Pet Deposits, Pet Fees and Pet Rent – What’s the Difference?

Written on February 8, 2016 by , updated on December 9, 2016

Pet Fees, Pet Deposits, and Pet RentThere are certainly pros and cons to allowing pets in your rental properties. In this article, you’ll learn about the different types of pet fees, pet deposits, and pet rent, and which ones you should charge.

Whether you choose to allow pets or not is totally up to you – with the exception of service or companion animals (you must allow those).

Pets could damage your property, and they could become nuisances to neighbors. But you can probably charge more for your rental property if you allow them.

Plus, by allowing pets, you’ll have more potential tenants interested in your place … a lot more: 72% of apartment renters had a pet in 2014. And tenants with pets tend to stay longer: 46 months on average instead of 18 months, according to a survey conducted by FIREPAW, Inc.

If you don’t allow pets, there’s always the chance that your tenants will sneak them in anyway.

If you want to allow pets, but aren’t comfortable with certain kinds, you can restrict the types of pets you allow. You might allow only cats and small dogs under 25 pounds, for example. You can also restrict the number of pets you allow, such as no more than two pets.

grumpy-cat-2The most popular pets in 2014, according to the Apartments.com survey, were the following (in order):

  1. Cats
  2. Small dogs
  3. Medium/large dogs
  4. Fish/birds/small mammals

If you do allow pets, you’ll probably wonder whether you should charge a pet deposit, pet fee, or pet rent and what the differences are.

Good questions! Here is what you should know about pet deposits, fees, and rent.

Related: The Definitive Guide to Renting to Tenants with Pets

Pet Deposits and Pet Fees

The difference between pet deposits and pet fees is that pet deposits are refundable and pet fees aren’t. Some people, however, like to say the pet deposit is non-refundable, which would then make the pet deposit the same as a pet fee.

Pet deposits are refundable and pet fees aren’t.

States vary on whether you can even charge pet deposits or pet fees – so please do check your state laws. If you’re in a state that doesn’t allow this, or if you’re renting to someone in any state with a service or companion animal, charging a pet deposit or pet fee is off the table (seriously)!

But if you’re in a state that allows pet deposits and pet fees, you have some decisions to make. Your state’s laws might also dictate how much you charge; however, charging somewhere between $200 and $500 for a one-time pet fee is pretty typical.

A “pet fee” is simply the one-time admission price to have a pet in the rental. It doesn’t typically cover any damages the pet might cause.

If you charge a pet fee, you keep that money whether there’s pet damage or not. A “pet fee” is simply the admission price to have a pet in the rental. It doesn’t typically cover any damages the pet might cause.

If you charge a refundable pet deposit, you need to return it if there’s no pet damage when the tenant moves out. If there is damage, you need to send your tenant an itemized list of how much you spent to repair the pet damage, which justifies keeping all or part of the pet deposit — just as you do for a security deposit.

What about “Pet Rent”?

Pet rent is a different story. Many property managers and landlords charge a recurring monthly “pet rent” in the amount of $50-$100.

It is simply an additional amount of money added to the regular rent, and this practice is becoming more popular.  The amount of pet rent could vary based on the number and type of pets allowed.

By only charging “pet rent” (in lieu of a pet deposit or fee), you can significantly increase your monthly revenue.

Should I Charge a Fee?

The security deposit brings up the question of whether you should even charge a pet deposit or pet fee at all. After all, you can use the security deposit to cover damages a pet causes if you don’t charge a pet deposit or pet fee.

In some states, if you do charge a pet deposit or pet fee, you can’t use the security deposit to cover pet damage. You use the pet deposit or pet fee for that.

Given that the security deposit is generally more than the pet deposit or pet fee, you’re limiting yourself if there is major pet damage. So, many landlords don’t ever charge a pet deposit, even if they can. They just lump it all together into a simple “security deposit,” which is also easier to explain.

What Should I Charge?

Landlords have a lot of options when it comes to fees and pets; they could mix and match any of the following:

  • Regular Rent
  • Security Deposit
  • One-time Pet Fee
  • Recurring Pet Rent
  • Pet Security Deposit

While some tenants might complain about extra pet rent, pet deposits, or pet fees, many tenants are just happy to find a place for their furry, feathered, or scaly friends.

