Can my landlord charge me back rent for a pet when we never discussed paying pet rent, only a possible pet security deposit?

UPDATED: Jun 13, 2011

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Can my landlord charge me back rent for a pet when we never discussed paying pet rent, only a possible pet security deposit?

I’m having a lot of issues with my landlord. When we signed the lease last year she had drafted the lease not knowing I had pets, although her husband who previously covered the leases did know and said she would get me an updated lease in a few days.Then 3 months later she tried to charge me more rent (not pet related) and didn’t send me a new lease with pet addendum until 3 months ago in which she added pet rent, something that we had never discussed. Additionally, she is trying to charge me for that rent going back 10 months. Am I legally obligated to pay it if I never consented to it?

Asked on June 13, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

1) During the term of a written lease, both parties, landlord and tenant, are bound by it--after all, the lease is a contract. That means that the landlord, after the lease is signed may not charge more rent or a larger or extra deposit. She's free to *ask* for more money, appealing to your sense of fairness--but she has no power to back that up until the lease term is up.

2) When a lease is up, the landlord may propose changes to the lease. Those changes could include an increase in rent--whether pet related or not--and increases in security deposits for good cause, such as pet-based security.

So you can't be made to pay more for periods already passed, during which the lease had not provided for additional payment. But when the prior lease ends and a new lease is put out there, the landlord may change or increase what you'd owe--alternately, she could even ban pets altogether.

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