Upfront Costs

You must also consider the upfront cost to rent an apartment. There are generally four fees you will need to pay when you sign a lease: first month’s rent, last month’s rent, security deposit, and realtor/broker fee. You may also be required to pay an application fee.

It has become common practice for landlords to ask for one month’s rent upfront as a “good faith deposit”. Make sure to have in writing what this “good faith deposit” is going towards (rent, realtor/broker fee, etc.) before paying it.

Do not complete the application or pay an application fee or any other deposits until you have seen and agree to the lease, all addenda, and applications clauses. All fees must be disclosed in the lease or addendum, hidden fees are illegal!

Application Fee

An application fee can be charged even before the rental process begins. This fee is usually used to conduct a background check on the tenant. Paying an application does not guarantee anything. Only a signed lease grants you legal tenancy.

Realtor/Broker Fee

A realtor/broker fee is collected at the time a lease is signed as payment. Most realtors/brokers in Boston charge this fee, which is usually paid by the tenant. The industry standard for this fee in Boston is equivalent to one month’s rent. If you are being charged more than one month’s rent, consider using another realtor/broker. Only a licensed realtor/broker can charge this, which you can verify here.

Security Deposit

A security deposit is collected at the time a lease is signed to cover any damages that may be incurred during tenancy or if rent is owed at the end of tenancy. The security deposit cannot exceed one month’s rent. If there are no damages at the end of tenancy, 100% of the security deposit, plus interest, is returned to the tenant.

  • Any lessor who accepts a security deposit from a tenant or perspective tenant, upon receipt of security deposit or within 10 days after commencement of the tenancy, whichever is later, must furnish to the tenant a written statement of the present condition of the premises to be leased or rented.
  • Avoid unreasonable or false deductions by completing the Apartment Condition Checklist within the first 15 days of tenancy. Give the landlord a copy as a record of needed repairs and pre-existing conditions. Take photos of every room, including floors and walls, before moving in and after moving out as further record of the apartment condition.
  • Upon receiving a security deposit, the Owner/Property Manager must give the tenant a receipt stating the following:
    • The amount of the security deposit
    • The name of the lessor receiving it
    • The date on which it is received
    • A description of the premises being rented
  • Within 30 days of receiving the security deposit, a landlord/property manager must give the tenant a second receipt containing the following information:
    • The name and location of the bank where the money is being held
    • The account number
    • The amount of the deposit
  • If lessor holds the security deposit for a period of one year or longer, interest must be paid at a rate of five per cent (5%) per year, or other such lesser amount of interest that has been received from the bank where the deposit has been held.
  • Within 30 days of the lease ending, a lessor must return the security deposit to the tenant, minus allowable deductions for unpaid rent or damage due to tenant’s negligence during the lease.
  • For any deductions made, the Owner/Property Manager must return the balance along with a statement that includes an itemized listing of the deductions with supporting documentation and receipts.
  • Visit our Security Deposit FAQ page to see some commonly asked questions.

First & Last Month's Rent

It is common in Boston to collect first & last month’s rent as part of the lease process. This, in addition to Realtor/Broker Fees and Security Deposits means that upfront costs may be four months of rent upfront.


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