But just because a landlord could charge a plethora of pet fees, doesn’t mean he should. Here’s what we recommend:

Suggested Pet Fee Structure:

  • Regular Rent – market rate
  • Security Deposit – equal to 1-2 month’s rent
  • Recurring Pet Rent – $50/month

Why not a one-time pet fee?

We don’t suggest charging a one-time pet fee on move-in simply because it creates an additional financial hurdle for a tenant. When moving from one rental to the next, money is tight usually because the tenant has to come up with a security deposit and possibly pay for some overlapping rent. If you add in an extra pet fee, you’ll eliminate otherwise good tenants.

Why not a separate pet deposit?

As emphasized above, if you charge a pet deposit, you might be limiting yourself if the damages exceed the deposit amount. It’s better to simply charge a single deposit for all damages — regardless of who (or what) caused them.

Bottom Line

By allowing pets, you’re preventing many animals from ending up in shelters — and you’ll have a larger population of tenants to choose from.

Whether you choose to charge a pet deposit, pet fee, pet rent, or nothing extra at all, by allowing your tenants to have pets, you’re establishing a better landlord-tenant relationship and are increasing your chances of success.

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131 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Chris

    I have a tenant with 2 dogs that I took an additional pet deposit for. Can I deduct hiring an exterminator for fleas when they move out? Rental is in California.

  • Joseph

    I have a question.. Me and my girlfriend is looking into moving into an apartment.. I see a cat deposit of 400$ and 2 pet limit. And I see the exact same thing about dogs.. Now getting to my question I’m trying to get at is.. What if I have a dog and cat? Am I paying a 400$ fee for both pets or is that all together?

  • Robyn webster

    Ive have two small dogs for over 5 months my lease is ending and now my property management is asking for a pet fee? What can i do? My lease it up in two months and they want to charge me $1000 for both pets. They have never asked me for a pet deposit or rent until now.

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Robyn,
      First check the laws for your state here at Landlordology under state laws. Look to see whether your state restricts the amount of fees landlords can charge. If your state doesn’t restrict this, then the management can charge you anything they like at lease renewal time. You have the option in that case of agreeing to the fee and paying it, moving, or trying to negotiate a lower fee. Good luck!

      • Robyn webster

        Hello Laura and thank you for your advice. I also got a chance to check Texas state law and they don’t have any restrictions so they can charge me any amount but it does state it only can be done at the time of signing lease or renewal. My property manager is trying to charge me $1000. My lease is up in 60 days should i get a lawyer? I don’t want to break my lease and create future problems for myself
        Thank you

        • Laura Agadoni

          Hi Robyn,
          Check to see what they mean. They probably mean you need to pay $1,000 for pets if you renew and want to stay for another lease term. That $1,000 is for the next year. They can’t charge you now for the past. As I said earlier, your choices are to pay the money and renew, move, or try to negotiate a lower fee.

  • Maurice Harris

    I understand pet fee is non refundable. However what if the lease states that the pet fee is to be used for damages caused by pets upon vacating the premises. It lists additional wear, tear and cleaning after lessee vacates.

  • Lunye Smith

    Im trying to help my mom find a lease where she can charge a monthly fee for a tenant that have a dog?

  • Laura Agadoni

    Hi Lunye,
    Check your state law to see whether there are any restrictions on what you can charge for pet rent. Then, just state in your lease that it will be X for pet rent per month.

  • Linda negrete

    I have lived in the apartment for 8years and paid a pet deposit now this new company wants to charge me a new pet deposit on the same pets that I paid for when I moved in can they do this

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Linda,
      Check your state law to see whether there are any restrictions on security and/or pet deposits. If not, the landlord can probably charge you an additional pet deposit at lease renewal time.

  • Monique Cole

    I think you’re wrong about not being able to charge an additional pet DEPOSIT for service animals. See the article on the Humane Society website:
    http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/assistance-animals-tenants-rights.html?credit=web_id625421016
    “Service and assistance animals are not technically pets and owners do not have to pay pet fees. The landlord, however, can charge a security deposit and may still seek money from the tenant if there is any damage caused by the animal to the home. Also, if there is a nuisance issue the landlord does have the right to try to remove the assistance animal through legal proceedings.”

