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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78 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

    • Linda Scott

      I agreed to pay 500.00 pet deposit but i moving out early to accommodate the landlords new tenant. I paid 275.00 of the 500.00 now the landlords want the remainder of the pet deposit of 225.00. Is this legal in the state of California
      Im moving 2-17-18 the land lord did a walk thru and everything is fine. My dog has no damage at all but the landlords are being mean. Thank you. Linda Scott

  • 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?

    • Marissa

      Hey Amanda,
      Did you ever figure out the answer to your question? My landlord is trying to do the same thing, but I don’t think she can.
      Thanks

      • Laura Agadoni

        Hi Marissa and Amanda,
        Look up the laws of your state regarding pet deposits to see whether there are any limits. Landlords do have the right to screen pets, though, just as they do tenants. Just because your landlord rented to you with one dog doesn’t mean you can just bring in more dogs without permission.

  • 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?

    • Lily

      My tenant signed a lease in September stating no pets we are in Florida now she wants to add a pet stating it is a therapy dog what do I do.

      • Jarom Smith

        If she has a signed letter from a psychologist, MD, Social Worker, Therapist then HUD says that you can’t charge anything. The key is the letter from the doctor or social worker. Some people has emotional support animals such as cats or dogs that greatly increase their quality of life and alleviate their physical or psychological condition. These as well as service animals are covered by both HUD and ADA.

  • 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,

    • Jarom Smith

      The more you try and bilk the more chance the tenant will pack up and move at the end of the lease. A bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush. If you keep you tenant happy they are several times more likely to stay and keep paying you rent. If you simply try to charge them just to charge them they will leave and leave you with a bad review on apartmentsdotcom or yelp. Tread lightly.

  • 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?

    • Jarom Smith

      No. They can’t. The appropriate thing to do would be to amend the lease so it reflects that you have no pets. Landlords are greedy and they will try to get you for the last bit of cash they can. I’ve gotten to the point where I have to take move in pictures and notes and make copies to give to the landlord upon move in so they don’t feel like they can make stuff up when I move out. This is why regulation is a good thing. So landlords AND the consumers don’t get screwed.

  • Jarom Smith

    Pet deposits, Pet fees and pet rent are very questionable. I understand that the apartment owner needs to make sure the pet doesn’t tear the place up. Well, then collect a deposit and if the pet does cause damage use the deposit to fix it. Why bilk your tenants for just having a beloved pet? People hate “pet rent” with a passion. As soon as my pet gets a job, I’ll let you know and you can sign a contract with my cat and charge her rent. It’s like charging a single person for having a kid. Difference is charging 4 a kid is illegal. And W.T.F. is a NON-REFUNDABLE pet deposit? Stop being chickensh87 and just call it a fee. My advice is, you’ll get a lot more good, longer staying tenants if you don’t try to kill them with pet fees.

  • susan

    Can a $250 one time pet fee be paid in 4 monthly payments

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Susan,
      Check your state law to see what the laws are regarding pet fees in your state. If legal, then whether you can pay in installments is between you and your landlord.

  • Amanda

    I am currently renting out a room in my house to a ex friend. I myself have two dogs, they have never had an accident in my house. My roommate on the other hand has a dog that has pooped on the laminate flooring multiple times, and has even gotten poop on my walls. Her lease is up in the beginning of March, can I withhold part of her security deposit to pay for cleaning? I have documented and have pictures but this has happened at least 10 times it got to the point that I couldn’t keep up with the documentation.

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Amanda,
      You can withhold part of the security deposit for cleaning, but you must provide receipts for any money you spent on cleaning supplies or money you spent hiring a cleaning person or service. You also must return the rest of the deposit by the deadline set by your state.

  • Joan

    I help out a few neighbors in my complex and walk their dogs while they are at work. Been going on for about 2 years now and all of a sudden a lady complained that she got scared while she was walking her dog that the one I was walking looked mean and filed a complaint which turned into a fabricated story that my dog was being vicious. Now the property owner is saying I can’t walk anymore dogs or even my own daughters dog for that matter or I will be evicted. This is outrageous and I feel like I should have rights as a tenant. Please help with an answer. They were fully aware that I was helping people with their pets and now they want me to stop?? These people have no one else to do it for them while they are at work.

  • Doron Cynaderka

    Good Afternoon ,
    i have a question regarding pet fee’s in chicago IL .

    can they be charged for cats as well or dogs only?

  • Dave

    I live in ca, I paid $500 pet deposit .
    There was no damage caused by my pet . I have tried to recover the money . At first I got the run around & now they won’t even respond .
    What can I do now & is there a statute on this matter ? Thank you

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Dave,
      I’m not a lawyer. And I don’t know your exact situation. But generally, a pet deposit works like a security deposit. Landlords use a pet deposit to fix any damages pets might cause. If they use any or all the pet deposit money, they need to provide you with an itemized list of what they spent on repairs. And they need to follow the security deposit rules for your state. Look up your state law, and write your landlord (email or text works too) reminding them of the law. Still nothing, and you can take them to small claims. Note that pet fees are usually non-refundable. Read your lease for more information on what yours was.

  • Chuck

    I have a tenant who moved cats in to the house without asking. The lease clearly states that no pets are allowed. He is now moving out. Am I allowed to keep part of his security deposit for the extra cleaning that will be required?

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Chuck,
      Use your best judgment here. You need to clean between tenants anyway, whether a cat lived there or not. So keeping part of the security deposit for cleaning is probably not a good enough reason. But if the cats damaged the property, then you could use security deposit funds to fix the damage. In any case, you need to provide an itemized list of damages and receipts to justify keeping all or part of a security deposit.

  • Michelle Woolridge

    If you have a service animal can your landlord (in this case apartment) charge the monthly per rent fee. I moved in a year ago paid a pet deposit and i pay Pet rent. My daughter Suffers from severe anxiety And would qualify for a emotional support animal. Wondering if i have Her animal registrered as a companion animal if that fee would be waived And eliminated from wherever i move Next.

  • Michelle Woolridge

    If you have a service animal can your landlord (in this case apartment) charge the monthly per rent fee. I moved in a year ago paid a pet deposit and i pay Pet rent. My daughter Suffers from severe anxiety And would qualify for a emotional support animal. Wondering if i have Her animal registrered as a companion animal if that fee would be waived And eliminated from wherever i move Next. I want To make sure she can keep her pet

  • Cheryl curtis

    I lived in my apartment for nine and a half years now they want charge me $300 more for my dogs is that illegal

  • Melissa Downing

    I want to move to an apartment that wants to charge 250.00 deposit for my cat I have a doctors notice for my cat as a compaion can it be waived.

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