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

Written on February 8, 2016 by , updated on July 21, 2020

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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191 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Mckinsie

    I currently moved out of my first apartment. I had 1 cat. I paid a nonrefundable deposit for my cat. I also paid $25 a month for pet rent.

    Now, my apartment is making me pay for all new carpet because it “smells like cat”. Isnt my “pet rent” supposed to cover stuff like this?

    Can they do this?

    • Jose R Maldonado-Alamo

      I can understand your frustration. As a landlord of a single family home I do not rent to tenants with pets as it could be difficult business. Hopefully this information helps you understand landords position. The deposits, fees and pet rent amount charged are figured to cover the special cleaning, conditioning and treatments necessary to make the rental habitable for the next tenant. Some of them are sensitive to pets conditions (allergies etc.) and do not have pets. Deposits are to cover common conditions (small repairs such as baseboard etc.) up to the deposit total. That is why they are refundable. However sometimes the repairs surpass the deposit amount and falls as responsibility of the tenant.

  • Yala

    Charging several hundred dollars as a fee that will not be used to cover pet damages is just pure evil.

    Most of the places around here charge a large pet fee and pet rent…and neither of these are used to cover pet damages? What are they for then?

    Just pure greed from landlords who know people love their pets and need a place that allows them. It’s sick.

    • Sophie

      I agree that pet fees, pet deposits, and pet rent should be used to cover pet damage, but not all landlords are greedy. Some of us have to deal with dishonest, irresponsible tenants who leave their pets unattended, and then fail to repair the damage their animals cause. My last tenant paid a $600 pet deposit. He told me he had one dog, and after he moved out and left the house and yard trashed, the neighbors told me he actually had 2 dogs and a cat. I have spent $7000 (so far), on all the damage his animals caused. Floors, walls, baseboards, sprinkler system, etc. I suspect that some landlords’ high pet fees are the result of lying, irresponsible pet owners who have rented their properties in the past.

      • Dustin

        Except in your instance YOU’RE paying for the damages. Most apartments will charge you 4-500 non refundable fee, a monthly fee, and still charge you 100 percent for all damages.

    • Jimmy

      If you hate landlords so much, perhaps you should consider buying your own home.

  • Joseph M Root

    so i have an interesting question, can a landlord charge a pet deposit pet fee and pet rent all at the same time or is there a limit of what they can and cant charge at the same time

  • LISA GILBRETH

    Where can I find a rental agreement that includes a monthly pet rental fee? I live in Southern California.

  • Tracy

    I think is wrong to charge a non refundable Fee /deposit. If the unit is left in the same condition as it was when you moved in. I can see it if there is damages then keep the deposit. If the damages are more then the deposit then take them to court!

  • Ginny

    Our lease on our house ended and the landlord decided to sell the home to us. But while we were being approved, they made us sign a month to month lease and pay a $1,000 pet deposit. They told us we either did that or move out until our mortgage was approved. We have lived in this house many, many years with the same pets and they were very aware. (We actually paid a $100 pet deposit when we moved in.) We were approved for the mortgage within 30 days, signed the papers and bought the home. Does the landlord have to refund the deposit?

  • Gloria

    In Ohio can you show me where in the ORC rules whether a pet deposit can be used for damages made by the tenants? Can you add the security deposit and the pet deposit together for property damages?

  • raymond

    so my questions is i payed for a 500$ pet fee for my puppy. They are threatening to kick us out because of several “noise” complaints but it is not like we are partying. we can’t just make our everyday life procedures more quiet that is ridiculous. i litterally payed the pet fee last month and are threatening that if we don’t have the place quiet by February 2nd we will get kicked out. should i call a lawyer so i can somehow be reimbursed my 500$ for 1 month of owning a dog at these apartments. thats ridiculous. i could use some real help here. (the people below us making the noise complaints are a married couple and are pregnant)

    • Dustin

      Everyone has rights, a right to a peaceful environment is one of them. If you are causing a lot of noise, or have a heavy dog that runs back and forth, its a problem. I would either use a bark collar, and keep your dog restrained. If you’re in a small apartment you should be getting a very small dog. Big dogs need yards.

  • Kathy

    The landlord told me I can have a pet if I paid a pet deposit which would be returned if there was no damage. They returned our security but won’t return the pet deposit because they said there was dog waste on the outside deck. We did not leave that and we had asked for a walk through which they would not do. Can they keep the deposit?

  • Jose R Maldonado-Alamo

    I can understand your frustration. As a landlord of a single family home I do not rent to tenants with pets as it could be difficult business. Hopefully this information helps you understand landords position. The deposits, fees and pet rent amount charged are figured to cover the special cleaning, conditioning and treatments necessary to make the rental habitable for the next tenant. Some of them are sensitive to pets conditions (allergies etc.) and do not have pets. Deposits are to cover common conditions (small repairs such as baseboard etc.) up to the deposit total. That is why they are refundable. However sometimes the repairs surpass the deposit amount and falls as responsibility of the tenant.

  • Roy

    If a property is listed for rent at one price and a tenant with a dog rents the property would pet rent in addition to the listing rent be part of the real estate commission?

  • Theresa Gillon

    My cat died last week I let management know because I wanted my deposit back the cat doesn’t live here anymore why can’t I get my deposit back I have paid 10 a month rent for the cat each month I put a deposit to move in this apartment what rights do I have

  • adam smith

    My wife and I avoid places with those fees. Where we live we didn’t pay any extra above the $1750 security deposit. We paid our rent on time every month for 5 years. And our pets haven’t trashed the place. Maybe you get the deposit but get bad tenants who do wreck the place, and the rent is always late. I don’t know, like it says when moving money’s tight. I just saw a nice place for $1800. But it’d be $5400 to move in. Then another $1,000 for our two cats, so $6400 to move in. And another $150 rent for them, so %1950 a month. And rent goes up at least 3% a year around here if not more. So instead of that nice apartment where we’d pay rent on time every month we’ll find a much less expensive one that might not be as nice for now.

  • Christina Vilchis-Lopez

    When I moved in there was no pet rent. After living here for many years they have now decided to charge pet rent. Can they do thism Is there some kind of grandfather law in Wisconsin?

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