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Monique,
      What this paragraph you are referencing refers to is the security deposit. It’s just stating that the landlord can withhold some or all the security deposit to pay for damage caused by a service animal. Landlords can’t charge upfront specifically for a service animal, but if the animal causes damage, that’s on the tenant to pay.

  • david

    If I charge a non-refundable pet deposit that states it is for carpet cleaning, and then the tenants buy the property, do I have to return the pet deposit?

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi David,
      There’s no such thing as a non-refundable pet deposit. Deposits are always refundable. You keep all or part of them only if there is damage. Fees, on the other hand, are kept by the landlord whether or not there’s damage. Regarding whether you should return deposits upon sale of the property, that depends on the deal. Every deal is different.

  • stella

    How many pets are allowed on one pet deposit. I paid a$250 deposit. Ive been here 4 years and got another. They now want another$ 250. Majority of landlords allow 2 dogs or cats per one fee.

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Stella,
      There is no one law on pet deposits that is universal to America. See if there are any laws for your jurisdiction. If not, your landlord can change the lease terms at lease renewal time and charge whatever they want, and you can agree to the new terms, try to negotiate different terms, or move.

  • Liz

    Thanks for this article.
    I hope you can clarify something for me:
    Is pet rent simply charging for an additional “tenant” or is it to cover what would be additional wear and tear expected from having the pet?
    That is, once the tenant leaves, can I still charge for repairs of minor damages to the landscaping and scratches on the gate?
    ps: my state does not appear to have clear laws on this.
    Thank you
    LC

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Liz,
      A home with pets will generally have more wear and tear than a home without pets. So charging pet owners pet rent in addition to the regular rent puts them in a similar position to applicants with no pets. It sort of levels the playing field. Regarding damages caused by pets, you can use the security deposit to repair damages beyond normal wear and tear, no matter who caused the damages. But if you charge a pet deposit (different from pet rent), then you can only use that pet deposit to pay for damages caused by the pet and not the security deposit, and you must return the pet deposit if there are no damages caused by the pet.

      • Singularlandlord

        I allowed tenants leniency because they had an emergency with their own home, so they had to move in fast. I waived the pet fee, but got a security deposit after they moved in. They got more cats (5, 6 total) over the year and are noseblind to the odor it left. They contend the house was dirty when they got there (it was hastily cleaned to let them in) and they cleaned up the ‘cat room’. I’ve been enzyming all surfaces and setting odor bombs and having others regularly to see if they can still smell it. I finally got it past the nose test. I had to tackle it myself/I did get a pro-quote, but it can’t be completed in time to return any of the deposit. How can I figure how much to take off their security deposit?

        • Laura Agadoni

          Hi Singularlandlord,
          You can withhold from the security deposit your expenses for cleaning beyond normal wear and tear. Check your state law to see whether there is language on how to handle this. You might need to provide receipts if you deduct more than $100 or so for cleaning, for example.

  • Tiffany Brantley

    I have a current resident who has a letter for a emotional support animal – this is fine. However I am a private owner without a Realtor or Broker. I simply a private owner collecting rent at a single residence. Also the dog is not registered as an emotional support animal. Does it have to be registered as an emotional support dog? Can I charge a pet deposit and monthly fee like the rest of my properties? Or what can I do?
    Will I get in trouble with Housing or ADA if I try to charge her?

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Tiffany,
      I’m not a lawyer. It would be best to consult with one on this. From my understanding, as a landlord, emotional support animals do not need to be registered, but a prospective tenant must provide to the landlord a letter from a therapist stating the animal is an ESA. In the case of a landlord who rents a single-family house without a real estate agent, my understanding is that this is one of the cases where a landlord can reject an ESA. Charging a fee might get you in trouble. I’m not sure on that, which is where an attorney can better help you. Good luck!

  • Ben

    Hi there. My previous landlord is withholding my pet deposit with no explaination. My lease says it’s refundable. At final walk through landlord said everything looks perfect. What can I do? Also I did get my full deposit back.

