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The Ultimate Guide to Pet Deposits, Fees, and Rent

Last Updated: October 10, 2023

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Key Takeaways:

  • US pet ownership is on the rise, making pet-friendly rentals attractive for landlords.
  • To cover potential pet damages, landlords can charge pet deposits, fees, or monthly pet rent.
  • Incorporating pet-friendly policies not only offsets costs but also attracts responsible pet owners, fostering a welcoming atmosphere for tenants and their animal companions.
  • Did you know pet ownership in the United States is higher than ever? A recent survey by Forbes Advisor shows that pet ownership has more than doubled in the past three decades! Currently, roughly 86.9 million American households have at least one pet.
    Want to make your rental pet-friendly so that you can attract more tenants? Although pets come with risks, there are pet charges and payments that can help offset some of the costs. When done properly, having a pet-friendly property can be lucrative for your rental business.
    In this article, we will break down these pet charges so you can determine what works best for you and your property.
    Taking care of animals means accommodating different needs, habits, and personalities. There’s the risk that your tenant won’t take proper care of their pet, and your property could get damaged in the process. A few examples of pet-related damages are:
    • Torn curtains and broken blinds
    • Broken furniture or appliances
    • Damaged doorframes and trim
    • Scratches on the floors or walls
    • Holes in the lawns and garden
    • Stains from urine or feces
    • Holes in the walls
    • Flea infestations
    • Water damage
    Some types of pet-related damages are more noticeable than others, and the best way to check is by being thorough.

    All pet-related damages should be documented in a Residential Rental Inspection Report.

    When inspecting a home with pets, you might also have to get down to the pet’s level. Here are some more helpful tips for determining pet-related damages.

    Check for stains

    Inspect the floor closely for stains, usually caused by urine or feces. If you want to do a thorough stain search, consider using a black light–you might be surprised by what you find! Even if a tenant has wiped a surface down, the black light might show damage. You can also pull the carpets back to inspect the pad beneath.

    Look for bitemarks, scratches, and holes

    Dogs often leave bite or scratch marks on the doorframes, flooring, or walls. Cats jumping down from windows might scratch or break blinds. Cats can tear holes into window screens as well.

    Look for signs of water damage and mold

    Cats and dogs are even capable of causing water damage! This happens when they track their wet paws into the home, and moisture absorbs into the floor. Hardwood floors can become warped and lose their shape because of this.
    Spills from the pet’s water dish are another common reason for water damage. If left untreated, they can sometimes cause mold under carpets or rugs.

    Notice any signs of flea infestation

    Unfortunately, flea infestations are common in cats or dogs, especially if the tenant allows them to wander outdoors. Thankfully, flea dirt is easy to identify. It looks like small black specks in rugs or carpets.
    If you suspect your rental has a flea infestation, call an exterminator as soon as possible. If the tenant’s pet is the cause of the infestation, then the tenant could also be responsible for paying the extermination bill.

    Check for holes in the lawn or garden

    Dogs love to dig and can leave deep, noticeable holes in the lawn or garden, which can be an eyesore and a tripping hazard.

    Take photos of any damages that you find

    Make sure to photograph any noticeable damage. If these damages exceed reasonable wear and tear, they'll require additional financial compensation to return the rental to a habitable state.
    That’s why charging a pet deposit or other fees is helpful.

    What is a pet deposit?

    A pet deposit differs from a refundable security deposit in that it only covers damage caused by pets. A pet deposit should not be combined with a regular security deposit, and some jurisdictions have specific rules for how pet deposits are handled.
    Once the tenant ends their lease, you should conduct a rental inspection to determine if there are any pet-related damages to the property.
    If there are none, you must return the pet deposit in full, like a regular security deposit.

    How much is a pet deposit?

    Typically, a pet deposit is between $200 and $500. However, some states limit the amount you can charge for both regular security deposits and those for pets. For example, in 2023, a bill was signed by the senate in Denver, Colorado, that reduces the amount of money that landlords could charge for pet deposits, capping it off at $300.
    Check to see if your state regulates pet deposits and other landlord fees. If it does, you might have to charge less than usual for a pet deposit or forego it altogether. Some jurisdictions may prevent you from charging extra fees outside of a security deposit.
    However, you might consider charging your tenant a pet fee if this isn't the case.

