The relationship between you and your landlord is defined with a contract, typically a lease. Leases vary from landlord to landlord, but clauses in the lease will generally fall into one of the following categories:
1. Restatement of guaranteed legal rights
2. A variation of a negotiable state or local law
3. A policy or rule not covered by state/local law
In North Carolina, a lease can be in writing or a verbal agreement. It is advisable to avoid verbal agreements, however, if your landlord insists on a verbal agreement, prepare a letter of understanding, documenting basic terms of the agreement and other things you discussed prior to moving in.
Review and understand all parts of the lease before you sign it. If you've negotiated for things that are not written in the lease, include an addendum documenting what you agreed to and be sure that you and the landlord sign it.
In addition to collecting the first month's rent, your landlord may collect additional money prior to move-in.
Security Deposits in North Carolina –link: http://www.ncrec.gov/Brochures/Print/tenant.pdf
Typically between $10-$50, this fee pays for the expense of processing your application. This is a nonrefundable fee. Unless stated otherwise, if you are denied housing, you do not get this money back; if you are approved, it is not applied to your rent.
A security deposit provides assurance to the landlord that they will be reimbursed for possible specific losses caused by the tenant. With a rental period greater than month-to month, a landlord can charge up to the equivalent of 2 month's rent. At the end of your lease term your landlord must refund your deposit within 30 days after your termination of tenancy. If the landlord refunds part of or none of your security deposit, they must provide you an itemized list of deductions.
Expect this fee if you plan on moving into an apartment complex. The fee is typically $200-$300, is nonrefundable and may replace the security deposit (although some complexes will charge both).
If you have a pet, your landlord will likely charge a deposit, fee or both. Just remember, a pet deposit is refundable (unless your pet does a lot of damage to the rental), a pet fee is nonrefundable. Some landlords charge additional rent for your pet/s.