in net expenses, rent reduction of $110/month).  This time around we were not so fortunate due to a few unexpected expenses and changes.  It looks like we won’t pay back our moving expenses over the course of the next year, which is about how long we expect to be at this property.  I’ll post again when the numbers are finalized (after we receive all our utility bills) but it’s clear already that this move was relatively much more expensive.


Rent Differential


The biggest factor in not being able to pay ourselves back from our move is the differences among our rent amounts.  With our move in 2012 we went from paying $1005/mo to $895/mo.  We at first thought our new rent this month would be $850/mo, which was a nice decrease as well, but then we decided to go the non-frugal route so our rent settled at $870/mo, only a $25/mo decrease.


I know we should be excited to even be experiencing rent decreases at all, and we are – our rent went up every year until 2012 so we’re glad to be reversing that trend.  But it is a bit disappointing that we can’t replicate our success from last year in terms of a sizeable rent decrease.  (Of course, we could have gone for a bigger rent decrease by downsizing to a 1 BR, but for the sake of our marriage and my possible future roommate we decided to go for a townhouse of the same size.)


Increased Fees/Costs


We were blindsided by two relatively large fees.


The first fee is that from 2012 to 2013 the cost to change the address on our water account (not to start/stop service, not to open a new account) went from $15 to $50 (Durhamites, be warned!).  A $50 fee (as well as a $50 refundable deposit) for a monthly bill that is only about $25!  We actually argued with a CSR at the city for a while before we understood that the fee was legitimate (it isn’t on their website yet).


The second cost is that our property management company told us that as part of our move-out procedure we have to have the carpets in our townhouse professionally cleaned.  (I checked the lease and this is not in it, so there’s no way we could have foreseen this, especially as all our previous residences took care of cleaning and painting between residents.)  We considered ignoring that or DIYing it with some rented equipment, but our friend who is a landlord said that sometimes they will ask to see the receipt.  Because the property management company is holding such a large security deposit, we didn’t want to run the risk that they would ask for the receipt and then deduct a bunch of money from the deposit.  We decided to hedge our bet and bought a Living Social deal for carpet cleaning ($99 plus tip) so we’re at least got a bit of a discount on the service.


Buying and Selling


Last time we moved, we were able to sell our washer and dryer and some other small items so we more than offset the cost of the new household stuff we bought.  This time we’ve decided to make donations instead of selling anything in advance of the move.  Perhaps after the move we will decide that we can sell a few pieces of furniture that no longer fit in our new place – there is more built-in shelving in the living room than we’ve had in the past – but that isn’t planned yet.  We also know for sure that we need to buy some kind of surface and/or shelving for the kitchen as there is no pantry and not very much countertop or cabinet space.


Saving Grace


Even with all these expenses, we fully expect to come out of this year post-move with more cash on hand!  The security deposit at our last townhouse was one month’s rent, $895, and the one at the new townhouse is $300.  So our general savings will be hit a few times for all these moving expenses but will be filled right back up with that security deposit refund – assuming the property management company is reasonable in its assessment *crosses fingers*.  We were very shocked last year that our security deposit was so high, so that’s where our birthday gift money disappeared to!


Even though this move is not as profitable as the last one, I’m trying to keep in mind that $600 we’ll have back in our accounts at the end of all this mess!  Plus, we’re still way better off financially (and happier, too) than we would have been staying in our previous apartment.


Have you ever been hit with unexpected fees or costs as part of a move or failed to receive your full security deposit back?  What costs have you seen jump year over year that can’t be explained by inflation? 


photo from Free Digital Photos


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34 Responses to "Unexpected Expenses Ate Up Our Rent Savings"

  1. Leigh says:

    Ugh, that’s super annoying! My last two apartments used the security deposit to cover the last month’s utility bills, so I didn’t get very much of it back, which was disappointing.

    Rent is definitely skyrocketing here beyond the rate of inflation. The apartment I rented when I first moved here in early 2010 is now renting for $1,900/month (plus $100/month for parking and $70 or so for building utilities) and I had it for about $1,300/month for two years before I bought / they tried to get me to renew at $1,550/month. They re-rented it at $1,650/month and then the following year at $1,780/month. It’s insanity.

