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 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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179 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?

  • 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.

  • 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


    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?

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