A landlord may charge a deposit to make sure the tenant complies with the terms of the lease or rental agreement. In a very unusual case, a court could decide that a landlord is charging so many deposits, or the deposits requested are so large, that they are “unconscionable,” or extremely unfair, but that would be very rare.
Under Ohio law, a security deposit is “any deposit of money or property to secure performance by the tenant under a rental agreement.” So, if the landlord charges the pet deposit and key deposit to make sure your pet doesn’t cause any damage and you return the keys, the law will consider them both to be security deposits. The same is true when a landlord collects the first and last month’s rent, along with a deposit. The “last month’s rent” is considered a security deposit. Most refundable “fees” are considered security deposits.
A landlord may collect a fee at the beginning of the tenancy, without that fee being considered a deposit. For example, a landlord may charge an application fee, for processing the tenant’s rental application, or a pet fee, for treating the carpet before the tenant moves in. Where the fee is not refundable, and the landlord incurs an expense related to the fee, those fees are not security deposits.