If you’re a renter who owns a pet, you’re likely familiar with the added fees associated with living with your furry friend. From pet deposits to pet rent, it can be confusing to understand exactly what each fee does and does not cover.
Many renters aren’t sure what exactly a pet deposit covers. Is it just for pet-related damages or are there other things that it can be used for? Will the type of pets you have affect how much a pet deposit costs? Furthermore, what is the difference between pet-related damages and normal wear and tear from pets living in a rental?
So, what does a pet deposit cover? Don’t worry, we’ll clear that up in a bit. But first, let’s clarify what a pet deposit is – and isn’t.
What is a Pet Deposit?
A pet deposit is a one-time charge, separate from a standard security deposit, that landlords or property managers require from tenants with pets. This fee is intended to cover any potential damages caused by the pet during the tenancy, and it’s an additional charge that renters are required to pay, usually at the time of signing a rental agreement.
A pet deposit is a refundable fee, and it is held by the landlord or property manager in case of any pet-related damages that require additional cleaning when the tenant vacates the rental unit. Landlords incur “make ready” costs for things like cleaning and repairs whenever a tenant vacates a rental unit, and a pet deposit is intended to offset some of those costs when a pet damages the property.
Pet deposits are refunded to the tenant at the end of the tenancy, provided there are no damages or additional cleaning required due to pets.
How is a Pet Deposit Different from a Security Deposit?
A pet deposit is different from a normal security deposit in two notable ways:
Purpose: A security deposit is intended to cover any damages or unpaid rent that a tenant may incur during their tenancy. A pet deposit, on the other hand, is specifically intended to cover any damages caused by the tenant’s pet.
Amount: A security deposit is usually a fixed amount, determined by the landlord or property manager, that is equal to one or two months’ rent. A pet deposit, on the other hand, can vary in amount, depending on the landlord or property manager’s pet policy. It could be a fixed amount or a percentage of the total rent.
How Much is an Average Pet Deposit?
The average pet deposit can vary widely depending on the landlord or property manager’s pet policy, location, and the types of pets allowed in their rental units. Some landlords charge a fixed amount, while others charge a percentage of the total rent.
Percentage of the rent: When a pet deposit is based on a percentage of the monthly rent, it is usually amounts to between 40 and 85 percent of the monthly rent cost.
Fixed amount: When it is a fixed amount, a pet deposit ranges anywhere from $100 to $500.
Are Pet Deposits Charged Per Pet?
This will depend on the landlord or property manager’s policy. Some landlords or property managers may charge a pet deposit per pet, while others may charge a single pet deposit regardless of the number of pets. In the latter case, expect that the pet deposit cost will be higher than average, because landlords may need to set an amount that should cover most situations.
Some landlords may also have a maximum number of pets allowed in the rental unit and charge a deposit for each pet over that limit. And some types of pets may require a higher pet deposit than others, because the cost of repairs after a tenant moves out may be higher. A very large dog is capable of doing more damage to an apartment than a hamster, for example.
Check with your landlord or property manager to understand their specific policy on pet deposits and how they are calculated.
Read More: Low-maintenance Pets for Apartments
What a Pet Deposit Does and Does Not Cover
When renting a property with a pet, you need to understand exactly what a pet deposit covers. This becomes especially important when it’s time to move out. Most landlords are honest and won’t try to use a pet deposit to pay for costs that it isn’t intended to cover, but you should still be aware of how pet deposits work as this can help avoid any confusion or disagreements later on.
Covered: Pet-related Property Damages
A pet deposit typically covers any potential pet-related damages directly caused by a pet during the tenancy. This can include things like:
- Chew marks on walls, doors, or furniture
- Scratches on floors, walls, or doors
- Stains on carpets or upholstery caused by pet urine or feces
- Odor caused by pets, such as pet urine or feces odors
- Excessive shedding of pet hair
- Any additional cleaning required due to pet hair or odors
- Damages caused by digging or scratching in the yard, if applicable
Not Covered: Wear and Tear Due to Pets
However, a pet deposit is not intended to cover regular wear and tear on the rental unit caused by a pet.
Some examples of regular wear and tear are:
- Minor scuffs or scratches on walls or floors
- Minor fading or discoloration of paint or wallpaper
- Minor wear on carpets or flooring
- Minor wear and tear on appliances or fixtures
Keep in mind that the distinction between pet-related damages and normal wear and tear can be subjective. Check with your landlord or property manager to understand their specific policy regarding pet deposits. If you’re unsure about something that your pet damaged, it’s best to ask your landlord what they consider pet-related damages versus what is considered normal wear and tear. If possible, get that clarification in writing – it may come in handy when it’s time to move out.
