Tip #89: It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Pees on the Carpet
Trying to hammer out a policy for your tenants who want to keep pets can be daunting. The terminology is confusing, so here are some pointers to help you choose your best pet friendly policy:
Pet Deposit. A pet deposit is a segregated security deposit that generally can only be used for pet-related damage. Landlords using a pet deposit will also collect a security deposit. While pet damage can come out of both, general damages can’t come out of the pet deposit. A separate pet deposit is only recommended for landlords in states which restrict the amount the landlord can charge for a deposit, but at the same time allow the landlord to collect an additional deposit for tenants with pets. Otherwise, call the whole thing the security deposit and avoid an argument later on.
Pet Rent. If a landlord is restricted in how much they can collect for a security deposit, the only way to make that up is to charge more rent. Pet rent is simply an addition to the typical rent charged for that unit when a tenant doesn’t have a pet. The pet rent income may help the landlord recover for the increased wear and tear on the property because of the pet. Landlords under rent control and other housing restrictions may not be able to charge pet rent, so check with a local attorney before you stick that in your lease.
Pet Fees. Usually when a landlord refers to a pet fee, they mean either a pet deposit or pet rent, but in some cases landlords collect a one-time, usually nonrefundable fee that the tenant has to pay to bring a pet into a rental unit. Be careful with pet fees, because they are prohibited in some areas of the country.
Of course, with the exception of service animals, a landlord can always opt for a “no-pets” policy.
See last week’s Landlord Quick Tip.
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