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Tips & Guides / Pets

Renting 101: The Purpose of a Pet Deposit

By Bri Hand

Finding the perfect rental home can be tricky, but when you throw a furry friend into the mix, the process involves a few more steps than you would expect. 

Why is that? The answer is simple: A pet is a family member, and essentially another tenant. While your four-legged roommate may not be able to sign the rent check, they do contribute to other aspects of apartment life, such as the condition of the property.

To avoid paying costly, out-of-pocket repairs or cleaning fees, a landlord or property manager of a pet-friendly apartment may require their tenants to provide a pet deposit. If you’re interested in learning more about animal-friendly rentals, read on for everything you need to know about pet deposits.

What is a pet deposit?

Simply put, a pet deposit is a one-time payment a tenant makes to house an animal in their rental property. 

If you already have a pet prior to moving in, you’ll typically pay your pet deposit when signing your lease. Existing tenants who become pet owners during their lease may be required to pay a pet deposit before moving their animal into the rental property. 

Of course, the specifics of this timeline can vary from property to property. 

Is a pet deposit refundable?

Pet deposits, like security deposits, are typically refundable. This is because a pet deposit will generally act as a security deposit for only pet-related damages. 

When you’re nearing the end of your lease term, your landlord or property manager will conduct an inspection prior to moving out. If there are little to no damages caused by your pet at this time, you may be eligible for a refund of your pet deposit. 

Renter’s tip: It’s important that you ask whether or not the pet deposit is refundable before signing your lease. This guarantees all parties are on the same page.

Pet deposit vs. pet fee

Now that you’ve gotten the gist of a pet deposit, let’s break down some other fees you may come across in your rental search. Specifically, we’ll compare pet deposits and pet fees.

What is a pet fee? This is a recurring charge (or set of charges) required by some landlords for tenants who own pets. 

Pet fees are not refundable and will typically be charged on a monthly basis.

Renter’s tip: Most rental properties will either have a pet deposit or a recurring pet fee. The details will be outlined in the lease or on the initial rental application. In some instances, the pet fee is baked in to the rent.

What is pet liability coverage?

Seasoned tenants who are new to the pet world may be wondering how renter’s insurance helps. First off, renter’s insurance is required by many long-term rental properties. There are two main types of renter’s insurance policies: personal property and personal liability. 

Here’s the difference:

  • Personal property: This type of insurance provides coverage for your belongings within the apartment. You can think of this as similar to homeowners insurance, but without including the actual structure of the home—since this is the landlord’s responsibility.
  • Personal liability: This type of insurance provides coverage for any damages you inflict on another person or their property while living in a rental. This type of coverage will protect you from expensive out-of-pocket repairs or even lawsuit costs in more severe cases.

So, what about damage caused by your four-legged companion? 

Some insurance companies offer something called pet liability coverage, which will fall under the personal liability coverage of your policy. This type of insurance is designed to cover any damage or injury your pet may cause.

Renter’s tip: Some insurance companies may have limitations on the type of pets they cover, particularly when it comes to larger dogs or certain breeds. Always inquire about the specifics of pet insurance, and ask your landlord whether it’s required, before finalizing your policy.

How much will a pet deposit cost?

When it comes to pet costs and rental fees, the numbers are going to vary. This is mainly due to three factors:

  • The state you live in: Every state has a different set of laws regarding pet deposits and fees. Your individual state will have certain restrictions on how much a landlord can charge a tenant for having a pet. It’s also worth noting that some states allow landlords to use a tenant’s normal security deposit to fix pet damages, while others have strict laws prohibiting this practice.
  • Your landlord: Every landlord is going to have their own policies regarding pets as well. Within the confines of a state’s rental laws, landlords have some freedom when deciding how much to charge for a pet deposit. Some rental properties may not allow pets at all depending on the preferences of the landlord or management company. Other rental properties have pet amenities within the complex.
  • The number of pets you have/what breed they are: Rental properties often charge different deposits depending on the type of pet you have. While a tenant with a cat or a small dog may pay a small deposit, a tenant with multiple large dogs will often be charged more for living in the same building.

