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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53 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Mary

    My landlord charged us an extra month security for our pet. He is trying to keep the entire 2 months security for damages that were not caused by the dog. For the record, we are concerned he is trying to scam us.

    Legally, can he keep the pet deposit for damages clearly not caused by a pet?

    • Michelle

      Check the laws of your particular state, but I know in New York the additional security deposit for a pet can ONLY be used to repair damages caused by the pet. If you can prove that the damages were NOT caused by the pet, you have safeguarded that amount, at least. Hopefully, the pet portion of the security was specifically stated in the lease as Pet Security Fee or in some other way defined as such. Also, was it actually a “non-refundable pet deposit” that was attached to the security or just an amount added to the security deposit and refundable?

      • Chari

        I started with 20$a mo for a small dog and when i left in the past 2yrs they charged me 30$ No refundable in Pa Also in the 9yrs we luved there left it spotless hired a cleaner lady and carpet cleaner and they zoom the picture so a spot looked larger

  • Amanda

    So when we first moved in the agreement was that we paid 300$ for a carpet as result of the pet deposit. We have asked our landlord if we can have another dog. She wants to charge us an additional 200$ for the new dog. Is that allowed or can she only charge us one time?

  • Tamika

    I have an tenant who already signed the lease and ask if they could have a dog? I’m not sure what amount to charge?

  • Sherri

    9 years ago when I moved in I paid my landlord a pet deposit. That included any animal I got in the future now he wants to charge us an extra 50 per pet. My 2 dogs are service dogs which I know he can’t charge for but after 9 years can he charge the extra for the cats?

    • Chari

      I started with 20$a mo for a small dog and when i left in the past 2yrs they charged me 30$ No refundable in Pa Also in the 9yrs we luved there left it spotless hired a cleaner lady and carpet cleaner and they zoom the picture so a spot looked larger

    • Chari

      I started with 20$a mo for a small dog and in the past 3yrs they up the price to 30$ Others ate paying less for their dogs

  • daniel

    Question – if they have more than one dog, let’s say three dogs, do you suggest charging $50 pet rent for each dog? Thank you,

  • Natha

    We lived in an apartment for a year with our cats and a roommate. We left last month but the roommate wanted to stay so he has a new roommate now. The roommate is now reaching out to us for help to pay for flea extermination. States the landlord is forcing them to pay. When we moved in last year we gave them a $200 non refundable pet deposit, and also a $200 regular security deposit. We also paid $20 a month for pet rent (so $240 total for the year). This is a record high year for flea and tick populations. I gave my cats flea treatments each month as recomended by a vet. Can this landlord legally force us or the roommate to pay for this service even though we gave them a ton of money/fees/deposits already???

  • Crystal

    Can my landlord in Philadelphia pa take my security deposit if we paid 250 for our dog to be here and we have small dog damages she’s threatening to take our deposit but haven’t been on top of her fixing household damages

  • Barb

    Wondering if my landlord can charge a unrefundable pet fee, i have been renting the same house for 9 years and she knew from start that I had dogs and now wants to charge me, I live in Georgia

  • Cindy Helton

    Our daughter was living in privatized student housing while in college. The company charged a nonrefundable pet fee of $250 per pet and also charged a monthly fee of $15 per pet. Our daughter had two pets in the apartment. The company is now charging her for a $150 deodorizing fee. Would this fee not come out of the pet fee? Can the company charge the one time fee and the monthly fee?

  • carol

    I pay a 50$ per month pet fee but I no longer have pets. I asked when i moved in if the rent would decrease if I didn’t have pets and they said yes but it is not in writing. Can they continue to charge me the 50 dollar pet monthly fee if i no longer have pets?

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