Pet Fees + Pet Deposits + Pet Rent = Petposterous

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It’s often been said that “[animals are] man’s best friend.” Women, too–they are also tight with animals. Many people have and own their own animals in addition to consuming different types of animals, and they are generally very protective of the welfare of the ones they are not consuming.

Animals have generally been shown to have various emotional and social benefits. However, animals, primarily cat and dog, do come with a cost. Damn near every strip of boulevard in Loring Park and other denser neighborhoods look terrible. Check out this patch of grass in Olde St. Anthony:

Dog BoulevardsAnd it’s not just the little yippie dogs.

Cats also can cause limited property damage owing to their curiosity and the apparent attitude re: declawing in today’s charged political environment.

Nibbler Cabinet

And so I would have to say that it does make sense for a prudent property manager to want some sort of upfront or ongoing mechanism to protect against potential pet damage.

You know what’s ridiculous though is paying all three types of financial penalties associated with pet ownership:

  • A pet deposit
  • An upfront pet fee
  • An ongoing pet rent

In my current lease, I am subject to all three of these things, like a schmuck.

My previous apartment had a deposit and a fee. And to add insult to injury, in both buildings it’s technically not spelled out as a pet fee, but some portion of the deposit is…nonrefundable.

Side note: I don’t know about the Patriot Act per se, but what’s Orwellian as hell is the term “nonrefundable deposit.” You can see that its usage really took off when Glass-Steagall was repealed in 1999.

Nonrefundable Deposit

“nonrefundable deposit” Google Books n gram


This is absurd. $25/month and $400 pet deposit, $250 of which is refundable… for a cat.

Where are policymakers and advocacy organizations on this issue?

An experience-based fee? Okay. A deposit–makes sense. Ongoing rent which would basically be the 1/12th of the annual fee each month? Fantastic.

But all three?

Balderdash. A scandal. Highway apartment robbery.

Nick Magrino

About Nick Magrino

Nick Magrino grew up all over the place but has lived in the Loring Park neighborhood of Minneapolis longer than anywhere else. He has a new cat, Sweater, and does not use hashtags at @nickmagrino. He is probably on a bus right now.

25 thoughts on “Pet Fees + Pet Deposits + Pet Rent = Petposterous

  1. Nicole

    I’m not going to argue that your current situation sounds fair, but as a property owner, I can explain the “nonrefundable deposit” (which I agree should just be called a fee).

    Say I have a tenant with a cat or a dog. When they move out, there is remediation I have to do whether they live there two months or two years (or more). At the very least, any flooring has to have some serious deep cleaning, if not refinishing (for hardwood) or replacement (for carpet). Pets are hard on a place, and they leave a scent that is hard to get rid of. The longer they’re there, the worse it gets, but just having them there crosses a certain threshold.

    If I have a tenant pay an up front fee (which frankly doesn’t even cover a deep cleaning, much less refinishing or replacement), that cost ends up being spread over the entire time they live there (two months, two years, etc.), so the longer they stay, the less that non-refundable fee really costs them on a monthly basis, but I’m semi-covered for the extra cleaning I’m going to have to do even if they decide not to stay very long.

    I’d love to charge extra rent on a monthly basis for the pets too, but when we say we allow pets, pretty much everyone wants to have one, so that cost is really just reflected in the regular rent we charge.

  2. Scott ShafferScott Shaffer

    I literally have a fellow apartment-dwelling friend asking if he can /rent/ my cat for vermin-deterrent purposes. So maybe there’s a way we cat-companions can use the market to capitalize on the benefits of human-feline symbiosis, and counter this rampant anti-cat prejudice, and which basically caused the Black Death, imo.

    1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

      Cat share… cats get free parking on street corners, you get a key fob, pick up your cat, put it back when you’re done. It’d be called “Nice Kitty MN.”

      Then again, rebalancing the cats might be a challenge. (They always land on their feet.)

    2. Tami Traeger

      I have actually had the same request this year. I declined because they could not assure me that no poisons had been used prior to attempting to use my cat for pest removal.

