Lawmaker proposes cap on monthly pet fees for Texas tenants

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A monthly fee or initial deposit is standard for Texas tenants who have pets, but a bill filed in this legislative session could change what landlords may require in the future.

State Representative John Rosenthal, Democrat of Houston, introduced House Bill 1166 to potentially change what landlords in Texas can add to a pet owner’s lease. The law, if passed, would allow landlords to either cap the monthly pet fee at $20 or charge a one-time, refundable pet deposit at the start of someone’s lease. However, the offer will prevent them from doing both.

Rosenthal, who has four dogs in her family, told KXAN that such landlord charges are not currently regulated by the state. He said his bill would set some “reasonable limits” that currently do not exist.

“Certainly, landlords should be able to cover the costs associated with keeping a pet in a rented space,” Rosenthal said. “But these deposits must be returned if there is no damage or if they are going to charge a monthly pet rent, which will be capped at a reasonable amount. We’re going to ask landlords, landowners to make the choice to have a reasonable deposit or a reasonable pet rent so they can still cover their costs without actually charging family members from their homes.”

He said he believes changing this could also help with the housing affordability crisis that people living in Texas cities are now facing.

“Not only is there not enough housing, there is not enough rental housing, which forces the cost to rise, but such fees are added to this,” he said. “It literally forces families to choose between. In thousands of cases in Texas over the past few years, families have made decisions between keeping their pet, whom they consider a member of the family, or having a place to live. This is an unacceptable situation.”

The Texas Apartment Association, a non-profit organization that advocates for the rental housing industry, has yet to take a stand on the bill, but has opposed similar bills filed in the past. David Mintz, the organization’s vice president of government affairs, criticized the proposal.

In a statement shared with KXAN, Mintz wrote, “HB 1166 does not believe that deposits and monthly animal payments are used for different purposes. The deposit covers additional damage that may be caused to pets, such as the need to remove fleas from carpets or remove urine stains. Monthly payments help cover the cost of services for pet owners, including staff who clean up pet litter, dog parks, pet wash areas, etc. Regardless, all payments are disclosed in advance before anyone signs up. a lease agreement so that the owner of the animal can make an informed decision. before renting at a hotel that charges a pet deposit and/or a monthly fee.”

Rosenthal responded to the association’s concerns about its legislation by stating that he would like to work with the organization to understand them and potentially soften some of the provisions.

He also expressed confidence that the bill would pass the GOP-led legislature because, he said, “Republicans love pets too.” He pointed to how a Republican legislator introduced a bill last session to criminalize the illegal possession of a dog, which Gov. Greg Abbott eventually signed into law, vetoing an earlier draft.

It remains unclear whether the bill can pass the Texas House of Representatives and Senate, or whether the governor will support it enough to sign it into law. However, if it becomes law, it will come into effect on September 1, 2023. The new rules this bill will introduce regarding Texas pet fees and deposits will only apply to leases signed or renewed on or after this effective date.

A study published two years ago looked at rental properties in several Texas cities to “understand the extent to which renting with pets can create an additional cost burden for tenants.” The researchers specifically looked at apartments that allow pets. What researchers have found in Texas cities is that more expensive pet-friendly apartments are less likely to charge pet fees. These units are most likely to be in high income and predominantly white communities, while the highest pet fees land in low income and predominantly Hispanic communities.

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