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The renter’s guide to pet deposits and fees

The renter’s guide to pet deposits and feesThe renter’s guide to pet deposits and fees
Renter tips
RentSpree Staff
RentSpree Staff
Calendar
January 2, 2024
time
5
 min read

Summary

You’ve found the perfect apartment that also accepts pets—but now you need to pay a fee or deposit before you can officially move in. In this article, we'll walk you through the difference between pet deposits, pet fees, and even pet rent.

An estimated 85 million homes in the U.S. have pets. While renters with pets are increasingly common, renting with a pet or multiple pets requires careful consideration. If you’re a pet owner, it’s important to understand pet fees, pet deposits, and even pet rent before you move into a new rental so you know exactly what to expect when you’re looking for a pet-friendly home. 

Pet deposit

Similar to a security deposit, pet deposits are a one-time refundable fee paid upfront to your landlord before you move in. A pet deposit ensures that any damage beyond normal wear and tear is covered at the end of your lease term. 

Pet deposits can range between $100 and $300. Before you write a check, it’s important to know that unlike security deposits which are legal in every state, pet deposits are not. In some states like California, a non-refundable pet deposit is illegal. If your pet hasn’t caused damage to your unit or the property, you can expect to have your deposit back in your pocket when your lease is over. 

Pet fee

Unlike a pet deposit, pet fees are non-refundable and are typically used to compensate for the general wear and tear caused by a pet, regardless of whether any damages occur. Depending on the property and potential pet damage risks, pet fees can cost up to $300 or more. Landlords implement these fees as a preventive measure, aiming to cover the general upkeep and maintenance expenses related to accommodating pets within the rental property.

Pet rent

In addition to deposits or fees, some landlords charge a monthly pet rent. Pet rent is an ongoing charge added to your regular rent and is meant to offset the potential costs associated with housing a pet. Landlords sometimes charge pet rent if the property includes pet-oriented perks such as access to a pet spa, a designated dog park, pet grooming services, or pet-friendly amenities. Typically, you can expect pet rent to cost you $10 to $50 extra per month.

Factors affecting pet deposits and fees

Type and size of pet

Even if a rental is pet-friendly, many landlords are particular about breeds and size restrictions. Larger pets or those known for being more active may pose a higher risk of causing damage to a rental property. For instance, large dogs may inadvertently scratch floors, damage doors, or cause more significant marks on walls compared to smaller pets. Animals known for chewing or digging behaviors, such as certain dog breeds or exotic pets, can also increase the risk of property damage. Considering these factors, some landlords charge higher deposits or fees to protect their property, maintain its condition, and ensure the comfort of other tenants. 

Number of pets

Pet owners know that the more animals in the house, the messier and noisier the space will be. Having more animals might result in more frequent cleaning needs, increased noise levels, and a greater chance of property damage. To account for these risks, your landlord may adjust the deposit amount or charge fees for each additional pet.

Tips for renters with pets

Prepare a pet resume

Sharing a pet resume along with your rental application is a great way to show your landlord your pet’s history and behavior patterns. On your pet resume you can include information like their vaccination status, whether they've been neutered or spayed, and even their breed and size. Adding a photo of your pet to the resume is also a nice visual to help your landlord get a sense of your pet's appearance.

Present pet references

Provide references from previous landlords to give your landlord peace of mind that you and your pet will be good tenants. If possible, you may even want to get a reference from a former neighbor, your vet, or a trainer who can vouch on behalf of your pet. A positive reference reassures your landlord that you’re a reliable pet owner and will take good care of the rental unit.

Review the property’s pet policy

Be sure to read the fine print in your lease agreement regarding your rental’s pet policy and terms. For example, are there designated pet-quiet hours? Are there weight or breed restrictions? Is pet insurance mandatory? Any pet-friendly property should clearly outline its policies in the lease. If you have any questions or concerns about the pet policy, always address them directly with the landlord. 

Document conditions

Before moving in, document the property's condition with photos or videos to differentiate between existing and any pet-caused damages at the end of your lease. Having clear documentation acts as evidence in case any disputes arise when you move out and can also help protect your security deposit from unjust deductions for damages that were not your responsibility.

Maintain open communication

Once you move in, always be transparent and inform your landlord about any pet-related incidents that cause damage or disturbances. Being honest demonstrates respect for the landlord's concerns and reassures the landlord that you’re committed to responsible pet ownership. Promptly notifying your landlord about any issues can minimize the extent of damages and potentially reduce repair costs. Open communication will also build a strong foundation of trust in your relationship with your landlord. 

Comply with policies

Compliance with all pet-related rules specified in the lease agreement paves the way for a smooth tenancy and minimizes the likelihood of conflicts or misunderstandings with your landlord. It also showcases your accountability and respect for the agreed-upon terms and contributes to a more pleasant and cooperative living arrangement. 

Routine maintenance

Regular upkeep of your rental unit helps preserve your apartment’s condition. But it involves more than just cleaning. Proactively prevent any damage by regularly cleaning up after and grooming your pet to minimize things like excessive shedding. Routinely cleaning up after your pet’s messes can often reduce the likelihood of stains or damage to carpets, flooring, or furniture.

Pet-proof your home

Pet-proofing your apartment will not only keep your pet safe, but will also keep your landlord happy. Use pet gates or barriers to restrict access to certain areas of the apartment that you want to protect. Use rugs or protective mats to prevent scratches on the floors, particularly in high-traffic areas or where pets spend most of their time. Consider buying a pet crate to provide a comfortable space for your pet when unsupervised and limit the areas they’re allowed to roam when you’re not at home.

Know your rights

The lease you sign before you move in is binding and so are the pet policies noted within it. Your landlord can’t suddenly change the terms or demand that pets aren’t allowed unless you violate an already agreed upon rule. 

According to The Humane Society of the United States, landlords are not allowed to remove your pet or force you to get rid of it. If your pet is a support animal, you also have a legal right to keep it depending on the type of housing you live in and your local housing laws. In the rare case that your landlord tries to evict you because of your pet, seek legal advice before you take action. 

Pet-friendly living made easy

Once you’ve been approved to move into your pet-friendly home, it’s time to pay up and managing your financial responsibilities for your pet is easy when you use RentSpree. With RentSpree’s Rent Payment, pet owners can make one-time payments like a pet deposit or fee, or even recurring monthly payments for landlords who require a pet rent. 

Ready to get started? Sign up for an account now. 

FAQ’s

Can I negotiate pet fees and rent with my landlord?

Yes. You can offer a larger pet deposit in exchange for a reduction in the monthly pet rent. To potentially eliminate pet-related fees, suggest extending your lease or [any other reasons we can include here?]. 

Can a landlord refuse my pet?

Yes. Landlords can deny a pet unless it’s a support animal. 

If I own a support animal do I still have to pay fees?

No. If you have a support or service animal, the Fair Housing Act states that you are exempt from paying any fees. However, you’ll need to show your landlord proof from a doctor or therapist that you need the animal for personal reasons. 

Will I be charged a fee if my pet is really small like a fish or hamster?

In most instances, you will not be charged a fee but it’s still best to check with your landlord before moving in.

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