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Differences between pet deposits, pet rents, and pet fees 

Finding a pet-friendly apartment can make renting a tad more complicated — and expensive with extra pet deposits, fees, and rent. According to the 2019-2020 APPA National Pet Owners survey a whopping 84.9 million American households own a pet. 

And during Covid, there’s been a mini ‘fur baby boom’ while we’ve all been under lockdown.  If you’re like us, you love your furry babies too and consider them a part of the family.  So, here’s a breakdown, “Pet renting 101” if you will, on the extra fees you need to know about when renting with pets.

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Is the apartment pet-friendly? 

When you’re apartment hunting with pets, the first thing you should do before applying is to confirm that the property allows pets.  Once you’ve confirmed that pets are allowed you’ll need to know how much it will cost to rent with your animal.

There are three different types of pet charges to look for: Pet deposits, pet fees, and pet rent. Some landlords may charge all three and some may charge just one. 

What is a pet deposit? 

A pet deposit is similar to a regular security deposit except it is exclusively used to cover damages caused by your pet. It is refundable, just like your security deposit, and the amounts that it is legal to charge varies depending on which state you live in. 

If you’re being charged a pet deposit, that final walk-through with your landlord is even more important for determining what if any damage there is to your apartment on move out and what caused the damage.  If damage is determined to have been caused by your pet that your landlord needs to repair they should provide you with an itemized list of the damage and how much they are subtracting from your pet deposit to fix it.  It is not legal for them to take it out of your security deposit, so if your landlord determines the pet damage is more than your pet deposit, they will have to cover the costs themselves.

What is a pet fee? 

A pet fee is a one-time, non-refundable fee charged as part of your move-in costs. Most states also regulate how much landlords can charge you so make sure you aren’t being overcharged.  States may or may not regulate whether landlords can only charge one or the other type of fee or both so it’s important to research the laws by .

What is pet rent? 

Pet rent is charged once a month and is non-refundable.  Pet rent is usually determined by a set amount per animal which can sometimes vary depending on how many and what type of animals you have.  Some states, such as Oregon, are beginning to play with the idea of limiting charging additional rent or pet rent for possession of pets.

Why am I being charged both a pet deposit, pet fee, and pet rent?

Many landlords understand that allowing renters to have pets widens their pool of potential tenants as well as improves renter happiness. But it also increases the likelihood of damage to their property.  And, unfortunately, renters who are not responsible pet owners and allow their pets to excessively damage their apartment tend to make landlords understandably wary of allowing pets. There is a common misconception that landlords charge extra for owning a pet but that’s not the case. They actually charge to protect the damage to the property by pets.

In comes the pet deposit, pet fee, and pet rent. Some landlords can and will charge all three fees.  But there are some states, such as California, that do not allow landlords to charge more than a specific amount for deposits.  So if they are already charging you the max amount for a security deposit they aren’t allowed to tack on extra charges like a pet deposit.  You may also see variations in the rules across cities.

In truth, landlords are better off charging one large security deposit than charging a pet deposit, because, as we mentioned above, if damages are specifically caused by a pet they can only be recouped from the pet deposit and/or pet fee and they cannot touch your security deposit.  If your pet were to do more damage than the pet deposit covers, they cannot legally use your security deposit to pay for the remaining cost of repairs.  If they only charge a security deposit they can use it to cover all damages pet or non-pet related.

Non-refundable pet fees and monthly pet rent, on the other hand, are ways for landlords to increase their revenue as well as have extra cash to cover apartment repairs, provide doggie bags, address pet-related landscape damage, and so on. 

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Which costs more to rent with — a cat or a dog?  

Cats are usually less expensive than dogs.  Cats are generally cleaner and don’t create havoc to landscaping.  That being said, it only takes one cat with a pee issue to destroy a carpet and even the subfloor if cat urine soaks through to it. Pet-friendly landlords do tend to have sliding scales on something like pet rent. Your cat may run you $10-$25 a month while your St. Benard will cost from $30 – $100 a month depending on where you live.

What are the average amounts for a pet deposit, pet fee, and pet rent? 

The amounts charged for each kind of fee can vary drastically from state to state.  In general, however, the average pet deposit is between 40 and 85 percent of your rent, pet fees average around $115, and monthly pet rent average is between $10 and $20 depending on the type and size of your animal. A study by PetFinder also found that the average rent paid by pet owners was 20 percent higher than their non-pet owning counterparts.  

Prices vary but this is a sample of what we see across the country.

CityAve rent for 2bdrAverage Pet depositAverage Pet feeAverage Pet rent
San Francisco, CA$2698$500$100$57
Portland, OR$2167$247$200$35
Cleveland, OH$1556$200$250$30
Phoenix, AZ$1480$275$250$35
Dallas, TX$1823$288$300$20
Minneapolis, MN$1848$225$225$50
San Diego, CA$2615$132$200$44

To determine if you are being charged fairly for your pet, you should look into city ordinances as well.  Many larger cities are eliminating pet deposits all together so you may find just pet fees and pet rents being charged.

