A few years ago my friend Shirl and I decided to find an apartment together. We were both living at home at the time. She had rented before and I hadn't, but I had plenty of experience seeing my mother rent over the years. Thus, neither of us was inept or inexperienced at this type of thing.
We visited a place that I'll call "The Villas." It was nice, we liked it, except one bedroom was vastly bigger than the other and we were looking for similarly sized rooms, just so one person wasn't miffed or paying half rent unfairly. Just in case, we decided to put a deposit down on the apartment.
Now, in case you didn't know, apartments generally hold the deposit, which is usually around $100, for 2-3 days. Then they will call you, ask you if you'd like to move in. If you're interested, great - that cash goes toward the damage deposit or rent. If you're not, they tear up the check. All the check does is reserve you the right to spend a few days thinking about the apartment.
Well, we found a place we liked much better and when The Villas called, told them that we weren't interested.
Then we found out they had deposited the check. WHAT? We called the office and were told this was standard procedure, that we should expect this at every complex. Now, I've rented independently since then and NEVER has this happened. I've even asked other management offices if they deposit those checks and always the answer is, "no, of course not!"
It ended up that we had to go to the company in charge of the apartment complex, sit down with a girl there, and tell her the story. She refunded us our money, but I was left feeling like someone was trying to cheat us. It felt like stealing, especially when a person may put a hold on several apartments while they're searching. What did The Villas expect of us? To just hand over $100 to them because their walls were pretty?