In 2021, the Massachusetts Appeals Court issued a decision clarifying when a tenant can be charged more than rent due to a pet. In Flemming v. Greystar Management, Flemming was the tenant who was paying a monthly rent of $1,024.00 and the lease also required her to pay an additional $125.00 each month that she had a dog in the unit.
The tenant brought the case against her former landlord arguing that charging a “pet rent” was a violation of the Security Deposit Statute, specifically M.G.L c. 186 §15B(1)(d) which states “[n]o lessor . . . shall at any time subsequent to the commencement of a tenancy demand rent in advance in excess of the current month’s rent or a security deposit in excess of the amount allowed by this section.” While the Housing Court initially agreed with the tenant; the Appeals Court agreed with the landlord.
The Appeals Court held that the Massachusetts Security Deposit Statute does not prohibit landlords from charging animal rent. “The animal rent was not a deposit intended to secure performance to keep the apartment free from damage. Rather, it was additional rent, which [the tenant] agreed to pay, in exchange for the right to keep dogs in the apartment.” The tenant had many reasons as to why it should be illegal for landlords to charge extra rent for pets, the Court stated that such arguments are best directed to the Massachusetts Legislature.
Based upon this case, a “pet security deposit” is still not permissible under the law. Any security deposit collected should be limited to a single month of rent and paid before the start of the tenancy. However, this case does clarify that “pet rent” as an additional monthly fee after the start of the tenancy is allowed. Emotional support animals and service animals are not considered pets. Therefore, landlords cannot require any pet fees for an emotional support animals or service animals, unless the animal causes damage to the premises. See the blog here for more information on emotional support animals and service animals.
If you have questions or would like to discuss these matters, please contact Drayton Law at 508-618-7270.
This blog is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal advice. All those who read this blog should seek the advice of a professional before taking action based upon any information provided herein.