New Landlord Making me Re-Pay Pet Deposit I Already Paid to Old Landlord
April 13, 2017 11:47 AM   Subscribe

I'm in Texas. My current landlord, who is pretty cool otherwise (but also: new to being a landlord), bought the house from my old landlord. I had an agreement in my old lease for a cat, and I paid a deposit for that as well as my rent, etc. Now my old lease is up. New landlord wants me to sign new lease, same rent, etc. but he wants his own pet deposit..because old landlord didn't include that in the sale? Or something. No idea how that stuff works. Anyway he says he didn't get it from them. In my opinion, new landlord should go to old landlord for that money--I already paid it! My new landlord just wants me to cough up for a cat that's already been here 1.5 years and done no damage. And when I protested told me he's already cutting me a deal on the rent. In other words, suddenly he wants to be hardass. What is a good approach here? I can just cough up but I resent the hell out of it and would probably make this the last year of our lease because fuck this guy. On the other hand, maybe I'm missing something here. Is this a thing I should just expect to happen?
posted by emjaybee to Law & Government (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think old landlord owes YOU the money. Your lease ended, that includes returning deposits. He can't just keep them. That has nothing to do with your new lease. Have you contacted old landlord for return of the deposit?
posted by brainmouse at 11:49 AM on April 13, 2017 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: Normally pet deposits are non-refundable. But then old landlord didn't clean anything when they sold (which is what I assume the pet deposit is for), so...maybe? I'm hoping someone can shed light on that.
posted by emjaybee at 11:52 AM on April 13, 2017

Was it called a "deposit" or a "fee"? If it was called a deposit then it is refundable, they can't just keep it. See here. Go after the old landlord.
posted by brainmouse at 11:58 AM on April 13, 2017 [14 favorites]

What does your lease say about the pet deposit? According to the Austin Tenants' Council, Texas law doesn't directly address pet deposits, so you're going to have a hard time making a case without specific laws to point to.
posted by firechicago at 11:58 AM on April 13, 2017

Typically the prior owner would be required to transfer deposits to the new owner-- deposits aren't returned when the lease ends, they're returned when the tenant vacates the unit. The new owner could probably ask for an additional pet deposit or fee, over and above the previous one, though.

Landlord tenant law varies a ton by location, though, so contacting a local tenant's rights organization is going to be your best bet. The Texas Attorney General has a page with some links, and it looks like there are a few other organizations that may be able to help you.
posted by Kpele at 12:02 PM on April 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I can't speak to the laws in Texas, but how I would expect this to have happened in California is as follows:

Old landlord sells property to current landlord. In that process, some document that accounted for assigning the details of the lease agreement is signed between the two of them - it should have transferred over all of the rights and obligations associated with the lease agreement. Including right to collect rent, any current security deposits, since that will now be the new landlord's issue to deal with when you leave your current place.

I agree with your thought that the new landlord should go to the old landlord for the deposit. He got screwed and is now asking you to resolve it. I would firmly explain that this is his responsibility, since one of the benefits of the assignment was that in addition to now being able to collect rent from you, he was also entitled to the pet deposit from the previous landlord. If the new landlord still insists on collecting it from you, you might want to consider not signing the lease and moving.

>Normally pet deposits are non-refundable.
If it's non-refundable, it's not a deposit. You're paying some sort of fee or additional pet rent. I don't think there's a "normal" here - it's what you negotiate with your landlord. We certainly offered pet deposits just to assuage the fears of our landlord regarding pets, and got it returned in full when he saw no damage as a result.

I would check your lease agreement as to how that particular amount of money is addressed.
posted by Karaage at 12:03 PM on April 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

"Hi Landlord,

I checked with my attorney, and he said that leases and deposits convey with sale in all residential real estate transactions, per Texas Property Code ยง 92.105 and Texas Real Estate Code 1-4, paragraphs 9-10. He suggested that you contact the real estate agent that helped you buy the property to get more info on this if you need it.

posted by juniperesque at 12:08 PM on April 13, 2017 [38 favorites]

I think I might ask the new landlord if he would consider making this pet deposit a refundable, making the case that your cat has shown that she isn't destructive.