      As for the smell of having pets, I would argue that the deep cleanings are necessary even when there are no pets. The stinkiest apartments I have moved into did not allow pets, but they also didn’t deep clean between tenants.

  3. Wayne

    I like this post as this is something I’ve complained about frequently when apartment hunting. It seems slimy to spread it out over various types of fees like you’re hiding the true cost. And the concept of pet rent is absurd and awful. If there are remediation costs associated with pets, it’s not like they’re accumulating every month. Figure out a flat fee that covers your costs and charge it. Also, if the amount is a deposit … why not just take it out of the normal security deposit? It seems like if you absolutely are going to do some mitigation measures you want to be reimbursed for between tenants make it a fee and call it a day (also, BTW, it seems like most landlords I’ve had barely even bother cleaning between tenants, so …).

    At least they’re legally required to pay you interest on a deposit. That should apply to pet deposits as well, right? If they’re not paying you interest on it like a security deposit I’m guessing they’re breaking the law probably? I don’t see why one deposit for possible damage would be any different than another because it’s pet-specific. But I also don’t know how my cat could account for like $1000 worth of non-refundable damage over the course of a year for an apartment with barely any carpet (real amount that fees + pet rent added up to at one place I viewed).

    I’ve noticed a lot of new buildings (or the nicer ones at least) have gone to the idea of having ‘pet free’ floors. I wish they’d take it a step further and have dog-only or cat-only floors (and I guess ‘both/mixed’ as well?) because I can’t live without my cat but would rather not listen to a dog bark during the day because its owner doesn’t take it out enough. I imagine this level of granularity might make it harder to rent units out, though.

    Also, not to be ‘politically charged’ but declawing is basically the equivalent of cutting the last joint of your fingers off. I doubt you’d enjoy that very much, so how we think that it’s something that’s ok to ask people to do to their pets is beyond me.

  4. Serafina ScheelSerafina

    As dear as they are, pets can be hard on property.

    We gave renters a choice between an extra pet deposit ($600) or additional rent ($25/month for two cats and a dog). Great pets, great renters. They chose the extra rent rather than the higher upfront cost of an extra deposit. In the end, lots of odor remained from the cats, pet fur clogged the air ducts and needed to be cleaned, and the dog completely tore up the back yard, as dogs will do. The costs went beyond the extra pet rent and I withheld the extra amount (about $100) from their regular security deposit. They were unhappy with that but didn’t want to do the remediation work themselves.

    As a result, I no longer accept pets, except under unusual short-term circumstances.

    Cat urine remediation in particular can be hugely expensive in a carpeted apartment if it soaks into the pad and subfloor. Sometimes renters insurance will cover it.

  5. GlowBoy

    I agree that “non-refundable deposit” is an oxymoron and should be banished immediately from the English language. I have long tried to convince people that the proper term is “fee.” If you travel with your pets, you’ll see hotels using this term a lot too.

    Having owned both cats and dogs for many years (as a homeowner), I’d say that except for the liability risks with dogs, cats are probably riskier in general in terms of property damage. I’d rather deal with a large dog periodically leaking on the floor (actually I am, because my dog is getting pretty old) than a small cat doing the same.

  6. Alex

    Going further down the Orwellian (Carollian?) rabbit hole, Oregon statutorily bans nonrefundable deposits. However, I’m about to rent a place with $1000 regular deposit and a $300 pet deposit, from which the cost of carpet, chimney, and dryer duct cleaning will be withheld, and in addition a more nebulous “pet cleaning fee” (I don’t think the pet will be cleaned with this fee, but I’m not sure what in addition to the carpet will need to be cleaned as a result of damage from my 13-year-old pug). So I will be out at least a third of my deposit, despite the nominal ban on nonrefundable deposits. Law is for the lawyers.

  7. Scott

    I’ve not had the problem with rentals (we own), but a dog or a cat can easily do thousands of dollars of damage in far less time than you can imagine. A foster dog of ours managed to eat through a wall one afternoon trying to get out of a bedroom after the wind blew the door shut behind him. He managed to destroy the adjacent door, interior door trim, interior baseboard, and both sides of drywall. A $500 pet deposit wouldn’t have even begun to touch the repairs.

