If you allow tenants to have pets in order to broaden your applicant pool, you need to keep in mind the need to protect yourself from the possibility of additional damage that could be caused by the pets. Some states allow for a specific pet deposit that is separate from – and in addition to – the security deposit. If this is the case in your state, it is wise to take advantage of the chance to require additional funds to cover potential pet damage.
Other states require any pet deposit to be calculated with the security deposit to reach a total deposit that cannot exceed the state’s limit on security deposits. In this case, it’s not advisable to label and restrict a portion of the deposit to pet damage only. If your state falls into this category, and does not allow an additional pet deposit beyond the security deposit, you can consider the option of charging more per month for rent. As long as the increase in rent is consistent for all applicants with pets, this is a perfectly acceptable practice.
Caution: While pet owners, in general, are not considered a protected group when it comes to anti-discrimination laws, it is against the law to charge an extra deposit for a pet when the pet is a trained service animal. This shouldn’t worry you, however – remember, these animals are highly trained and are not typically left alone at home.