Confusion over the rights of renters who have had problems recovering an application fee or "reservation deposit" has prompted the Office of the Attorney General to reissue guidelines for those renting a property.
State law limits the amount a landlord can charge on an application fee to $25, says Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. The landlord can ask for the fee to process an applicant's application and run a credit check.
If an application fee is more than $25, any amount not used to process the application must be returned within 15 days after the renter moves in.
Also, when putting down a "reservation deposit" to hold an apartment, renters need to be clear with the landlord that the money will be refunded if the renter, or the landlord, decides not to rent the apartment. Curran advises renters to pay a security only when ready to sign a lease, and then get a receipt.
Other tips include:
Make sure an application form is signed - not a lease.
Before signing the lease, look over the unit you'll be living in - not a model.
Ask the landlord for a written commitment to fix any problems, and get the promises before signing a lease or making a deposit.
Tips are offered on the Web site (www.oag.state.md.us/ consumer).