Based on a 2016 survey, the American Pet Products Association estimates that 6% of American households have a pet. Most of these individuals own cats and dogs. However, other common household pets includes fish, reptiles, and other small animals like rabbits and birds. When these individuals or families own their own homes, the only factor in deciding on a pet is personal preference. However, for renters, pet ownership can be much more complicated and expensive. Some landlords may welcome pets with open arms while others charge various fees. If you are a renter in California and you own pets, you should get to know the law regarding so called “pet deposits,” “pet fees,” and “pet rent” before you sign a lease.
Can Landlords Charge Extra for Pets?
Yes, landlords have the power to charge extra for pets. However, the way in which they can do so is regulated by California law. They cannot charge pet deposits and additional pet rent however they like. If you are required to pay extra money up front to have a pet in your rental unit, then this money is regulated the same way as your typical security deposit.
California Law Regarding Pet Deposits
Landlords who allow pets often charge what they refer to as a separate, one-time pet deposit or fee. This payment is technically a security deposit meant to protect the landlord against any potential damage caused by your pet. Landlords may claim this as non-refundable fee or treat it differently than how they handle your regular security deposit. However, this is neither accurate nor necessarily lawful.
California Civil Code Section 1950.5 dictates how all security deposits must be handled by landlords within the state. Under this law, “security” includes any payment, fee, deposit, or charge that is imposed at the beginning of the tenancy that may be used to reimburse the landlord for any expenses associated with processing a new tenant, an advance payment of rent or in case the tenant defaults on rent, to repair any damage to the premises beyond normal wear and tear, and to clean the premises after termination of the tenancy. Clearly, a pet-related deposit or fee paid prior to or at the time of move-in is security.
How Much can a Pet Deposit be?
California law does not dictate the minimum or maximum allowable pet deposit. However, it does regulate how much a security deposit can be. Under Section 1950.5(c), a security deposit for an unfurnished apartment can only equal up to two months’ rent. That means every part of the deposit, including the pet fee, cannot be more than two months’ worth of rent. If your landlord attempts to charge you a pet deposit that puts you over this amount, you should speak with your landlord about California law.
Can My Landlord Keep My Pet Deposit?
Pet deposits or fees, like normal security deposits, must be refundable. Once a person’s tenancy ends, the landlord can only claim the amount of the security or pet deposit that is reasonably necessary for purposes outlined within the law, such as repairing damage or cleaning the unit so that it is at the same cleanliness level as when the tenant moved in.
Do You Need a San Francisco Tenants’ Rights Lawyer?
When you are looking for a place that will allow your cat or dog, you may be willing to pay a bit more or make sacrifices on size and location. However, you should not be willing to sacrifice your rights. When looking at a new lease or handling your move out from your current place, know California law regarding pet deposits to ensure thta you are treated fairly. If your landlord is attempting to charge too high of a security deposit or saying your pet fee is non-refundable, contact Brod Law Firm today at (800) 427-7020.
(image courtesy of Sabri Tuzcu)