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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145 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Bailey

    Hi, I have one black lab and rent a house. We paid a pet fee of $500 (astronomical as we rent in MS). We were recently looking at adopting another lab from the shelter. I decided to run it by our landlord as a courtesy. They said no because they do not know the dog and do not have anyone to vouch for it. I was heartbroken of course. My question is, legally, can they do that? Our lease names our one dog, but it also names our one child and they cant tell us we cant have more kids. Also, I believe they can restrict certain breeds, but by allowing our lab they have already conceded to allowing labs. They have also agreed to allowing pets with a pet fee and not specifically restricting the number of animals. The owners are attached to the place

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Bailey,
      Children are a protected class under the Fair Housing Act. Dogs are not. Landlords don’t have to allow pets at all (with the exception of a service animal), and if they do, they can place restrictions on what type of pets and how many pets a tenant can bring into the home. On a personal note, I commend you for rescuing dogs. If you wish to have more than one, however, it sounds as if you’ll need to find a different place to live when your lease is up. And here’s a tip: just before your lease is up is a great time to negotiate new lease terms for the next year. Let you landlord know that you plan to move (if you do) unless you can have 2 dogs.

  • Cassie Sanchez

    Hello,
    I see you mentioned that a pet deposit must be refunded if there was no damage from a pet regardless of other damage that may exceed the standard security deposit. I have seen this mentioned in other articles but I can not seem to find the California law that states this. Can you direct me to where I can reference the actual law? Thank you!

  • elizabeth

    i paid a $500 pet deposit when moving into my apartment complex two years ago, we have since gotten a new land lord, and owner for the apartment complex. when taking over, they discovered that the previous landlord kept almost no records of anything. they have now issued citations to all the pet owners in the complex and have told us that we are in violation of having pets at all seeing as there are no records. we were then asked to repay our pet deposit, and reregister/vaccinate our pets and turn in the proper paperwork. they gave everyone 2 days. we have re supplied all of the paperwork, but refused repaying the deposit. they told us that was fine. but now that we are moving out, they don’t want to give it back. is that legal?

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Elizabeth,
      We can’t give legal advice here. What I can tell you is that you should provide proof you paid the pet deposit: your bank statement, for example. Then read your lease to see whether the pet deposit was a true deposit, which is refundable if there is no pet damage, or if it was really a pet fee. Pet fees are not refundable and are what landlords charge tenants who have pets. Look up your state law to see whether there are laws about pet deposits/fees. Good luck!

  • Marianne

    I own and live in my Condo. Why am I being charged a onetime $750.00 pet fee that is non refundable? There are no pet
    Amenities here. For a 4 pound chihuahua? In Massachusetts. Thank You.

  • Sarah

    We are trying to adopt a puppy (8wks), but first we must negotiate our pet rent and deposit. Our landlord charges a $500 non-refundable and $150/month for ONE dog…. our landlord is a very reasonable person, but this just feels ridiculous. Any advice on how to propose lower pet rent or deposit to landlord?

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Sarah,
      Look up the law for your state to see whether there is a cap on how much a landlord can charge: https://www.landlordology.com/state-laws/
      If there is no cap, call around to nearby rentals to find out what they charge for pets. If the other places around you charge less, ask your landlord if they would consider a similar charge. If they won’t budge, let them know you probably won’t renew your lease (if that is the case). Good luck!

  • John Johanna

    TLDR: Charge a pet fee to make more money off your tenants.

  • julissa martinez

    I’m looking at a possible option for my first apartment and they have a Pet Fee of $275, a Pet Deposit of $275, AND Pet Rent of $20 a month. Can they do all three??? Has anyone else seen this kind of thing?

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