    We became kennel/crate fanatics after that episode. Most dogs really don’t mind the kennel after they get trained to it.

  8. UrbanDoofus

    Spare me the “all pets are hard on an apt” BS. Our last place charged an extra dog deposit, which was refundable, if there wasn’t any damage. Our well trained/adjusted dog didn’t do any damage, and so the entire pet deposit was returned. If the dog had done some damage that required extra odor mitigation or repair work to be done, I would have expected deposit deductions just as I would if I kicked in a door.

    As for pet rent, annoying, especially if the building isn’t providing any additional service. You don’t charge me extra for my reckless toddler, do you?

    1. Wayne

      I’ll second this. My cat is extremely well behaved and I can’t imagine any costs associated with him outside of cleaning to get any cat scents out (that I can’t even smell, but I’m sure I have cat-borne parasites deep in my brain at this point).

      And you already have a security deposit for damage. And if somehow your animal causes more damage, you’re still liable for it and they can bill you just like if you damaged it yourself. It’s not like some extra extortion is required because something was done by your animal vs yourself or a drunk friend. There’s already a system in place to protect themselves against potential damage and this is a cash grab, pure and simple.

      Also I kind of would love child-free floors, since we have pet-free floors now. Can that be a thing?

      1. GlowBoy

        Your cat may be well behaved, but inappropriate elimination is pretty common among cats. Sometimes they pee on the floor because they’re mad, or they don’t like the new brand of cat litter, or maybe you forgot to scoop today, or for no obvious reason.

        Cat pee is really pungent, and easily soaks through carpet pads to the underlying floor, or if you have bare floors can easily penetrate to the subfloor below. When we bought our first house we ripped out old linoleum, on top of particleboard, on top of 1/8″ plywood, and found beautiful old Doug Fir underlayment beneath it … stained with cat pee around the edges and at the joints between the layers of sheet goods above. We refinished them anyway and considered it part of the character of an old house, but this is the kind of thing that cats can do.

        Why would you love child-free floors? No, you can’t have that as “a thing”, any more than you can have man-free, or BMW owner-free floors. Is it really so awful having children around you? Are they throwing baseballs through your window? Are you allergic to them? Do you realize that families already have a harder time than single people and couples finding rental housing, often forcing them to buy a home they can’t really afford?

        1. Wayne

          You’ve clearly been traumatized by a bad cat, but #notallcats &etc.

          And children have their own set of odors and often carry around excrement and urine on their person, which I’m sure leaks and can seep into things too. Not to mention they’re noisy (no one asks you to debark them, though) and destructive (ditto on declawing). My only point is that children check all the same boxes (except allergies) that are used to justify extorting extra money from renters with pets, but no one can charge extra for children because that’s where we draw the line as a society. I just prefer to have the justifications for laws and policies be based on logic and reality and not feels.

          1. Nathanael

            Most children are well-behaved. Most pets are not. Sorry, but that’s the statistics. I suppose this is really about children being easier to train than dumb animals.

        2. Jaron McNamara

          ‘Do you realize that families already have a harder time than single people and couples finding rental housing, often forcing them to buy a home they can’t really afford?”

          … or worse, having to move to an inexpensive cookie cutter cracker box on a cul de sac in the burbs, and be forever branded as ‘evil-subsidy-resource sucking-suv loving-stupid-transit hating-obese-sprawl causing-children of the devil’ by the urbanist groups who claim to be pushing for better, more diverse and inclusive places.

    2. Nathanael

      From an actuarial point of view, the situation is that *most* pets are quite damaging to an apartment, *some* pets are extremely damaging to an apartment, and a *few* pets are not damaging.

      Economically, this situation calls for the renter to (a) be subject to the full cost of all repairs due to pet damage, and to (b) take out an insurance policy to cover those costs, since the renter likely does not have the money to cover the costs.

      Alternatively, the renter can pay a fee and the building owner can buy an insurance policy, or self-insure.

