A pet deposit is a one-time fee landlords can ask tenants to pay to mitigate the cost of property damage and losses caused by their pet(s).

What is a Pet Deposit?

An Essential Property Management Term

A pet deposit is a one-time fee landlords can ask tenants to pay to mitigate the cost of property damage and losses caused by their pet(s). Some states and counties don’t allow landlords to charge a pet deposit, so be sure to check your local landlord-tenant laws.

Also, owners of emotional support animals and service animals cannot be charged additional fees, including a pet deposit, per the Fair Housing Act.

Is a Pet Deposit Refundable? 

Typically, the pet deposit is refundable if there’s no additional damage beyond normal wear and tear.

If there is additional damage caused by the pet (such as urine stains, destroyed carpeting, scratch marks on the walls, etc.), you can use the pet deposit to make repairs. However, you can only use the pet deposit to repair damage from the pet. If your tenant broke the dishwasher on their way out, you would use their security deposit to pay for the repair – not their pet deposit. 

Also, you’ll need to provide an itemized receipt for charges made against the pet deposit just as you do for security deposits.

Pet Deposit vs. Pet Fee: What’s the Difference?

A pet fee is a one-time, nonrefundable charge to allow the tenant’s pet to live in the rental unit. A pet deposit is usually refundable, and you must provide an itemized statement of charges if you have to keep any or all of the deposit.

Unless local laws say otherwise, you can elect to charge both a pet fee and a pet deposit. 

What is the Average Pet Deposit for Renters?

On average, a pet deposit costs between $200-$600.

The Benefits of Charging a Pet Deposit

By requiring your tenant to pay a pet deposit, they’re even better incentivized to prevent pet damage – particularly if your pet deposit is refundable. To widen your applicant pool, we highly recommend making this charge reimbursable. 

Also, since you know you have money set aside to cover pet damages, you’ll rest easier having a four-legged renter on property.

The Drawbacks of Charging a Pet Deposit

Similarly to a regular security deposit, you must be careful not to mishandle pet deposit funds. That’s why your itemized statement to report damages and costs is so crucial. Additionally, you can’t use pet deposit funds to fix anything that isn’t pet-related. If the pet deposit doesn’t cover all the required repairs from Fido’s tenancy, you can’t use any security deposit funds to pay the rest.

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