Pet Fees for Apartments: How Much Should Property Managers Charge

Pets are cute, cuddly and improve the quality of life for people. But, they can also be messy and destructive. So, whether to allow pets in your apartment community is an essential decision for property managers to make.

About 70 percent of households own a pet, so being pet-friendly opens the door for more prospective renters, ensuring you rent your apartment more quickly. Not allowing pets in your units limits the number of potential tenants who would be interested in your property.

To protect yourself, your property and your tenant, it's a good idea to charge pet fees for apartments. These charges may include one-time fees or monthly payments and you should list them in your lease agreement.

What are pet deposits?

A pet deposit is a one-time charge for renters that may be refundable once the tenant moves out. Pet deposits cover any damage to the apartment caused by a pet, such as:

  • Carpet stains
  • Scratched floors, walls or windows
  • Chewed-up cabinets
  • Flea infestations
  • Holes in the yard caused by digging
  • Damaged landscaping

When a pet-owning tenant moves out, you should evaluate the apartment's condition and note any damage caused by the four-legged residents. Tally up how much it would cost to repair everything and determine whether the pet deposit covers it. Keep receipts for repairs. Refund any amount leftover to the tenant and send along an itemized list of repairs and costs. Also, refund the full deposit if there's no damage.

What is pet rent?

Pet rent is a monthly charge added to a rent payment to cover normal wear and tear from the animal. The extra rent charge covers expenses like carpet cleaning or yard maintenance. Pet rent is usually included in the total rent payment and isn't refunded to the tenant when they move out. The amount of pet rent often depends on the type and size of the pet and how many live in the home.

Puppy eating a pillow

What are pet fees for apartments?

Similar to pet deposits, pet fees for apartments are one-time payments, but they're not usually refundable. Renters pay pet fees before moving in as a sort of admission charge for their animals. The fees allow pets on the property and help cover any repair or maintenance costs linked to the furry friend.

Like pet rent, you can base the fee on the type and size of pet. Or, you can charge a flat rate for everyone. Just make sure you apply the policy consistently to all renters.

Are pet fees for apartments legal?

The legalities of pet fees for apartments — and pet deposits and pet rent — depends on the property's location. Each state (and sometimes county or city) has different laws governing rental property — including the pets that live in the home — so it's crucial to review what's allowed in your area.

Some states place no limits on how much property managers can charge for pets, while others have stipulations on pet charges. In some cases, you can set a refundable pet deposit but not a nonrefundable pet fee. Some property managers might charge more rent for tenants with pets to cover the expense. Many also charge a one-time pet deposit or pet fee along with pet rent.

Service animals are not considered pets, so you can't charge pet rent or pet fees for them. The same goes for support or assistance animals. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on disability and other factors. Even property managers who don't allow pets may be required to make reasonable accommodations to allow service animals. You can charge a security deposit to cover any damage caused by the animal.

How much should I charge for pets?

Property managers have the right to set rules and fees for pets. That might mean prohibiting certain types of animals or dog breeds or charging for them to live in the unit. Just be sure to check your local rental laws about any rules and requirements for pets and how much you can charge for them to avoid violating fair housing laws.

Whether you're charging a pet fee, pet deposit or pet rent, you must keep it reasonable to avoid turning off potential tenants. You also want to make sure you're covering any expenses that might come up. Here's a guide to help you set pet fees for apartments:

You might consider charging more for multiple pets, and the animal's size might factor in, too. A 70-pound Labrador Retriever can do way more damage than a goldfish, for instance. Make sure whatever you charge is enough to pay for any potential pet-related repairs, cleaning or other maintenance once the renter moves out.

Woman snuggling with her dog

Do I need a pet agreement?

Setting rules for pets may help prevent damage, and it also can keep everyone in the apartment community safe. You should put all rules — and the amount of pet fees, deposits and rent — in your lease agreement. You may also want to create a separate pet agreement that requires renters to provide:

  • Current vaccination records
  • Certificate of obedience training for dogs
  • Pet identification and medical records
  • Pet license
  • Referral letter from a vet or pet sitter

Include in the agreement how your tenant should pay pet fees, rent and deposits, and how and when they'll be refunded, if applicable.

Set specific rules for pets and be sure to provide tenants with a copy of these rules:

  • Proper waste disposal
  • Leash laws
  • Barking and noise disturbances
  • Restrictions on dog breeds

Don't forget to check local animal ordinances and laws and enforce them in your apartment community. The goal is to keep everyone safe while living there.

How to set pet fees for apartments

Letting pets live in your apartment community gives you access to a broader range of tenants. Just make sure you're protecting yourself, the tenant and all their neighbors in the process. Putting some rules in place and charging a fair pet fee, pet deposit or pet fee will ensure it's a safe, stress-free experience for everyone. The fees will also cover any damage caused by your new four-legged residents.

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Erica SweeneyErica Sweeney covers real estate, business, health, wellness and many other topics. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Good Housekeeping, HuffPost, Parade, Money, Business Insider, Realtor.com and lots more.

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