Edited questions from Apartment Life, Sara Gebhardt's online discussion about rental issues.
QArlington: I want to rent a one-bedroom apartment in the North Arlington area. The rent is high, which is expected for this area, but these buildings also all have move-in fees of upward of $500 and a bunch of other fees associated before you even pay the first month's rent. What is the possibility of negotiating these fees down or away?
AYou can try to negotiate the high move-in fees with honest talk. Just be prepared to deal with a no. The apartment market is strengthening, so it's hard to say if the landlords would grant concessions. It all depends on how desperate they are for tenants. Also, the new trend in some more upscale apartments is to eliminate a security deposit and merely charge a "move-in" or "amenity fee." So, landlords may not be willing to negotiate on this issue. You never know unless you try.
Alexandria: I moved out of my apartment July 31. About Aug. 14, I received a check marked "Security Deposit Refund" for $1.69. There was no explanation of any kind on deductions, just a check. My security deposit was $225 and I also paid a refundable "pet fee" of $100. Calling my leasing company only results in leaving voice-mail messages, which are not returned. Does Virginia law really say that they have to provide an itemized list of deductions within 45 days?
Yes, you are entitled to receive an itemized list of deductions. If you are stuck in voice mail and not getting a response, take it to your housing authority. You might also write the leasing company a letter telling it what you are doing. If you have proof that the pet fee is refundable, it should fall under the same rules as the security deposit.
Arlington: I moved into a new building in the District a month ago. There is a yapping dog two doors down that keeps me up until 3 a.m. Can I do anything? Complain to D.C. government?
Well, the first thing you can do is talk to your landlord and ask him to deal with the situation as a noise complaint. You might also want to talk to your neighbor. A reasonable person does not want his dog to keep everyone else awake at night, let alone himself. I'm not sure how a dog owner gets a rowdy dog to quiet down, but perhaps others have suggestions.
Sara Gebhardt's Apartment Life column appears biweekly in this section, and her Web chat appears monthly on www.washingtonpost.com. The next chat is scheduled for 2 p.m. Oct. 7.