    I’m so glad I bought when I did because my mortgage payment, HOA dues, and property taxes add up to about $1,550/month, with more than half of the mortgage payment going to principal. If I tried to buy my place now, it would cost me about $50,000 more and the interest rate on my mortgage would probably be at least a full percentage point higher, making *just* my mortgage payment with 20% down about $1,500/month, so my housing costs would be $2,000/month and I would not be saving money over renting – they would both be ridiculously expensive. (I’m ignoring the fact that my renting numbers are for a 1br+den apartment and buying is for a 2br+2bath apartment.)
    Leigh recently posted..August 2013 net worth update (+0.6%)

    1. Emily says:

      Those are crazy rent increases! It definitely seems like you bought at the right time – it’s awesome that you were in a position to strike while the iron was hot!

  2. Applications for the water company at our duplex had a $50 fee (not a deposit), which was VERY annoying and unexpected since I had never encountered that before.
    Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted..His and Hers Wardrobe Expansions

    1. Emily says:

      I don’t know why they need that much money for an application! None of our other utilities charge us fees up front.

  3. Cash Rebel says:

    Those little moving expenses like the water fee are the worst. When I finally did the math, I was shocked to see how moving every year to a new apartment is disastrous, even if you don’t increase rent.
    Cash Rebel recently posted..Is ObamaCare good for Early Retirement?

    1. Emily says:

      Moving every year is definitely not ideal. I feel super bad now that my advocacy for Kyle to leave the apartment he was in for 5 years has now resulted in two moves in a year. But no more until we leave Durham, I hope!

  4. Matt Becker says:

    I think your inability to replicate last year’s decrease in rent is a good reminder that there’s only so much we can cut from our budgets. Frugality is great, but we also need to live and there’s only so far it can go. Which is why it’s so powerful to focus on earning more as well.
    Matt Becker recently posted..How to Do an Oil Change for Your Car (Part 1)

    1. Emily says:

      Ugh, I know it wasn’t your intent but your comment made me feel terrible. WHEN WILL THIS PHD END!?!?

  5. Moving is always more expensive than you think it’s going to be.
    Savvy Financial Latina recently posted..What I Want Out of Life at 23

    1. Emily says:

      Since we moved just last year we thought we had a handle on the random expenses – $10 fee to change the address on our drivers’ licenses, for example – but these other ones popped up! Part of it was definitely our misunderstanding of the cost of renting from a homeowner instead of a large company.

  6. Glad you were at least able to grab a Living Social deal on the carpet cleaning! And even though your rent is only down by $25/mo, I think that’s awesome that you were able to lower it at all! When we were renting, it seemed like our rent only skyrocketed each year. It was ridiculous. Even though you weren’t able to pay back your expenses, it sounds like you were able to move without spending too much – and a much lower security deposit has got to feel good!
    Kali @ CommonSenseMillennial recently posted..Why You Don’t Need a Gym Membership

    1. Emily says:

      Thanks for the encouragement. 🙂 We started out renting a comparatively costly apartment, I think, and as we became more savvy about the rental market here we figured out how to pay less without sacrificing what we really cared about. I’m really glad we found the LivingSocial, too. The next lowest bid we found (which was kind of sketchy) was for $150 and the top-rated company in the area would have charged $230.

  7. For our move two years ago, the cost of professional cleaning was deducted from or security deposit. It wound up bring almost half the deposit. I’ve always been bitter about that because we spent the days cleaning it ourselves, including rug doctoring the carpets, stubbing the ceiling in the kitchen, and touching up the paint on the walls.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..2013 $3K Challenge – 3rd Quarter Update

    1. Emily says:

      WOW. That is a ton of effort on your part. I assume you must not have known they were going to force you to pay for the cleaning or else you could have planned for that and not wasted your time.

  8. I was only in one apartment prior to buying my first house. My only knowledge of multiple apartment moves comes from helping friends move, and even then, I never went back to help clean up afterward.

    I was in my single-bedroom apartment for 6 years. They were very good about giving me back my full deposit. I kept the place pretty clean all the time, and scrubbed the bathroom when I moved, but that was about it.
    Bryce @ Save and Conquer recently posted..Stop Debt Collector Harassment

    1. Emily says:

      That sounds like a great situation – to be in the same apartment for 6 years and have the management company be reasonable about the wear and tear at the end!

  9. SarahN says:

    I can’t believe you’ve reduced rent! Mine’s on the up and up (though now sharing rent vs a mortgage on my own, I’m ahead, though I still need to make up the % of the mortgage that’s not paid for by my tenants). Our removalist was $900 – yes I could have asked friends and family, but I hate moving their stuff, so it’s not fair to ask for help and not offer, so I put my money out there. I’ve never not got my bond back, and even the BF who had water stains on his carpet (from a washing machine failing and the water proofing near the bathrooms’ having issues) still got his back too! He did pay a pretty penny for cleaners to ensure everything else was perfect, including removing mould growing on walls. It sounds like he was a grot, but it was the place – seriously poorly built!

