There is a legal difference between pets and service animals, and it’s important that you understand that difference when you’re renting out a property. A pet is just what it is – a pet. You can allow dogs, cats, birds, or other animals that are pets in your property. We recommend that if you do decide to allow pets, you create a pet addendum for your lease. Work with the attorney who helped you prepare your lease agreement, and include the property pet addendum to your lease agreement so you have everything in writing.
Pet Deposits and Fees
It’s customary to request a deposit for tenants who are moving in with pets. Sometimes in addition to the deposit or instead of the deposit, people will require a pet fee that’s paid every month. This is like a pet rent that will be paid throughout the term of the lease. A pet fee does not have to be returned to the tenant. However, a pet deposit is like a security deposit, and it will have to go back to the tenant if there are no damages at the end of the lease term. The tenant should sign the pet addendum acknowledging responsibility for any damages made by the pet.
A service animal is different than a pet. A service animal provides assistance for a person who is physically or mentally handicapped or needs psychological support. This animal is
protected under federal law. You cannot ask a tenant to pay deposits or fees if they have a service animal. But you can request the proper service animal registration. We also suggest a service animal addendum. Most people don’t do this, but you cannot use a pet addendum for the service animal. So, we recommend that you draft it with your attorney to protect you from damages.