For many renters, apartment application fees add up. Some are illegal (WBUR)

Below is an excerpt from an article published by WBUR on November 27, highlighting the rise of exploitative application fees for apartment hunters. Massachusetts Law Reform Insitute’s Andrea Park is quoted. 


Sheila Sanchez Ortiz moved from Puerto Rico to New Bedford last year to start a new life with her two kids. On a limited income in a new city, she knew finding an affordable apartment would be a challenge. But she wasn’t expecting to have to pay hundreds of dollars in fees — just to see the apartments.

“You want to see a place, first you have to pay,” she said in Spanish. “I’d fill out an application, and nobody would even call me back.”

Amid a region-wide housing shortage, advocates say application fees are on the rise, even when they’re not allowed. Massachusetts is one of the only states where it’s illegal for landlords to charge application fees. But with little enforcement of the law, advocates say these charges are becoming an entry fee to finding an apartment.

Ortiz spent almost a year apartment hunting, she said, and paid application fees four times for places that did not work out. Interviews with multiple New Bedford-area renters suggest her experience is common — and some are paying these fees upwards of a dozen times.

Housing activist and real estate agent Carlos Betancourt spends much of his time helping low-income renters find apartments. He said the majority of places he sees charge application fees.

Betancourt explained how it often works: A listed apartment will come with an application fee of $25 to $70 — per adult. And, he said, that’s frequently just to view the place. He remembers attending an open house where everybody interested in the apartment had to pay. The open house lasted three days.

Read more at WBUR.