Is there such a thing as too many pets?

We know that for many pet lovers there is a secret wish to live in a Disney movie skipping through the forest singing songs with our magical forest friends…. (we’ll pause here while you imagine it for a sec).  Okay, reality button pushed.  Probably yes, there is such a thing as too many pets. But let’s break the question out into smaller chunks.

– Can I have more than one pet in an apartment?  

The answer to this question will almost always be found in the terms of your lease.  If your landlord is allowing animals, then most of them have included a limit.  And whether you are moving in with five labradors or you adopt them one by one while living in your apartment it’s important to notify your landlord of every pet you have living with you.

Many apartments will limit you to two or three animals.  Landlords do not want zoos on their property.  The more animals you have the more damage is most likely being done to their property.  Conversely, the more animals you have the more you will pay in monthly rent. $25 a month in pet rent for one dog turns into $125 a month in puppy love, by the fifth dog. Total it up for a year you are out $1500. Ouch!

– Is pet rent negotiable?

It never hurts to ask.  But, if pet rent and pet deposits are written up in a lease then chances are there is not going to be a lot of wiggle room in there.  Some landlords may adopt sliding scales of what they charge based on size, breeds, type of animals, number of animals, etc. 

– Fish are pretty harmless, what’s the big deal about having a fish?

You may be surprised to see that fish are often off the menu (err, so to speak) when it comes to what you can bring into your pet-friendly apartment.  That’s because of the concern over water tanks leaking or breaking and creating water and mold damage, which could be hefty when considering a 100-gallon tank, for instance.  Don’t be surprised if you see pet fees or pet deposits that go up incrementally per number of gallons your fish tank holds.

– Why is my pitbull not allowed?

Pitbulls and other breeds that are seen to be aggressive, like Rottweilers, for example, do get a bad rap, unfortunately.  Many landlords don’t want them around because of liability concerns to other tenants.  Their insurance also may not cover them if they allow Pitbulls or you may be required to get extra liability insurance under your renters insurance policy in case your pitbull bites someone.

Can my landlord charge pet rent for my pet if it’s an emotional support animal (ESA)? 

No, your landlord cannot charge you a pet deposit, pet fee, or pet rent for your emotional support animal.  Under federal law, if you have an ESA it is no longer considered a pet.  Landlords cannot deny your rental application because you have an ESA.  They cannot deny you based on the type of animal or size nor evict you if your doctor prescribed you your ESA while living at the apartment.  

Just because they can’t charge you a pet deposit, however, doesn’t mean that you aren’t responsible for any damages your ESA caused.  Read our, Complete guide to renting with an emotional support animal ESA to learn more.

Are pet deposits refundable? 

The best thing that you can do to make sure you get your pet deposit back is to be a responsible pet owner.  This means addressing medical problems, proper feeding and watering, exercise, and cleaning up after your pet.  

Ways to make sure you get your pet deposit refunded: 

  • Exercise your dog:  If you have a dog then exercise is vital.  The more you tire your dog out the less bored your dog is.  The less bored your dog is, the more likely he is to take his boredom out on the apartment.
  • Quick cleanup:  If your pet has an accident on your carpet don’t wait around to clean it up.  Waiting increases the likeliness of permanent stains as well as bad smells.
  • Kennel train your dog:  Kennel training your dog will save you loads of headache if you have a nervous dog or one that easily bores.  When you leave your apartment you’ll feel much better knowing your dog is kenneled at home and not getting into trouble.
  • Scratching posts:  If you’re a cat lover, be sure to provide plenty of scratching outlets for your little feline devil.  Consider area rugs to keep your cat claws out of the apartment’s carpets as well as scratching pads for doors.
  • Steam clean the carpet: Consider steam cleaning the carpet after you move out.  If you’re fast, it could cost you less than $50 bucks to clean your carpet and potentially save you from costly charges from your landlord if you have a ‘problem child’ pet.

Read here for more information on getting your pet deposit back.

Top 5 reasons pet deposits don’t get returned

  1. Damaged carpets
  2. Scratched up woodwork
  3. Water damage from leaking tanks
  4. Damaged window and door screens
  5. Scratched up doors

Our final meow

85 million American households and counting are turning the tide in favor of pet-friendly apartments.  But, those extra pet charges can feel unfair when they hit us hard in the wallet, dang it!  Pet-related damages can add up for landlords though and there are some pretty good reasons why they charge us for them. The important thing to remember is to research the laws in your state and city to make sure you aren’t being overcharged. Rent well and pawsper!

A quick note! Our goal is to gather and share info that’s up-to-date and helps you make great decisions as a renter. That said, the information you get directly from a provider could be a little different. Make sure to review their terms and conditions directly; and, if you see anything here that needs to be updated, please let us know! Advertising disclosure
Last Updated: May 13th, 2024