At the urging of the White House, real estate sites Zillow.com and Apartments.com have taken steps to ensure more transparent pricing on rental listings.

The efforts seek to expose “junk fees” for rental housing, which may include:

  • unjustified administrative fees 
  • convenience fees for online rental payments 
  • unusually high application fees 
  • charges for services and amenities that most renters would assume are included in the rent

“Hidden fees not only take money out of people’s pockets, they also make it more difficult to comparison shop,” according to a White House announcement.

“A prospective renter may choose one apartment over another thinking it is less expensive, only to learn that after fees and other add-ons, the actual cost for their chosen apartment is much higher than they expected or can afford.”

The White House took a few steps to address the problem, including pushing rental sites to implement more transparent pricing on rental listings.

For its part, Zillow has rolled out a new section in its listing detail pages called “Rental Costs and Fees.” It breaks down monthly charges for rent, parking and household pets, in addition to one-time charges covering things like security deposits, rental applications and administrative services.

Apartments.com, a subsidiary of the CoStar Group, already offers a similar pricing breakdown in its listings, and it is planning to launch a cost calculator to allow prospective tenants calculate the total cost of a particular rental unit. 

The AIM Group did an informal survey of available rentals around Louisville, Kentucky, and found that both Zillow and Apartments.com offer itemized cost summaries for every listing we viewed. 

However, for units featured on both sites, Apartments.com tended to offer more comprehensive price information than Zillow.

The White House has also highlighted recently published federal research into rental pricing practices across the country and unveiled guidance on legislation that state and local jurisdictions can pass to address the issue of junk fees. 

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