Not Covered: Damage from Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) or Service Animals
According to the Fair Housing Act (FHA), service animals and emotional support animals (ESAs) are not considered pets, and landlords cannot charge tenants any additional deposits or fees for having a service animal or emotional support animal live in their rental properties. This means that a landlord cannot collect a pet deposit to cover damage to the rental unit that a service animal or emotional support animal may cause.
Therefore, if a service animal or ESA causes damages to a rental unit, the tenant may be held directly responsible for the damages, and have to pay out of pocket to fund the repairs.
If the damages caused by the service animal are a direct result of the individual’s disability and not due to the animal’s lack of training or the tenant’s poor care, the landlord may be required to make reasonable accommodations, such as paying for the damages, as a way of ensuring that the tenant with a disability can fully use and enjoy the rental unit.
If your ESA or service animal causes damage to rental property where you live, and you’re not sure if you’re responsible for paying for the damages, we recommend that you consult with a legal professional for more detailed information on the laws in your state regarding emotional support and service animals.
Are Pet Deposits Refundable?
When it comes to pet deposits, one of the most common questions renters have is whether or not they are refundable. The answer is yes, pet deposits are refundable, so long as your pet did not cause any damage that is covered by the pet deposit during your tenancy.
That said, even though pet deposits are refundable, your landlord or property manager may keep a portion of it to cover any additional cleaning required due to your pet. Remember – the line between pet-related damages and normal wear and tear from pets is subjective. If your landlord withholds some or all of your pet deposit to pay for cleaning or repairs, you can request an itemized list of all of the cleaning fees and repair costs associated with making your apartment ready for its next occupant.
Read more: How to Get Your Pet Deposit Back
Is a Non-Refundable Pet Deposit Legal?
According to the legal experts at FindLaw, landlords or property managers are not allowed to charge a non-refundable deposit for any reason, including pet deposits. This means that the landlord or property manager is legally obligated to return a pet deposit to a tenant if no damages were caused by the pet during the tenancy. If a landlord refuses to return a pet deposit to you without a legally justifiable reason, this is grounds for taking legal action against the landlord.
Tenants Rights Regarding Pet Deposits
As a tenant, you have a legal right to review an itemized list of all the repairs and cleaning fees that your landlord has charged you when getting your apartment ready for its next tenant. If your landlord does not use your regular security deposit or pet deposit to pay for the cost of any cleaning or repairs, then they must return those deposits to you in full. Failure to do so is grounds for you to take legal action.
Some states have laws that prevent landlords from using pet-related deposits for any repair or cleaning costs that are not directly caused by a pet. Look into the specifics of landlord-tenant law in your state to learn more.
Pet Deposit FAQs
Can a landlord ask for a deposit for pets?
Yes, a landlord can ask for a deposit for pets. This is called a pet deposit, and it is an additional fee, separate from the standard security deposit, that landlords may require from tenants with pets. It is intended to cover any potential damages caused by the pet during the tenancy, and is usually paid at the time of signing a rental agreement.
Does every apartment require a pet deposit?
Not every apartment requires a pet deposit – it depends on the landlord or property manager’s policy. Some landlords or property managers may have a very pet-friendly policy and therefore not require a pet deposit, while others may have a strict policy and require a pet deposit either by itself or in addition to other pet fees, such as pet rent.
Does a pet deposit cover carpet damage?
Yes, but with some stipulations. A pet deposit can be used to cover damage that is directly caused by pets, above and beyond what is considered “normal wear and tear”. If a pet damages carpet more severely than what your landlord would classify as “normal wear and tear”, then a pet deposit may be used to cover some or all of the associated costs to repair or replace the damaged carpet. The distinction between pet damage and wear and tear is subjective – be sure to clarify with your landlord what they consider to be examples of each.
If I have renters insurance, is a pet deposit still required?
It depends on the landlord’s pet policy and also on what your renter’s insurance covers. Not all renter’s insurance policies contain clauses that cover damage due to pets. The key distinction here is between insurance coverage for personal property versus personal liability.
Personal property insurance provides coverage your belongings within your apartment.
Personal liability insurance provides coverage for any damage that you inflict on another person or their property while you live in the rental unit. If your insurance company offers pet liability coverage, it will fall under the personal liability provision of your insurance policy.
Regardless, a landlord may still require a pet deposit even if you have pet liability coverage and/or personal liability coverage.