  • Ben

    Hi there. My previous landlord is withholding my pet deposit with no explaination. My lease says it’s refundable. At final walk through landlord said everything looks perfect. What can I do? Also I did get my full deposit back.

  • Brenda

    I live in Illinois, I am a tenant and my property manager kept my entire deposit for carpet replacement. I have 2 ESA who have not caused any damage, but that’s besides the point. Can a landlord charge me such fees that are considered pet related when my animals are not pets they are Emotional Support animals.

  • Gillian call

    Hi there are many persons who rent land but own home how can they charge for an indoor pet also we paid one month up front now they want two hundred plus ten a month plus a fee in case someone gets bitten … hello my cat has no teeth he doesn’t go out I have post traumatic stress I could not survive without him yet manager ordered me to get rid of him.doctor offered to write regarding this mater but I told him no point heartless person doesn’t care with so many retired persons if places didn’t charge all this money many animals would get adopted oh the ten a month is per pet.

  • SP

    Hi! We charge a one time pet fee to help us cover costs like defleaing and deep cleaning at move out. We have had a couple of tenants claim they don’t have to pay that for service, and emotional support animals. can you please provide insight. We do not want to deny them the ability to rent but for themt o pay the same as every other pet owner in our properties. thanks!

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi SP,
      I’m not an attorney, so you might wish to contact one about this issue. I believe that with emotional support, therapy, or service animals, you cannot charge an upfront fee or deposit, but you can charge for repair costs if that pet damages your property.

  • Steve

    My lease states: “Resident must pay a supplemental Security Deposit (“Pet Deposit”) in the amount of Three Hundred Dollars ($300), for each pet. The Pet Deposit may be applied and will be refunded, if at all, in the same manner as the Security Deposit.”

    I paid an additional 900$ for my three pets, now that I am moving out, they are telling me that it was a pet fee and it’s not refundable. They are saying it’s non-refundable because in our copy of the move-in letter it states they are pet fees.

    I checked the move-in letter, it says, “pet fees”, but my signed lease says “pet deposit” which one do we go by?

  • Ruben mendez

    My daughter received eviction notice for not able to pay rent.lost job. Had partial rent but took to long to talk to landlord. She paid 500 pet deposit plus rent deposit. Not getting sec deposit back, had to brake one year contract. Landlord said no PET refund.no damage by pet,

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Ruben,
      Technically, the pet deposit is to be used solely for damages caused by the pet. So you could sue in small claims for that. But if your daughter is behind on rent, your landlord will most likely countersue for rent owed.

  • Brian Stephenson

    Excellent article. I love the simplicity of the $50 monthly pet rent. My question is, would you have different monthly amounts for the type or size of dog. As an example, a 12 pound dog versus a 45 pound dog? If the 12 pound dog is $50 per month, is the 45 pound dog $75?

    Also, if there are multiple animals would you charge pet rent for each pet or stick with a $50 per month flat pet rent amount rather than $100 per month for two animals as an example?

    Brian

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Brian,
      I’m glad you like the monthly pet rent policy. Regarding whether you charge more for a large dog or multiple pets is up to you. It depends on lots of factors. You don’t want to price yourself out of the market by having fees that are too high, so you need to keep that in mind. But you probably don’t want too many pets in your space, either. And that depends on the property. Good luck!

  • Justin

    I had to pay a “non-refundable pet fee $200” when we moved in. Additionally, we had to “pay an additional $25.00 per pet per month.”

    We are moving out early and have already moved our two cats out of the apartment. We have two months left to pay for rent. Do we have to pay the $50 monthly pet fee for these remaining two months? I didn’t see anything in the actual lease about this issue, but there’s this in the pet addendum, but it’s not super clear about whether or not we still have to pay it even though we don’t have anymore cats.

    “This Pet Addendum is entered into by and between Tenant and Landlord and is hereby incorporated into the Lease Agreement by this reference.”

    Landlord said they wouldn’t drop the fee until they get the keys!

  • Angella

    How can we change these laws? Landlords in WA state are out of control! Their greed has them snatching hundreds of dollars from people

  • Theresa Siegler

    In washington state, can your landlord charge you 1,500.00 non refundable pet fee for a dashound? My rent is 1,200.00 a month.

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