CHARLOTTE, NC (Cassie Cope and Ely Portillo/The Charlotte Observer) - If you've tried to lease an apartment in Charlotte, fast-rising rents aren't a surprise anymore – but you might still get sticker shock from the add-ons that you don't see up front.
Renters are accustomed to typical bills, including power, water, cable and internet. They also often have to pay a traditional deposit to cover any potential damage.
But at many Charlotte apartments, your monthly bill might contain added fees and expenses beyond the basics. For example: Pet owners often face additional monthly rent for each pet.
People who own single-family homes have to pay taxes and could have other expenses for services such as lawn care, said Bryan Holladay of the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association.
Similar fees exist for those who live in multifamily housing, he said. "You may have to pay a trash fee, you may have to pay an additional parking fee, but some of those other fees, cutting the grass, gym membership are also included into your rent."
Here are some of the hidden costs of renting an apartment in Charlotte, where the average rent reached $1,082 this year, according to a recent report.
Pets can be destructive. From using the carpet as a bathroom to chewing up doors, Tiger and Buddy can be a landlord's nightmare. So renters with pets often pay a one-time fee for living with their furry companion. Apartments also usually have a limit on how many pets can live in a unit and weight restrictions on the size of the animals.
But one-time fees are not all pet owners pay. Monthly rents – just for pets – also are charged at many Charlotte apartments.
Forget curbside. Many renters in Charlotte have right-outside-their-door trash pickup.
That convenience requires renters to simply tie up their trash in their trashcan and set it in the hallway of their apartment.
But residents pay to not have to take their own trash to Dumpsters.
The cost for that trash pickup is often not included in base rent. Several apartments charge around $25 per month for the service.
Charlotte's light rail extension to University City is set to open next year, but this is still a car town. Even developments along the Blue Line feature copious parking, and most commuting, shopping and socializing happens via automobile.
All of which makes owning a car essential to most Charlotteans. But some apartment communities will charge you more to park there.
If you're at an apartment building with plenty of surface parking, like the older, garden-style apartments and the ones farther out in the suburbs, built on more space, you're probably in the clear. Many of the newer, five-story apartments, like those along the light rail, include one parking space per leaseholder. That means if you have two people on the lease, such as a couple in a one-bedroom, you get two parking spaces at no additional cost.
Many of the apartment towers with parking garages charge extra – which can be a double whammy, since they tend to already have the highest rents in the city. SkyHouse, the dual-skyscraper development on North Church Street, charges residents $15 a month for parking passes.
Ascent, the new tower next to Romare Bearden Park, includes one parking spot per bedroom, but charges $50 per month for each car after that. District Flats, on South Church Street, offers one parking spot per apartment and $50 a month for each additional space.
Application and administration fees (they're two separate charges) are one-time fees new residents pay when they move into a new complex. Those fees would cover the costs of background checks in many cases.
At Camden Dilworth, for example, there's a $100 application fee per adult that would be living in the unit. But there's another $300 administration fee per household.
Those up-front costs can add up. But complexes can also cut new residents a break: Some waive application fees as part of offers to entice renters.
Bocce ball courts. Outdoor grills. Conference rooms. The Starbucks coffee machine with unlimited brews. Pet spas, massage rooms and demonstration kitchens.
It all looks great during the walk-through tour with a leasing agent, but how many of those high-end amenities will you actually use? Charlotte apartments have been upping their amenities packages in recent years, engaging in an arms race to lure renters deciding between a wave of new – and largely similar – luxury properties.
Some, like gyms with expensive equipment and fitness classes included, might actually allow you to save money, if you're able to cancel an outside gym membership. Others, like an off-leash dog park, refrigerated package delivery or convenient place to wash your pet, will probably enhance your quality of life.
But modern amenities packages cost far more than they used to, when apartments might install a small pool and gym with a stationary bike and call it a day. Now, all those fancy touches can add hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to the cost of a new apartment building – and it's all rolled into the rent.