Biden Targets Hidden ‘Junk Fees’ to Lower Costs for Renters

Major online rental platforms agree to show the total cost of units, not just the rent.

for rent sign in front of property
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Biden administration says it has secured commitments from several major online rental platforms to be more transparent and provide consumers with the total upfront costs of rental properties, not just the rent.

Rental platforms Zillow, and signed on to the initiative, which targets so-called “junk fees,” such as application and convenience fees and costs incurred by the lessor to conduct background checks. These costs are often inflated and can add up to more than $100 per application, according to the White House. The hidden fees can also make it difficult for prospective renters, who often apply for multiple units during their apartment search, to comparison shop.

“By providing the true costs of rent, people can make an informed decision about where to live and not be surprised by additional costs that push them over budget,” the administration said.

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The effort is backed by several states including California and Connecticut. In March, state legislative leaders met with administration officials and issued a guide for states to use in cracking down on junk fees across industries in an effort to lower consumer costs.

Zillow launches cost of renting tool


The administration also pointed to new research from the Department of Housing and Urban Development that provides an overview of research on rental fees and highlights state, local and private sector strategies to encourage transparency and fairness in the rental market.

The announcement builds on several other initiatives to address junk fees in sectors including airlines and event tickets. Earlier this year,  the administration issued the Blueprint for a Renters' Bill of Rights. Last year it released a Housing Supply Action Plan, intended to increase the supply of affordable housing, including rental housing.

Meanwhile, on the same day as the White House announcement, Zillow announced a new tool, the Cost of Renting Summary, aimed at improving renters' understanding of fees and costs involved in renting. The feature is available on the Zillow app and website. CEO Richard Cupelli recently referred to joining forces with the administration as a natural fit to help consumers. Plans are underway to make fee transparency additions to property listing pages on in the next couple of months, he said.

Kathryn Pomroy

For the past 18+ years, Kathryn has highlighted the humanity in personal finance by shaping stories that identify the opportunities and obstacles in managing a person's finances. All the same, she’ll jump on other equally important topics if needed. Kathryn graduated with a degree in Journalism and lives in Duluth, Minnesota. She joined Kiplinger in 2023 as a contributor.