Can my landlord shake me down for a pet deposit right before I move out?

I live in Texas and I signed my lease almost 2 years ago and renewed it last
year. I am moving out this fall and my landlord tells me that they just looked
over their records and determined that I didn’t pay my 300 pet deposit upon move
in, just a 200 pet fee. Now they say that I must pay this as soon as possible. I
had roomates and initial move in expenses were payed between us so my bank
records don’t show a perfectly clear picture of exactly what I paid them out of
my account.

Asked on February 24, 2016 under Real Estate Law, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

First, differentiate between a pet deposit which is refundable if no damage and one that is not. If it's a refundable deposit, at this point, as you move out, you should not have to pay it: you don't need a deposit vs. possible or future damage if you're leaving, and if any damage was done, it can be taken out of your regular security deposit.
If it was a nonrefundable deposit (really, a pet "fee"), then if your lease stated that you had to pay a pet deposit, you have to--a lease is a contract. If you don't pay, as an amount owed by you to the landlord, the landlord can take it out of your security deposit.
If you think you already paid it, you don't have to pay it again--but if the landlord disagrees and feels that you did not pay, then he may take it out of the security deposit (in which case you'd have to sue to get it back) or else sue you for it small claims court. If you end up in litigation, it will depend on how good your evidence and records are vs. the landlord's.


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