Can Landlords Charge Non-Refundable Pet Deposits?

By Tenant

For the pet lovers like myself, let me ask you this: would you agree with me when I say that it is becoming very difficult to actually care for pets without getting punished by all those fees?  The apartment I’m renting has agreeable terms when it comes to pet deposits.  But because of work, I have to move to another state and thus, I am looking for an apartment to rent.  Of course, I will be bringing my pets with me. I have a dog and two cats.  The problem is, in landlord is asking for $250 pet deposit, $300 Non-Refundable pet fees and a $25 pet rent per month.  I didn’t think this was fair or even legal.

To cut the long story short, I filed a complaint against that apartment even if I did not really continue renting there.  The complaint was mainly to warn other pet lovers like myself about that apartment complex.

For your guidance, I thought of sharing the following facts about pet deposits.

  • Is pet rent legal?

In all states, pet rent is legal as long as there are no discriminatory reasons why you are being charged this additional rent.  Example of a discriminatory reason is that you are being charged pet fees because of your race, color, age, and sex and so on.

  • Is it legal to charge pet rent and pet deposit?

A pet deposit pertains to the money that you pay up front to ensure your landlord that there is coverage in case your pet damages the property.  So just like your security deposit, the pet deposit is a one-time fee.

On the other hand, the pet rent is paid on a monthly basis and it covers the mere presence of your pet in the apartment complex.  In some states, that rent is required because by law, pets are not allowed in an apartment complex.  The only exception to this is if the pet is necessary for your functioning or if they are service pets.  In some areas, pets are even considered as privileges.

  • Are non-refundable pet fees legal?

The answer would depend on your state.  So you’d have to check your local tenant laws.  Do not just believe everything on the lease because sometimes landlords would have their attorneys draft the lease to their advantage, with or without consideration of the existing tenant laws in your state.

However, know that in Massachusetts that fees are illegal.

If you don’t want the many pet fees and still keep your pet, then that is also possible.  This is because there are apartment complexes that are built to be pet-friendly. In these apartments, there is a wide lawn for pets as well as a pet playground.  The only catch is that these places are usually more expensive than the regular apartments.

Another option would be to rent a home or a private townhouse.  These places are usually more agreeable when it comes to pet fees.

Of course, it may take some time before you would find that perfect place for you and your pet.  Again, if you feel discriminated when looking for an apartment or if there is something in the lease that is contradicting your state and local laws, feel free to file a complaint and let others know about it. Here is the link that I used when I did that:

Edited on: Friday, April 24th, 2015 7:18 pm

11 Responses to “Can Landlords Charge Non-Refundable Pet Deposits?”

My response: (We welcome stories, examples, explanations, answers and a touch of your personality)


February 8th, 2013 5:20 pm

Yes, I noticed that it’s now more difficult to find a place for me and my pets with all these fees involved. Politicians don’t seem to be helping. Maybe animal right groups will, what do you think?


February 9th, 2013 1:00 pm

I used to have a landlord who charged $500 for pet fee. It was outrageous, right? And he said it’s actually pretty low. Isn’t he insane? Well anyway, I have a toy poodle and he’s really small so that would remove all possibilities of extensive damages. Even if I’m not at home, I keep him in a box so he couldn’t climb out. I say, there should be like a clause in the lease agreement wherein pets are identified on their size and characteristics before fees are charged.


February 10th, 2013 8:40 am

Well, whatever we say that still doesn’t change the fact that we’re tenants and we have to pay the rent or we’ll get evicted.


February 11th, 2013 4:20 am

I’m saving as much as I can to buy myself a home soon! I can’t wait to be a homeowner again. Even today, I am imagining what life would be like to own a home and just witness how my pets would have freedom to move around.


February 12th, 2013 12:00 am

If the fees are outrageous, would you consider renting pet-friendly spaces instead? I mean, it’s either you pay the high upfront fees first or you pay the high monthly rent in these pet-friendly apartment complex. So which would you prefer?


February 12th, 2013 10:40 pm

Right. The reason landlords charge hig amounts could be because of previous experience. After all, the law does not really limit landlords on how much they charge?at least in my state. I don’t know in yours. So I would say I’d go with the option with the higher upfront costs than pay soo high every month until my lease is up.


February 13th, 2013 6:40 pm

Reading all your comments, I’d say I’m lucky then. In the apartment complex where I live here in Dallas, we get charged $250 for pets but that’s it. There are no rent fees or any other pet fees included.


February 14th, 2013 2:20 pm

As a landlord, I would like to explain why I’m charging pet fees. Pets do not really do normal wear and tear. They do damages. Period. So as a businessman, I would need to protect my business. Thus, I charge a pet deposit and pet rent. However, I don’t charge a non-refundable pet fee because I think it’s already an overkill. But in most cases, the pet deposit is not even enough to cover all the damages pets leave. In most cases, we would still need to charge our tenants extra, especially if the damages are really, really extensive.


February 15th, 2013 10:20 am

Yeah, I understand. Landlords got to do what you need to do but I just hope other landlords could be as reasonable. We love pets and I hope we don’t get punished for loving them. Anyway, our pets are domestic so they can be trained. It’s not like we?re keeping wild gorillas or elephants in our apartment.


February 16th, 2013 6:00 am

If you can afford, go for rent to own properties. Soon, you’ll have your own home and your pet will be free. That’s the only advice I can give to a similar homeowner like me.


June 11th, 2013 1:30 pm

I have a question about the non-refundable fee – we paid it and at move out (they did the walk through without any of us present) then sent us a bill for $384 to replace the carpet – i called and was told their carpet people had “special” urine detector tests that our carpet failed – however they will NOT apply the $250 upfront fee to the damage – we have pay out of pocket – is this legal?


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