Pet Rent vs. Pet Deposit vs. Pet Fees

LandLordStation.com Pet Rent

Determining whether to charge pet rent, a pet deposit or pet fees can be confusing for a landlord. At LandLordStation.com, we provide information to use when deciding on a policy for pets.

Brief Descriptions:

Pet rent is an additional amount of monthly rent charged in addition to pet fees and pet deposits. In some states, excessive pet rent is illegal so it is necessary to research state laws.

A pet deposit is an amount of money charged to a tenant who owns a pet. It is over and above the amount of the damage deposit on a rental. Pet deposits are refundable. There is no such thing as a non-refundable deposit. A deposit is a type of contract in which an item of value (the deposit) is held to be returned upon performance of a deed.

A pet fee is an amount charged because the tenant has a pet. A pet fee is non-refundable. It is necessary for a landlord to be familiar with state laws pertaining to pet fees. In many states, certain non-refundable fees are illegal. Fees can be counter-productive for a landlord. If a tenant knows up-front that the money will be kept regardless of performance, the incentive for good performance can be removed.

Extra deposits, fees and rental for pets are usually charged because a landlord fears that the amount of damage caused by a pet will exceed the amount of the normal deposit. By law, a landlord cannot discriminate against people but they can deny housing to animals. This does not apply to service animals. A landlord must rent to a tenant with a service animal or be subject to legal action. Landlords should create fair rules for tenants. If pets are allowed, the landlord should list specifically in the lease what the expectations are for pet behavior and tenant behavior regarding his or her pet. The landlord should also take the time to go over each requirement with the tenant prior to lease signing, as well as explain to the tenant why the requirements are in place.

Experienced property managers agree that basing a deposit, or fee, on the size of the pet does not make a big difference in the amount of damage that can be done to the property. An evaluation by a potential landlord should be made on a case-by-case basis. A landlord should ask to meet the pet prior to signing a lease. During the meeting it will become apparent if the prospective tenant controls the pet, and if the pet is relatively behaved.

Many landlords have concerns about insurance issues when pets are allowed on the property. Most insurance companies evaluate pets on an individual basis. If your insurance rate is higher because your tenant has a pet, you can pass the higher premium on to the tenant by adding it into the pet rent that you charge. Most tenants understand that and are willing to pay the extra amount.

We recommend that landlords make good pet ownership easy for the tenant. A property manager can point out areas for dog walks. A supply of waste baggies can be placed outdoors. Tenants can be given the number for a steam floor cleaner. In the long run, pointing out and offering solutions can help the landlord and the tenant alike.

One alternative to pet rent and pet fees is pet fines. A landlord would only charge a fine if a tenant or a pet fails to perform the provisions of the lease. A landlord should be familiar with the state laws pertaining to fines. Some states prohibit fines over an amount established by the state. Some large property-management corporations charge an extra pet deposit a nonrefundable pet fee and a monthly pet rent. It's accepted in industry circles that pets can serve as a revenue generator. Many independent property managers disagree with this way to generate income because it acts as a deterrent for good tenant behavior.

The following information includes data that comes from research done by the Foundation for Interdisciplinary Research and Education Promoting Animal Welfare or FIREPAW. According to FIREPAW research, approximately 70% of tenants have some kind of pet. Research shows that vacancy rates are lower when pets are allowed. If a unit rents for $1000 per month and is vacant for two months because no pets are allowed that is $2000 lost. That amount can buy a lot of new carpet. Some landlords charge a carpet replacement fee that is non-refundable. The tenant can relax and the new carpet installed at the end of the lease term. This will help the unit rent faster. Many pet owners love this option. FIREPAW studies have also shown that tenants with children actually cause more damage than tenants who only have pets. No one is suggesting that landlords discriminate against children because that is against the law.

Because so many people have pets, the pool of prospective tenants is much larger if landlords allow pets. Pet-friendly rentals attract so many prospective tenants that landlords can actually find better-quality tenants. In some surveys, tenants in pet-friendly rentals stayed an average of 46 months, compared with 18 months for those in rentals prohibiting pets. Landlords who allow pets spend less time advertising and marketing their property. Pet friendly rentals rent much faster than rentals that do not allow pets. There are many free rental listings that attract potential tenants including pet adoption groups, shelters and veterinary offices. After subtracting for extra costs, such as insurance, the FIREPAW survey found that the pet-friendly rentals were able to generate substantially more rent per unit, per year.

With a well-written lease that clearly set expectations, reasonable pet rent and pet deposits can be charged. Pet fees are the least desirable, however, if they are legal and reasonable, most pet owners will pay them. When you factor in the variables, including the rental market in your area, you should be able to determine how much to charge for pet deposits and fee amounts.

LandLordStation.com provides a variety of sources of information on pet rent, as well as screening information for prospective tenants. Log onto our website and join our on-going conversations that include top real estate experts, attorneys, real estate specialists and more. Landlords can use the LandLordStation.com services to collect rent, pet rent, fees and deposits.

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