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prospective tenant wants me to hold the property until possibly May.

is it legal in the state of Maryland to ask for first and last months rent plus security deposit of one months rent Plus the rent for the two remaining months of the "holding period" non refundable? They also have 5 pets, so I would ask for the pet deposit up front, as well, nonrefundable.

Yes it is legal however the money that you used for holding the apartment would need to be used toward the rent. You can not use that as a non refundable fee. Now was the holding fee to hold the place for a month while the apartment was empty this could be considered one of the months of rent.
so basically my interpretation of what you're saying is in reality, they start paying rent in March then one month's rent for the month of April and one month rent for the month of May plus the last months rent, security deposit, Plus pet deposit. Pet deposit is definitely non-refundable & must be paid before they move in.The rent money is definitely non-refundable.the only thing that would be refundable is the security deposit. everything else is rent money, except the pet deposit.
To hold my property for one's use, one must pay the full rent on the property.  I have a property where the gentleman works in another city an hour away, and he chooses to stay in the city all week long and come "home" to my property only on the weekends.  He asked if he could have reduced rent because he was only occupying on the weekends. I asked if I could host other guests in his room during the week, and he said "no!" and got the idea.  He pays full rent because he keeps the room only to himself all of the time.  Do not hold a room for someone unless they pay the rent and have signed a lease keeping them to the property for the term you specify.  If they don't want to pay, they can't play.
okay, so I told them that in order to hold the property they would have to pay the security deposit first and last months rent, pet deposit, signed lease, sign pet addendum and we wanted to meet personally everyone who would be living at the rental property including all pets. they live several states away. They sent back a message this morning, saying they could not understand  why we set several of the stipulations, such as meeting everyone in person prior to sign lease awnd starting to pay rent March 1st. then they went into explaining that the trip up here would cost them $1,500, they would have to take the kids out of school, etc., etc. it is apparent to them that we do not consider them viable tenants. She ended the message by wishing us the best of luck in finding someone we were comfortable with to rent the property as it looks like lovely property.  my question is: is it too much to ask to meet prospective tenants in person prior to signing the lease?
No it is not to much to ask to meet them ahead of time, if the tenants really care for the property and where they want to live they can make the effort. The way I have looked at these type of excuses is if they are not willing to make a little extra effort then will they make that effort to make a repair, change a lightbulb, let me know if there is something that needs to be fixed right away. Especially with pets, 5 is potentially a lot of damage they need to be motivated and enthusiastic. Laying down your requirements was the right thing to do, this is part of properly screening tenants. Good Luck Linda.
You will find renters that work well with you.    First advice I got on this site was to make the screening process work for you.  This is my property, my investment. And, in addition, frankly around here my tenants are also very close neighbors (carriage house). My prospective tenants have to agree to a background check and fill out the application I get from here, that has a lot of private info on it.  People who balk at my terms, my procedures.... those people screen themselves out. WHEN I STICK TO THESE BOUNDARIES I AM NEVER DISAPPOINTED.  I keep some property just for interns who need a furnished short-term property. My rate is just above a non-furnished year-lease property so it's a fantastic deal. I have had only FABULOUS people when I stick to my boundaries.  When I waffle, I end up with someone I wish I hadn't had.  Out of 5 properties in 4 years, I have had a 20-month tenant, a 24-mo, a 30-mo and a 38-mo (she bought a house around the corner and we're still friends). I have had 6-week interns who have come back.  ALL THIS TO SAY, STICK TO YOUR BOUNDARIES and DO NOT apologize for them. Your boundaries are legal and it's your right.  I sold one of my properties last year.... after a $50,000 remodel and a 30-mo tenant, I needed only $2000 to shine the house back up and list on the market for $85,000 cash above the mortgage payout (which included the $50,000 for the remodel).  THE TENANT IS KEY. Get someone who will respect your property.
Thank you, Amy
Thank you Derrick.
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