Typical pet deposits in New Hampshire

4 Replies

Hello, I am looking for advice on what are some typical legal options in NH for implementing a pet deposit in the lease. Do you charge X amount per month? X amount per additional animal? Or would you have an increased security deposit paid for up front? 

Any advice is much appreciated, thank you!

Sincerely,

Eric

Eric,

There are a few different options that I have seen. One option is to do a one time pet fee at singing or when the tenant first gets a pet. I've seen this range anywhere from $200-$500. 

Another option is to do a smaller fee or no fee and add a monthly fee on top of rent, these tend to be $10-$50/month. 

You can also just do a straight pet deposit that's refundable to cover any damages resulting from the pet.

A lot of leases are different and there isn't really one option that everyone uses. It really depends on what your concerns about the tenant getting a pet are and how you want to protect yourself.

I hope this helped, feel free to reach out with any questions!

Alec Granger

New Western Acquisitions

Never use the term pet deposit,  deposits must be returned.  We charge $450 pet fee per dog up to two dogs only.  We do not except other pets.  We also require yearly shot records and veterinary contact information.  Plus we must meet the dogs prior to signing a lease.  This has worked for me for 30 plus years with little to no damage.  If only kids could behave as well as the dogs.  LOL 

@Eric Monkewicz pet deposits are NOT allowed in New Hampshire.  The following comes directly from the NH Department of Justice's website:

"New Hampshire's law on security deposits (RSA 540-A) defines a security deposit as any money that a tenant gives to his or her landlord other than the monthly rental payment. The name given to the payment - cleaning deposit, last month's rent in advance, etc. - does not matter. The amount is a "security deposit" if it is anything other than the monthly rent.  
In New Hampshire, a landlord who owns more than six units can ask for no more than one month's rent or $100, whichever is larger, as a security deposit. The landlord must keep security deposits in a special escrow account or post a bond with the local municipality to secure repayment."

This means that you cannot keep a pet deposit because in the eyes of the law, a pet deposit = a security deposit.  A security deposit cannot exceed one month's rent or $100... whichever is greater.  Just to make sure the part about "a landlord who owns more than six units" is clear, the website further clarifies the only exception to the above rule are the following three circumstances:

"RSA 540-A:5 defines the legal relationship between landlords and tenants so that both will be treated fairly. It applies to all tenants except:

  • Tenants who rent a single family home from a landlord who owns no other property;
  • Tenants under the age of 60 who live in a building with less than six apartments and whose landlord lives in the same building;
  • Tenants renting business, vacation or recreational property (but the law may cover some mobile homes and mobile home spaces)."

So you would have to LIVE in the same building as the tenant for their to be any exception to the security deposit law (as long as its less than 6 units) and as long as you continue living in the building, you meet that criteria.  As soon as you move out, you no longer meet those exceptions. 

In a nutshell, charge a monthly pet rent because pet deposits are fees are not allowed in NH.  $50/mo/dog or something to that effect should cover you if you so choose to rent to tenants with pets.    

@Eric Monkewicz -

@Clifford Paul offers solid advice that it is better to charge something non-refundable. However, in NH it would be wiser to add to the monthly rent rather than charge an upfront fee.

@Matt Lefebvre is correct that the security deposit may not exceed 1 month's rent.

But can you charge a pet deposit if you have your heart set on it? Sure, you can charge a pet deposit. You can also charge a mailbox deposit, an appliance deposit, heck you can even charge a lightbulb deposit if it floats your boat. Charge as many as you like; just make sure that they don't total more than 1 month's rent. However, it's most practical to charge 1 month's rent as security without limiting it by specifying what it covers. It can be used to offset any debts owed to landlord by tenant stemming from the tenancy. There is no advantage whatsoever to earmarking a security deposit.

For pets, we charge $25/month per pet. We increase the rent by that amount from lease commencement. We do not call it pet rent, and we do not remove it if the pet dies, moves out, or subsequently becomes a service animal or emotional support animal. We explain that it does not cover damages caused by the pet, and that the security deposit will be withheld for such damages. For example, if the rent is $1,275 and they have a dog and a cat, we explain that we will rent to them and accept their pets at a rental rate of $1,325. Keeps it simple down the line. 

We do not allow cats that have not been fixed, and we do not allow cats that go outdoors in the more populated areas where fleas may exist, because it is our understanding that NH makes it extremely difficult to charge a tenant for insect infestations that they caused, even though our lease states that they will be responsible for the expense of remediation of any infestations that occur during their tenancy.

We require the following for dogs:

1) No dogs under 1 year old. (There are very few things in this world that I like more than puppies, but they tend to eat houses.)

2) All dogs under 3 years old must get a certificate of completion for basic obedience training (puppy school) within 6 months of move-in. (The kind of person who is going to raise the kind of dog that you want living in your property is not going to have a problem with this).

3) Tenant must carry $500K coverage per occurrence for the liability portion of their renters insurance, and must name landlord as "additional insured". (Tenants without dogs carry $300K liability coverage. The difference in annual premium is negligible.)

4) Tenant may not obtain additional pets without the approval and written consent of landlord. (Naturally, if they obtain additional pets of which we approve, rent goes up another $25).

This has worked well for us, and the additional rent that we collect from the $25/pet amounts to several thousand dollars per year.

Oh yeah, by the way: The above is not legal advice and you should seek the advice of a local attorney. The information provided is merely the opinion of a non-attorney and should not be relied upon to make any decisions.

Happy investing,

Troy