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Are Non-Refundable Pet Deposits Legal?

Little dog on a chair in an apartment
By FindLaw Staff on November 06, 2019 2:29 PM

Your pet is part of your family, so it is easy to imagine that a landlord's pet policy may be the key factor when you are deciding which apartment to rent.

Because pets can potentially damage an apartment, it is common for landlords to charge tenants additional pet-related fees and/or deposits. But are landlords able to keep all of those pet-related charges once you move out?

In the case of pet deposits, the answer is typically: No.

Pet-Related Charges

Most landlords require you to put down a security deposit when you move into an apartment. If you damage the rental property, your security deposit gives the landlord the resources to cover the cost of repairs.

It is becoming more common for landlords to also require pet-related charges. There are many options for landlords and they may prefer one type of charge or a combination of charges. Pet-related charges might include:

  • Pet fees
  • Pet deposits
  • Pet rent

Pet Fees vs. Pet Deposits

The only real difference between a fee and a deposit is that a deposit is refundable. So, if a landlord requires you to make a pet deposit and your landlord does not have to make any pet-related repairs after you leave, the landlord must return the deposit to you. If a landlord refuses to return a deposit without a legally sound reason, you may have grounds for legal action.

Pet Rent

In addition to/instead of charging potential tenants pet fees or deposits, a landlord may require tenants to pay pet rent. For example, if a tenant must pay $1,000 a month for rent and the landlord charges $250 a month rent for pets, a tenant with a pet would have to pay $1,250 every month.

Tenant Rights: Pet Deposits

You have a right to see an itemized report of all the repairs and cleaning charges your landlord has made when getting your apartment ready for the next tenant. If your landlord does not use a security deposit, they must return it to you.

Additionally, some states have laws that prevent landlords from using pet-related deposits for any repair/cleaning/etc. that is not directly caused by a pet. Regardless, take the time to learn your rights.

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