With this in mind, you can get an estimate for your pet deposit total based on averages. 

A study conducted by PetFinder found that most pet deposits for long-term rentals come out to about 40% to 85% of your monthly rent. So, if you’re living in a rental property that costs $2,300 per month, your pet deposit might be anywhere from $920 to $1,955.

Short-term rentals, on the other hand, are a whole different situation. 

A separate study, conducted by 2ndAddress in 2019, found that the average pet deposit for short-term, furnished rentals was only around $50 in total. Some properties charged an additional cleaning fee, which averaged out to $120, as well. These totals come out to be significantly lower than that of a long-term, unfurnished rental property.

Renter’s tip: If you’re looking to save money on pet deposits, try finding a pet-friendly, short-term rental. 

Does every apartment require a pet deposit?

No, not exactly.

As noted above, every state has different laws regarding pet deposits and rental properties. While normal security deposits are legal in every state, pet-specific deposits are only permitted in certain states. Most states have little to no statute on pet deposits, with only a limitation of “reasonable” charges. 

Below are the only states where specific laws and policies apply to pet deposits:

  • Arizona: Arizona only allows landlords to charge non-refundable pet deposits. 
  • California: California landlords are only allowed to charge refundable pet deposits. Non-refundable pet deposits are illegal.
  • Delaware: Delaware landlords can only charge up to one month’s rent for a pet damage deposit.
  • Florida: A non-refundable fee for pet deposits is considered customary in Florida.
  • Georgia: Non-refundable pet deposits are considered customary in Georgia.
  • Hawaii: Additional pet deposits are not allowed in the state of Hawaii. A landlord may only collect the first month’s rent and security deposit from a tenant—pet owner or not.
  • Kansas: Kansas landlords can only charge up to half of one month’s rent for a pet deposit.
  • Montana: Only refundable pet deposits can be charged in the state of Montana.
  • Nebraska: Nebraska landlords may only charge up to 25% of one month’s rent for a pet deposit.
  • North Carolina: Non-refundable pet deposits are allowed, but they must be deemed “reasonable” by the state.
  • North Dakota: A North Dakota landlord may increase the security deposit for a pet-owning tenant up to $2,500 or two months’ rent (whichever is the greater number).
  • Oregon: Non-refundable fees are permitted in Oregon as long as they are not excessive in relation to the cost of repairs. 
  • South Dakota: A security deposit may only exceed state limits under special conditions in South Dakota. These special conditions must pose a serious risk to the property, and all parties must agree on the total deposit beforehand. 
  • Washington: Non-refundable pet deposits are allowed in Washington if they are clearly defined in the lease agreement.
  • Wyoming: Non-refundable pet deposits are permitted in Wyoming if defined in writing prior to accepting the deposit. The lease agreement must indicate any non-refundable portion of the security deposit, as well.

Any other state that is not listed above will most likely allow landlords to charge pet deposits.

What if you have an emotional support animal?

According to the USA Service Dog Registration, the laws regarding service animals are not the same as a regular pet when it comes to rental properties. 

Under the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, landlords and property managers must make reasonable accommodations to no-pet rules for tenants who have emotional support or service animals. This includes the requirement of a pet deposit.

In order to qualify for an emotional support dog, one must be prescribed this resource by a mental health professional (such as a therapist, psychiatrist, or medical doctor). Service animals also fall into this category, such as a seeing eye dog for a tenant who is visually impaired.

Find your new, pet-friendly Landing today

Being a pet parent is a full-time job, but it’s probably not your only job.

If you’re traveling with a pet, Landing is here to help. Pet parents looking to find a short-term rental in a new city can find animal-friendly properties in over 200 cities throughout the U.S. Browse our available pet-friendly apartments today, or contact us to learn more about what a Landing membership can do for you.

Bri Hand published on August 9, 2021