Pet Deposits: What Rental Property Owners Need to Consider

Welcoming pets into rental properties has become increasingly common, as property owners recognize the demand from tenants seeking homes that accommodate their furry companions. However, this accommodation comes with its own set of challenges, one of which is determining fair and compliant pet deposit policies.

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In this blog, we will delve into the nuances of pet deposits, emphasizing the importance of fair housing compliance for rental property owners.

Understanding Fair Housing Laws:

Before diving into the specifics of pet deposits, property owners must have a solid understanding of fair housing laws. These laws effectively prohibit any form of discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.

Considering Pet Deposits and Pets when Owning a Rental Property

  1. Pet Deposits vs. Pet Fees:

Firstly, it’s essential to differentiate between pet deposits and pet fees. Pet deposits are refundable, while pet fees are non-refundable. For fair housing compliance, it’s recommended to opt for pet deposits instead of fees, as fees can be perceived as discriminatory, particularly if they disproportionately impact tenants with disabilities who require service or emotional support animals.

  1. Reasonable Pet Deposits:

When determining the amount for a pet deposit, it’s important to keep it reasonable. Charging an excessively high pet deposit could be construed as a deterrent for tenants with pets, potentially leading to a violation of fair housing laws. A reasonable deposit should cover any potential damages caused by the pet but should not act as a barrier for pet-owning tenants.

  1. Consistent Policies:

Consistency is key when establishing pet-related policies. Apply the same rules and requirements to all tenants, regardless of whether they have pets or not. Inconsistencies can raise red flags and open the door to fair housing complaints. Also, you have to consider the request from people with disabilities to have assistance animals, even if you have no pet policy. Contact an attorney or industry expert for expert advice.

  1. Documentation:

All interactions and communications related to pet deposits should be documented for fair housing compliance. You should clearly outline the terms and conditions of your lease agreement, including the amount of the pet deposit, any specific rules regarding pet behavior, and how damages will be handled.

  1. Reasonable Accommodations:

Property owners must be prepared to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities who require service or emotional support animals. In such cases, it’s important to waive or modify pet deposit requirements as a reasonable accommodation under fair housing laws.

  1. Pet Screening Process:

Develop a comprehensive pet screening process to evaluate the suitability of each pet. This can include obtaining references from previous landlords, ensuring the pet is up-to-date on vaccinations, and checking for any history of aggressive behavior.

  1. Pet Insurance Requirement:

You might consider requiring tenants with pets to carry pet insurance. It can provide a layer of protection against potential damage caused by the pet and alleviate liability concerns for property owners.

  1. Pet Size and Breed Restrictions:

To maintain fair housing compliance, property owners should avoid outright breed restrictions, but they can still implement size restrictions to manage the impact of larger animals. Nevertheless, it is important that such restrictions be applied uniformly and without discrimination.

  1. Pet Addendums:

Add a pet addendum to the lease agreement that clearly outlines the pet-related terms and conditions. It should cover not only pet deposits, but also noise, waste disposal, and other considerations to prevent other tenants from being disturbed.

  1. Regular Inspections:

Make sure tenants with pets are adhering to the agreed-upon terms by conducting regular inspections. In this way, potential problems can be identified earlier and dealt with before they become more serious.

  1. Emergency Plans:

It is important for property owners to be aware of and accommodate tenants with pets during an emergency. As part of this, pet owners must be considered in evacuation plans, and emergency shelters must be pet-friendly.

  1. Education for Tenants:

Provide informational materials or conduct orientation sessions for tenants with pets. By educating them about the pet policies on the property, the community expectations, and local regulations, you can contribute to a more enjoyable and harmonious living environment.

  1. Refund Processes:

Clearly define the conditions under which the pet deposit is refundable. Typically, this involves the tenant fulfilling their lease term without significant lease violations and ensuring that the property is left in good condition, accounting for normal wear and tear.

  1. Communication Channels:

Establish open communication channels between property owners or management and tenants with pets. Encourage them to report any issues promptly and address concerns in a timely and respectful manner.

  1. Community Pet Events:

Foster a sense of community by organizing pet-friendly events or activities. This can create a positive atmosphere and encourage responsible pet ownership within the rental community.


Navigating the waters of pet deposits as a rental property owner requires a careful balance between accommodating pet-owning tenants and ensuring fair housing compliance. By understanding the nuances of fair housing laws, differentiating between deposits and fees, maintaining consistency, and providing reasonable accommodations, property owners can create a pet-friendly environment that is fair and welcoming to all tenants. Remember, a well-thought-out pet policy not only enhances your property’s appeal but also fosters a positive and inclusive rental community. Explore our website to get more free material resources like e-books, blogs, and webinar training from experts in the industry.

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