    I’m glad you’re happy, even without the bigger profit… It’s not all about money, it’s partly your home, your safe place!
    SarahN recently posted..Zero Waste and going out

    1. Emily says:

      You are right that it isn’t fair to ask your friends to help you move when you haven’t been willing to help them! We have helped several friends move in the past couple years so that paid off. 🙂 Sometimes it is worth it to just pay the professionals – it certainly saves lots of time.

      Most of the reason we’re happier where we were last year and where we are now is that, while we liked where our previous apartment was located, we didn’t realize how nice it would be to be closer to school and church. I love spending less time in the car!

  10. I never thought moving can be that much expensive. It was very annoying when I needed to pay for changing address in my driving license.

    1. Emily says:

      I agree! What a random fee. The $1 to confirm your identity with USPS is also weird.

  11. When we moved out of our last apartment we cleaned the heck out of our suite but they withheld $200 from our damage deposit because they said the oven wasn’t clean enough. Sure, I honestly forgot to clean it, but how the hell would it cost $200 for it to get cleaned. Had we not moved to another province I would have fought it because I think they have to give you the opportunity to clean/fix it yourself before just withholding money from you. Part of the renting process I just hate!
    Mo’ Money Mo’ Houses recently posted..Top Things to Do in Quebec

    1. Emily says:

      $200 for not cleaning the oven?! That’s crazy! Kyle cleaned our oven but I think he wanted to go over it twice and didn’t get the chance… I hope we don’t get smacked like you did! We were definitely afraid of being similarly overcharged if we didn’t clean something properly because we figured the property management company outsourcing the cleaning would be very expensive. But $200 should clean your whole house, not just an oven!

  12. That’s too bad on the carpet cleaning. I remember running into a similar situation with one apartment, in which they tried to ask us to replace the carpet. We looked into the rental laws for California and learned that after 12 months, wear to the carpets is considered normal wear & tear & renters couldn’t be charged. So we fought it and got our full deposit back.

    Anyway, I don’t know if this will apply but it might be worth looking into, as the lease stands silent on the issue. And I’m glad your deposit at the new place is so low!
    Done by Forty recently posted..How Should FIRE Timeline Affect Asset Allocation?

    1. Emily says:

      REPLACE the carpet?! Good thing you did you research and fought it!

      Eh, the carpet cleaning is done now. I didn’t mind too much, really.

  13. Do stay on top of your deposit. We moved into an apartment that was never repainted and the management tried to claim we did it after we moved out. Luckily, I had emails from their renter realtor where I complained about the non-repainted apartment and forwarded it to the management and they finally gave us most of the withheld money which totaled about 90% of the original deposit.

    1. Emily says:

      That is great that you had the documentation so you could dispute that. Did you know they were supposed to have repainted before you moved in?

      We, um, forgot to turn in the form where we recorded the previous damage, although we did document it with photos that I guess have timestamps. Hope that doesn’t cost us big.

  14. In my experience, moving is always way more expensive than you think it will be. I think you certainly could have come out worse. That is nutty about the $50 to change addresses. I think you only have to have established history here and they don’t charge a deposit if you move.

    1. Emily says:

      I think people are pretty PO’d about the $50 fee, from what the CSR told us! It’s new so everyone is getting blindsided. Every time we move we’ll probably learn new lessons about random expenses!

  15. that $50 increase on the change of address is insane! I don’t understand the reason why they need so much.
    Marissa@Financetriggers recently posted..Saving Money on Gluten Free Products

    1. Emily says:

      There is no conceivable explanation.

  16. Emily says:

    Update from our landlord: We are getting the full security deposit back! Woohoo! What a load off our minds.

  17. […] We started our new lease on 9/17/2013 and ended the old one on 9/22/2013.  I tried to pay all the direct moving expenses out of our nest egg and reimburse to that account as they come in.  But we left off a few […]

  18. […] This month we spent $1,423.82 out of these accounts!  This was definitely a month where this system comes in handy.  We also put $1,370.30 into these accounts, the vast majority of which was our refunded security deposit. […]

  19. […] The big differences were that last time we sold our washer and dryer and this time we were hit with two large unexpected expenses – the water initiation fee and the professional rug cleaning.  The one break we caught this time […]

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