Can a landlord take your money without showing you the lease first?

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Can a landlord take your money without showing you the lease first?

I want to rent an apartment. The application fee is $40. The security deposit is $250. The move in administrative fee is $200. I told them I would fill out application and pay $40 but I did not want to pay the other $450 until I had reviewed the lease. They have refused and said they cant show me the lease until I have paid all the money first. The $450 is non-refundable if I’m approved and back out of the the lease. I don’t want to lose the $450 should the lease not be to my liking so I made simple request to review the lease. They said no. Is this even legal?

Asked on July 20, 2011 Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

It is unfair and probably unethical, but it's not illegal. A landlord does not have to rent his, her, or its apartments, after all--there is no law requiring someone who owns a building or units to rent them out. Since it is voluntary, the landlord may put essentially any conditions the landlord wants on the rental, with a few very specific exceptions (e.g. no discriminating in housing against someone on the basis of race, religion, disability, etc.). That means that a landlord can require a large no-refund deposit up front to  see the lease or apply for an apartment; if someone doesn't want to pay that or risk that, his or her option is simple: don't rent from that landlord.


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