Bill Gray – The Landlord Doctor

Insider Advice on Collecting Tenant Debt and Screening Tenants

Non-Refundable Pet Deposits Can Actually Cost You Money

Posted by Bill Gray on January 31, 2010

[tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false way in which you explain, or don’t explain pet deposits can cost you profit.  If landlords could spend just one day as a professional collector attempting to collect tenant debt, one of the top objections they would hear from previous tenants is about pets and pet deposits.

“The urine spots on the carpet are covered by my pet deposit” is one example of a tenant either intentionally or unintentionally misunderstanding the pet deposit.  Many pet deposits are non-refundable.  If this is not fully explained at lease signing, most likely the tenant will believe that the pet deposit is no different than the standard deposit he placed on the rental unit.

Most tenants understand that when they pay a rental deposit any damage they cause to the unit will be deducted at move out from their deposit.  If the non-refundable pet deposit is not fully explained, the tenant considers it the same as the rental deposit.

So when Fido has several accidents and soils the carpet, the tenant often will guesstimate that his pet deposit will cover the cost of cleaning it.  In reality the cleaning cost is deducted from his refundable deposit.  Imagine the difficulty a professional collector has on the telephone trying to explain the difference between a non-refundable pet deposit and refundable rental deposit.

This is not to say that a certain percentage of previous tenants have a convenient memory when it comes to the terms of the lease.  But I do believe that a good share of landlords do not take the time to fully explain the terms.  An initialed and signed pet addendum will go a long way in settling disputes after move out.

Use a clear, understandable pet addendum and explain it clearly before the new tenant initials and signs it.  Doing so will save you profit by reducing tenant debt when the tenant moves out.

Email me your tenant screening and tenant debt questions.

Bill Gray


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8 Responses to “Non-Refundable Pet Deposits Can Actually Cost You Money”

  1. PM said

    Is it legal for a landlord to charge both pet deposit and pet rent and neither of the fees are used for damages caused by the pet. They are claiming we paid $35 a month for 12 months and $400 pet deposit (non-refundable) and this was just for a privilege to having a pet on the premise. Our cat damaged the carpet and they will not apply any of the pet deposit towards the damage. We had to pay in addition to that $300 move in fee that is nonrefundable as well. I feel that this is unfair, how can an landlord charge me almost $1120 for just a privilege to having a pet. What is the legal limit for Virginia?

    • Bill Gray said

      Sounds like a typical lease agreement but without seeing it I could say for certain. If I were you I would closely read the lease and any addendums. After reviewing them you can decide whether your landlord has violated the terms of your lease. If he/she has, I recommend you consult a local landlord-tenant attorney.

  2. Bill, would you have a sample pet agreement that you could share with other landlords? That would be greatly appreciated if you have one.

  3. Hi Jennifer. I got a free pet addendum through American Apartment Owners Association. You can join as a free member and get the addendum for free.

  4. diane said

    Ok…so when I moved in the carpet was VERY close to needing to be replaced. After two years, I am sure they replaced the carpet. SO…if they claim they are charging me to “professionally” clean the carpets, but they are really replacing them…shouldn’t I have a recourse?

    • Bill Gray said

      Yes there is recourse. I would take the landlord to small claims court. As evidence, take your move in/move out inspection (signed by you and your landlord), before and after photos, and proof that carpet was replaced and not cleaned as your landlord states. I am not an attorney and do not give legal advice but this is what I would do if I were you.


  5. Liz said

    What if you charged pet rent as a fee collected monthly, but never specified the amount nor the purpose of the monies collected and the tenant is now claiming they were told it would cover damages? Is the fact that most fees collected in this manner sufficient to substantiate the intent of the fees collected or does the absence of an explaination in the lease agreement work in the tentants favor?

    • Bill Gray said

      I know some property managers charge a monthly rent for a pet. Normally rent is rent and not some type of damage deposit. Whether this will suffice for you will depend on your lease and your state landlord tenant laws. Have you talked with a landlord tenant attorney?


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