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Pet Deposits vs. Pet Fees vs. Pet Rent: The Landlord’s Guide


Pet-Related Tenant Fines

Nothing turns off your other renters and prospective tenants like dog poop all over the sidewalk or common areas.

Implement a zero-tolerance policy for residents who don’t clean up after their pets. Charge a $1,000 fine for failing to clean up pet waste immediately.

“But wait a minute, how do I know who’s to blame, if I don’t catch them in the act?”

Require all renters with pets to submit their pet for a cheek swab DNA sample at move-in. When you find a doggie landmine, bag it and mail it to a service like PooPrints. They’ll identify which pet it matches from the DNA database.

And if you catch an unregistered pet? Again, $1,000 pet fine. If a renter fails to pay the fine, serve an eviction warning notice, and then file if they still don’t pony up.

It might sound draconian, but you’ll probably only have to enforce these rules once. As soon as your residents realize you’re serious, they’ll clean up after their pets every single time.


Choosing How to Charge for Pets

As a landlord, you must consider several factors when implementing pet-related policies and charges. Keep these considerations in mind when choosing whether and how to charge tenants for keeping pets.

    • Local Laws: Research local and state regulations regarding pet-related fees and deposits. Some states place limits on the types or amounts of charges you can impose on tenants with pets. Local jurisdictions sometimes set their own laws governing pet charges along with other rent control measures.
    • Property Condition: Assess the current condition of your property and the potential risks associated with allowing pets. For example: aging carpeting presents a lesser loss if stained by a pet compared to brand new flooring. An evaluation of the age and condition of the elements of your property most vulnerable to pet damage can help determine the appropriate amount for pet deposits or fees.
    • Market Conditions: You can usually put your finger in the wind and tell whether buyers or sellers have the upper hand in the current real estate market. In housing markets where renters have many options, additional fees or rents instantly turn off most potential tenants with pets. In a more competitive market with housing in short supply, renters may be more willing to accept pet charges out of necessity.
    • Fairness: Treat all tenants consistently and avoid discrimination against tenants with pets. (Reminder: Federal law prohibits levying pet-related charges to any tenant with a service animal.) You may need to explain the reasoning behind your pet policies and any pet fees or deposits. Transparency and honesty about how and why you charge extra for pets can go a long way.


Is it Legal to Charge Both Pet Rent and a Pet Deposit/Pet Fee?

The rules governing this question vary state by state. Some states allow landlords to charge both an upfront pet deposit or pet fee and an ongoing pet rent. Other states typically require landlords to choose one or the other.

If you do want to collect both types of charges, the combined total you collect initially can’t exceed the legal maximum for a deposit, if your state has one.

For example, say your state caps the maximum pet deposit at one month’s rent. In that case, you can’t charge one full month’s rent as a pet deposit plus $25 per month in pet rent. You’d have to collect a deposit of $25 less than a full month’s rent in order to tack on the $25 monthly pet rent.

You may want to think twice before charging both pet rent and an additional deposit anyway. Aside from being wildly unpopular among prospective tenants, you also run the risk of confusing which charges cover what kinds of expenses, making a potential mess of the accounting process when it comes time to refund deposits.

Beware that the rules aren’t always clear regarding emotional support animals (ESAs). Read up on emotional support animals at rental properties for details.


Final Thoughts

Pet-related expenses can be a source of confusion and contention. Understanding the differences among pet deposits, pet rents, and pet fees and the distinct purposes they serve can help you protect your properties and offset potential costs while also creating a harmonious, pet-friendly rental experience for your tenants.

Clearly outline your pet-related policies in the lease agreements with your tenants. This includes specifying the type and number of pets allowed, the amount of pet deposits, pet rents, or pet fees, and any additional rules you have around pets on your property.

Ultimately, a transparent and fair approach to pet-related fees benefits both parties. Landlords can attract responsible pet owners, potentially increasing their pool of prospective tenants, while tenants can enjoy the company of their furry friends without undue financial burden.


How do you recoup extra expenses from tenants’ pets? Do you charge pet rent, pet fees, or pet deposits? Or all three? 


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