Unfortunately for pet owners, you’ll probably have to shell out some extra cash for the privilege of cohabitating with your furry friend. But you'll be better prepared to negotiate if you understand the difference between the different types of fees a landlord might charge: a one-time fee per pet, a refundable pet deposit, and monthly pet rent.
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What fees do landlords usually charge for pets?
If you’re moving into a new place with your pets, you can generally expect to be charged for it. The three most common charges you’ll see associated with animals in rentals are pet fees, pet deposits, and pet rent.
A pet fee is a set amount of money that you pay your landlord for the privilege of moving in with pets. It’s a one-time charge that generally falls between $200-600. It’s also nonrefundable, so you won't see that money again. In some states, like California, a non-refundable pet fee is illegal (since it’s considered part of the security deposit)—so be sure to check your local laws before writing a check.
In the same way that you pay a security deposit when you move in—just in case something happens and the landlord needs to cover the cost of repairs when you move out—your pets come with their own security deposits. Like pet fees, this is a one-time charge. But pet deposits are more forgiving. If your pets don’t tear up the carpets or anything else, you can reasonably expect to get that money back when you move. Pet deposits generally run between $200-600, although it varies depending on what type of pet you have, its size, and the number of pets you own.
Pet rent can be charged in place of—or in addition to—pet fees and pet deposits. Unlike the other two payments, this isn’t a lump sum. Instead, you’ll pay a small amount each month as an add-on to your regular rent. Generally, pet rent is $10-50 extra per month, depending on the size of your pet or how many pets you own. Pet rent is often charged by group properties, like apartment complexes that have maintenance crews to care for the outdoor spaces. This extra charge helps pay these workers, in case they have to pick up after your pets or repair animal-related damage. It could also cover shared pet amenities, like waste bags or park upkeep. However, some landlords and property management companies charge pet rent just to boost their income.
Are there any exceptions?
Possibly! Anyone can try to negotiate pet fees down or away and service animals are always exempt under the federal Fair Housing Act.
Can I negotiate the cost with my landlord?
Absolutely. Landlords and property management companies have the ability to alter the rent and fee structure for someone who needs it. Offer to pay a larger pet deposit in return for decreased monthly pet rent. Suggest signing a longer lease in order to eliminate the pet fee. You could also try to talk them into reducing or eliminating fees by showing stellar training reports or proof of renters insurance—or even by letting them meet your pet beforehand.
Do I have to pay these fees if I have a service animal?
Nope. If you use a service or support animal of any kind, your landlord is required by the Fair Housing Act to waive any pet fees and restrictions. In order to make sure you’re not charged, you’ll need to bring a letter from a doctor or therapist that explains your pet is assisting with a disability. If the landlord refuses to waive the fees, you can file a complaint for discrimination and have the property investigated.
What if my pet is really small, like a fish or a gerbil?
With smaller creatures, your landlord likely won't charge a fee. But the best course of action is to check with them anyway, especially if it's explicitly listed as a "no pets" apartment. In some cases, that could really mean everything—even a lone goldfish.
What would happen if I snuck my pet in without telling the landlord?
You could try, but you’re opening yourself up to a lot of problems. Some landlords will charge you a huge fee if they find an unauthorized pet in the apartment. You could even be evicted. It’s best just to play by the rules and find a place you and your cat can snuggle worry-free.
Is it possible my pet won’t be allowed, even if I’m willing to pay?
Yup. Pet restrictions in apartments are usually related to the size of the animal or how many animals can live in a single unit. With dogs, sometimes there are restrictions for certain breeds—particularly a bully breed, like a pit bull or a boxer. Expect to see rentals that don’t allow cats or dogs, rentals that allow one but not the other, and rentals that only allow animals weighing 25 pounds or less.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.