Can you be charged an extra deposit for a pet after the fact?

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Can you be charged an extra deposit for a pet after the fact?

When my husband and I agreed to rent the property the “manager” told us he would not require a security deposit for our little dog. This past month the “owners” said they did not receive our rent payment. After tracking our money order we found that they indeed received it and deposited the payment. The next day the owner told us that we owed a security deposit and applied our rent payment to it and now we are late on our rent and they intend to apply late charges everyday. We are just working class people and cannot afford this. Is there any protection of our rights in this situation?

Asked on October 29, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If  you have a written lease, that lease is a contract: that means that its terms and conditions bind or obligate both parties for the full duration of the lease, and neither party may add additional terms or conditions to it. So if you have a written lease, the landlord may not add a pet deposit during this lease term, not unless you happened to agree to it. (They could add a pet deposit for lease renewals, however.)

If you have an oral or verbal lease, you have less rights. With an oral lease, terms and conditions can be changed on 30 days notice--including adding a pet deposit. Some states (like NJ) do put limitations on the changes that can be made to oral leases, though most do not; and even those locations that put some restrictions on the changes a landlord can make will generally allow changes that are reasonable and/or supported by the facts or business necessities. A pet deposit may fall under that rule, even if you are in one of those locations that restrict what a landlord can require.


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