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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97 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.

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