The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

April 6, 2014

Ryan Richardson: Pet deposits legal in Missouri, vary by state

JOPLIN, Mo. — Building upon last week's column about what goes into moving and renting with pets, I wanted to touch on something that I wasn't too sure a lot of people were familiar with. I had a few people ask me about the legalities of a pet deposit and how it applies to residents in Missouri.

Until Monday evening, I did not have an answer to that question, so I ran to the Missouri Higher Law Reference Legality Resource Center and Silly Questions Bureau (aka Google). After doing some reading on landlord-tenant agreements and running a few questions by a lawyer, I was surprised to find out how varied this issue is from state to state and how this is handled in Missouri.

Pet deposits are legal in Missouri at the discretion of the landlord, as is the right to allow pets on their property.

Pet ownership is not a protected class in Missouri or, to my knowledge, anywhere else.

There are some states such as New Hampshire that have completely outlawed a pet deposit in lieu of one deposit for the property.

A good landlord will have a separate item inside of your lease stating a few details about the pet deposit. You are likely to find what the deposit covers, what portion is refundable and what constitutes pet-related damage.

From my understanding, the pet deposit and the normal deposit combined can not exceed two months' worth of rent.

If the pet deposit was not outlined in this way and was just added on as an increased deposit in your lease Ñ which is not uncommon Ñ then it falls under normal rules on whether a tenant can recover their deposit based on a walkthrough of the property after it has been vacated.

Basically, for them to keep any part of the deposit, they have to show what was damaged line by line.

For a separate pet deposit, it is a similar situation if any part of it was refundable. In Missouri, tenants have a legal right to be there for the inspection.

If you are curious, the basis for this is in section 535.300 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, though it expressly says nothing about an additional deposit regarding pets. If you feel that you have unjustly lost a pet deposit because of ambiguous wording, reach out to an attorney for clarification. You may have a better leg to stand on than you think.

Finally, I wanted to give a hearty recommendation to my current apartment complex. As far as pet-friendly properties go in the Joplin area, I can not recommend them enough.  

The Airport Landing apartments in Airport Drive have been, by far, the most accommodating property I have ever stayed at as far as pets go. Judging by the amount of cats I see in window sills and dogs that I see out on walks, a lot of other people have discovered this, too.

When I moved in, there was a pet deposit that was pretty fair to me in addition to my renter's deposit. There are rules in place that everyone follows regarding pets, such as keeping the yards clean of pet droppings in addition to a leash rule. Like I said last week, I'm only testing the rental market to see what else is out there for my own personal space in addition to what I have with my dog.

As always, I'd love to hear your experiences on renting in the area with pets. I feel that I'm jumping into the deep end of the pool that I only dipped my toes into last year, and it is a daunting task. If I am missing any of the city's hidden gems when it comes to pet-friendly rentals, please let me know.

Contact Ryan Richardson about this column or other topic suggestions at rrichardson@joplinglobe.com or 417-627-7363.

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