Owning a pet-friendly rental property comes with many advantages. Allowing renters to have pets can lead to greater tenant satisfaction, renewed leases, extra income, and access to a larger market of potential tenants. Depending on the state you live in, landlords can charge pet deposits, pet rent, and pet fees. But what is the difference between each type of payment?

What Is a Pet Policy?

Before getting into the details of each form of pet payment, landlords need to understand how to rent to a tenant with pets. If you’re allowing pets in your property, you must add a pet policy to your lease agreement. Your pet policy should clearly state the types of pets allowed, any weight limits, and the number of pets a tenant can have. The pet policy should also state any additional requirements, including vaccines and spay/neuter status. After stating general pet rules, your policy should then go into specific information about pet fees, deposits, or rent.

Pet Deposits vs. Pet Fees

The laws for pet deposits and fees vary by state, so always make sure to double-check and do your research before charging a tenant. One difference between a pet deposit and a pet fee is that deposits are refundable, while pet fees are not. If your state allows landlords to charge pet deposits and fees, the state might also have a maximum on the amount landlords are allowed to charge for each additional cost. It’s common for pet fees and deposits to range between $100 and $500, but this range varies from state to state. Depending on what is allowed, you might be allowed to charge both, but keep in mind that it is wise to choose an amount that is reasonable for renters and so you don’t limit your pool of potential tenants.

A pet fee is a one-time payment that acts as an admission fee for allowing the pet to stay in a rental. Pet deposits, on the other hand, are used for any damage caused by a pet, like stained carpet or scratched flooring. If a tenant’s pet causes damage, prepare an itemized list of repair costs to explain why you are keeping all or a portion of the pet deposit. Similar to other deposits, if the pet didn’t cause any damage, then the tenant must receive their pet deposit back in full.

What Is Pet Rent?

Unlike pet fees and deposits, pet rent is charged once a month. Pet rent can range from $10 to $100 per month depending on location. Note that the rate for monthly pet rent is also determined by how many pets live in a rental, along with the type of pets you allow on the property. For example, a tenant with a cat would be charged less than a tenant who owns two large dogs.

What Should I Charge?

Based on state laws, there are a variety of options landlords have when deciding to charge pet fees, deposits, and rent. It is possible for landlords to charge pet rent, a security deposit, a pet deposit, and a pet fee on top of the monthly cost of rent. But just because your state may allow landlords to collect all of these payments, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

Instead of charging a pet deposit and/or fee, only charging pet rent will increase your monthly revenue. Charging one-time move-in pet fees simply because it is allowed can create another financial obstacle for tenants and could deter them from renting your property. Here’s an example of a great recommendation:

  • Regular rent – market rate
  • Recurring pet rent ­­– your chosen rate per month based on local laws
  • Security deposit ­­– equivalent to one or two month’s rent

Can I Use a Security Deposit to Cover Pet Damage?

It is possible to use the security deposit to cover the repair costs for pet damage if you don’t charge a pet deposit or pet fee. If you decide to charge a pet deposit and/or pet fee, keep in mind that some states don’t allow landlords to use money from the security deposit for any pet damage. All of the repair costs must be deducted from the pet deposit or fee. Many landlords usually charge a security deposit and monthly pet rent to protect themselves. Security deposits can often cost more than pet deposits and fees, so choosing to charge for pet deposits and fees may limit you if you find major damage in your rental.

Are Pet Deposits Refundable?

Pet deposits are like security deposits. Depending on damages, pet deposits can be totally, partially, or not refunded at all. On the other hand, a pet fee is a one-time fee that is nonrefundable. If a tenant pays a pet deposit, some state laws don’t allow landlords to take damages caused by pets from the security deposit. When making deductions to the pet deposit, make sure to document any damages during the move-out inspection. If the tenant isn’t getting the full pet deposit back, send them an itemized list of damages and repair costs. For pet damages that go above and beyond the pet deposit, landlords need to check with their state laws on how to proceed.

Allowing your tenants to move in with their furry friends is a great choice for a number of reasons. Being pet-friendly not only allows you to earn extra income and widen your market, but you’ll also help innocent animals avoid placement in shelters. Whatever you decide to charge, you’re setting yourself up for success along your landlord journey, while also helping your tenants feel right at home.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pet Rent

Can landlords deny a pet?

Yes, landlords have the right to deny pets on their property. Unless it’s a service animal, landlords are within their rights to prohibit certain breeds, animals, or pets over a specific weight (or pets of any kind).

Is pet rent normal? Shouldn’t it be free to have pets in rentals?

Pet rent is common, but it’s up to the landlord whether to charge a tenant for pets. Landlords typically charge some fee associated with pets whether it’s rent, a deposit, a one-time pet fee, or a combination of the three. As a landlord, be mindful of not overcharging as you could lose potential tenants.

What happens if your tenant is hiding a pet?

If a tenant has an unauthorized pet, the landlord may be able to evict the tenant. If the situation gets rectified, the tenant may still be responsible for paying a fee. The penalties for an unauthorized pet should be clearly stated under the pet policy in the lease agreement.

Are emotional support animals excluded from pet fees and deposits?

Yes, service animals, including emotional support animals, are excluded from upfront pet fees. The only time a landlord can charge a tenant for a service animal is if the service animal causes damage to the property outside of normal wear and tear.