      Alternatively, the renter can pay a *very* large refundable deposit — enough to cover the worst case scenario. This is the only option which properly covers the costs which doesn’t involve buying insurance. I think most renters would not like this option.

  9. Cobo

    I’ve been toying around with the idea of becoming a land lord in a couple of years once I save enough money to buy another property.

    And even after reading these comments and reading the article, I doubt that I would allow my theoretical tenants have pets…

    I would want to be fair and I would want my tenants to be happy but pets are a huge potential source of damage/liability even if its a well behaved cat with responsible attentive owners.

    Mitigating risk by adding fees seem to cause a lot of resentment.. Resentment which may increase likelihood of my theoretical tenant to disrespect my theoretical property and resent me. It doesn’t seem worth it.

    So I either I could be an over bearing landlord who says no to pets.. or I can be the greedy jerk who mitigates risk by charging a fee.. I think I would choose the former.

  10. GlowBoy

    Problem with landlords being so reluctant to rent to pet owners (and BOY can it be hard to find pet friendly rentals as it is) is that many people consider owning a pet to be a “normal” part of life, like owning a car or having kids. You’re providing a home, a place where people live their lives.

    We are quickly approaching the point where more people consider it normal to have a pet than to have a child. I believe it is illegal for non-senior housing to discriminate against people with children … I don’t know if 20 years from now it will be illegal to discriminate against pet owners, but I do think there will be a lot more demand for pet friendly rentals. Smart landlords will recognize and capitalize on that despite the occasional costs. I can tell you that my kids do a LOT more damage and wear on our house than my pets ever have.

    I recall that a few years ago in Portland, many of the apartment buildings that advertised themselves as pet-friendly were also smoker-friendly, which meant living in a nasty-smelling, smoky building if you had a pet … I suspect that would be changing by now, except for Portland’s severe rental shortage, which is allowing landlords to be ultra selective. Oregon Humane is now regularly taking in pets from people who’ve had to give them up because they can’t find a place to live with their pet.

    This is the kind of thing that makes people say “eff it” and just buy a house (if they can) … not necessarily what we’re trying to achieve as urbanites.

    Having seen a lot of both sides of the landlord/tenant coin for many years, I think there’s often a disconnect between landlords’ vision and reality. A lot of people go into it thinking they can just buy a property and watch the money roll in without doing anything. But owning a property doesn’t necessarily mean you’re cut out for it. Reality is that there’s lots of wear and tear – with our without pets. Stuff breaks all the time – windows or pipes leak, toilets clog, cheapo appliances fail, you name it – and it happens at a higher rate than it does in owner-occupied housing. Partly because rentals tend to be less well maintained, with lots of deferred maintenance, partly it’s because of cheaper construction, and partly it’s that tenants tend to be harder on property than owners. It’s just the way it is. Then tenants move, forcing you to spend a huge amount of your time showing and screening, along with cleaning and painting on short notice. It’s a major PITA being a landlord. Honestly, pet damage is not at the top of your list of problems.

    1. Nathanael

      Smoking is significantly worse than pets for apartment damage. We’re accepting that almost nobody is allowing smoking any more. I understand why pets aren’t being allowed.

      I’m totally OK with people just deciding to buy a house, rather than rent. Home ownership is great!

      My urbanist complaint is basically — why can’t they buy a rowhouse or a condo? If you do that, you can trash it internally as much as you like.

      1. Nathanael

        Actually, I’m going to expand on this.

        As urbanists, we certainly want people to live in dense, urban housing. But do we particularly love landlords, rent, or the landlord-tenant situation? No!

        There are entire suburbs where most of the houses are owned by landlords with almost everyone renting the houses. These houses often have no-smoking, no-pet restrictions. Because the landlords can do it and it makes sense for them to do it.

        Even *farms* are often rented.

        By contrast, people can own rowhouses and own condos downtown. These often do not have any restrictions; you own them.

        The difference between owning and renting is *totally separate* from the difference between urban and suburban living. And we need ot make that clear.

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