    What are pet fees?

    Some landlords charge a single non-refundable pet fee before the tenant moves in. Pet fees cost less than pet deposits.

    How much are pet fees?

    Pet fees usually range between $100 to $500.
    Since one non-refundable fee might not be enough to cover all potential damages, some landlords also require renter’s insurance. In this case, they might make including pet liabilities mandatory.
    If you’re concerned about not covering all your costs with a single non-refundable fee, then charging ongoing pet rent might be in your best interests.

    What is pet rent?

    Pet rent refers to an additional monthly fee added to the rent to accommodate a pet residing on the property.

    How much is pet rent?

    The price of pet rent often varies based on the number of pets and their species. Some landlords will calculate it between one or two percent of the tenant's rent.
    Unlike pet deposits or fees, pet rent is spread over time and can be used to pay for the mild wear and tear damage that animals often cause.
    However, landlords might also be subject to rent control and unable to add pet rent. This is an issue similar to claiming a pet deposit.

    Can I combine any of these payments or fees

    Here are a few states where you can combine pet deposits, fees, or rent:
    • California , as long as it doesn’t surpass two months’ rent total for unfurnished properties or three months’ rent for furnished properties. Note that Los Angeles and San Francisco both have rent stabilization and control programs in place, so you must adhere to these policies first.
    • Colorado , as long as it doesn’t surpass $300 for pet deposits. You are also limited to $35 a month in pet rent or 1.5% of the tenant's rent.
    • Florida landlords can charge pet fees, and the state doesn’t place a cap on pet deposits.
    • Georgia landlords can charge a pet deposit, pet fees, and rent. Pet deposits in Georgia are around $200 and can be used with a monthly pet rent of about $20 to $60 a month and a non-refundable pet fee of $300.
    • Illinois allows pet deposits and does not limit the amount landlords can charge for pet fees.
    • Texas landlords can accept pet deposits and fees, though lawmakers have proposed limiting how much landlords can charge for each.

    Check local and state laws before implementing pet deposits, fees, or rent.

    Can I charge for service and emotional support animals?

    No, charging additional fees for service or emotional support animals is illegal under the Federal Fair Housing Act. Landlords are also not permitted to ask whether the animal is a service animal.
    However, they can ask if the animal is necessary because of a disability and what tasks they are trained to perform.

    Can I restrict certain breeds from inhabiting my rental?

    Yes, you can implement breed restrictions as the landlord or property owner. You can also make restrictions on the following:
    • The types of pets allowed
    • The animal’s size
    • The number of pets allowed per unit
    Of course, landlords are also well within their rights to implement a no-pet policy. Make sure to include all the rules about pets in your Residential Lease Agreement so that your tenants know what’s allowed.

    Add a pet section to the Residential Lease Agreement

    The best way to be clear about your expectations about pets on the premises is to add a pet section to the lease.
    • Add a date for returning the deposit
    • Describe pets that you permit
    • Allow pets on the property
    • Charge a pet deposit
    • Charge a pet fee
    LawDepot’s Residential Lease template has space for additional clauses so you can add details unique to every tenant and pet.
    Do your tenants have pets?
    Document them in the Residential Lease Agreement
    Our customizable Residential Lease Agreement allows you to add guidelines regarding pets.

    Quick tips for landlords who allow pets

    Here are five more helpful tips to help you navigate having pets on the premises.
    1. Limit the number of pets allowed in the rental to limit the amount of damage.
    2. Require cats and dogs to be spayed or neutered to prevent spraying.
    3. Implement a cleaning policy for the regular removal of animal feces.
    4. Amend the lease , if necessary case-by-case.
    5. Ask for a previous landlord reference.

    A Lease Amendment form allows you to modify or change the current terms of a lease without having to create a new one.

    Allowing pets benefits landlords and tenants

    Implementing pet deposits, fees, and rent into the Residential Lease Agreement helps offset potential costs and prepares you for unforeseen damages or maintenance. By allowing pets as a landlord, you also create a welcoming environment for tenants with pets. In most cases, these tenants will be willing to spend a little extra to accommodate their animal friends.