Since you haven't signed the new lease and your old lease is up, you don't have that much room to maneuver here. It is all still part of the negotiation. He has the right to ask for any deposit he wants, since its a brand new lease. HOWEVER, if its a brand new lease, you should have gotten your damage deposit (the refundable one) back already. If the old landlord transferred that deposit, it begs the question why he didn't transfer the pet deposit, perhaps someone is confused as to what got transferred where?

If we wants to start over and do everything fresh, I'd inquire about where your initial deposit is.
posted by stormygrey at 12:26 PM on April 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would ask the previous landlord to clarify if they are asking for an additional pet deposit on top of the previous one, or if they didn't get one before. I believe they have a right to ask for an additional one if they want to, when negotiating a new lease, but you should check with a tenant's rights org or lawyer for that to be sure.

If it's not additional, and the pet deposit didn't make it through in the sale, I think previous landlord owes you the money, if anybody is going to get it from them and have any legal leverage. I bought a house last year that had tenants in it, and while the rental agreement was transferred to me, the security deposit from the tenants was outlined in our agreed upon sale documents, and it went into our escrow account. I put my earnest money and down payment into the escrow account, the bank put the remainder of the sale price in, and the sellers put the security deposit in, as well as half of the renter's check (we bought the house in the middle of the month) and so I got all of that in a check when the house closed. If they hadn't matched up to the rental agreement, but matched up in all of the closing documents, the agreed upon sale would be what they'd look at in court - maybe the buyer agreed to let the seller keep the pet deposit for some weird reason in their negotiation.
posted by pazazygeek at 12:55 PM on April 13, 2017

Sorry, and as a follow up, it's possible that your previous landlord is the one who is screwing you over here. They may have negotiated to keep your pet deposit, or the buyer's agent wasn't careful when reviewing the documents, or something. So if that's what happened (the buyer just didn't get the pet deposit), then you probably will need to pay another one and try to get the previous landlord to give you your money back.
posted by pazazygeek at 12:56 PM on April 13, 2017

Did your main rental deposit transfer to the new owner? Geez. Sorry you even have to think about any of this.

Anyway, I would follow juniperesque's script.
posted by jbenben at 1:13 PM on April 13, 2017

Response by poster: Yes the main deposit got transferred so I don't owe that (I would make a HUGE stink if I did).

Related: my (newbie) landlord seems to think he can't (or doesn't know how) to even change wording in the standard off-the-shelf contract he's using. It's just a PDF. Anyone have any advice for gently advising him how to do that?
posted by emjaybee at 1:28 PM on April 13, 2017

Response by poster: Ok guys, sorry to threadsit but:

Talked to previous leasing company; they say if the lease calls it a "pet fee" I'm basically out of luck--it's non-refundable and my new landlord wouldn't have gotten it either. And I guess can ding me for whatever he wants.

Seems scammy to me but online searching seems to indicate This is a Thing.

I will check my lease when I get home but in the interest of making this useful to future searchers, I wanted to add that info.
posted by emjaybee at 1:47 PM on April 13, 2017

Texas Landlord here, IANYLL. Yes, the nonrefundable pet deposit is a thing, almost every landlord does it, and yes it's scammy (I don't do even a refundable pet deposit... what is the normal deposit for??).

And it's also true that there are effectively no laws regarding pet deposits or fees. I agree that it's dumb and it sucks, but you're probably out of luck here.
posted by cmoj at 3:05 PM on April 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

OTOH, I see what city you're in, and I've got a 4/3 opening up soon!
posted by cmoj at 3:07 PM on April 13, 2017 [11 favorites]

Wait! Is your lease up on your end, like it would be if the house wasn't sold? Or is he making you sign a new lease just because of the sale on his end?
posted by sweltering at 3:32 PM on April 13, 2017

>my (newbie) landlord seems to think he can't (or doesn't know how) to even change wording in the standard off-the-shelf contract he's using. It's just a PDF. Anyone have any advice for gently advising him how to do that?

Copy the text into a new document. Edit as needed. If you're just striking out a term, a line through the clause on a print out with the both of you initialing will suffice.
posted by Karaage at 5:29 PM on April 13, 2017

Response by poster: Sweltering the lease is up on our end.
posted by emjaybee at 7:45 PM on April 13, 2017

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