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Understanding Pet Deposits & Pet Rent Policies in NYC

If you’re looking for a new home in New York, your primary considerations are probably location and cost. But let's be real—there's a few other factors to consider and pet owners know the perils of trying to rent with a furry friend. As a pet owner, you owe it to your pet to understand your legal rights and obligations as a renter.

Here’s what you need to know about pet ownership and rent policies in New York City.

Can My Landlord Ban Pets? What About Specific Breeds?

Much to animal lovers’ dismay everywhere, the property owner, a.k.a. your home provider, can prohibit pets on the property. After all, they are ultimately responsible for repairs and upkeep of your home, and while you might know your well-trained companion won’t hurt anyone, some landlords have been burned by irresponsible pet owners.

Maybe your home provider hasn't banned pets at large but they can limit the number of domestic animals you have in your home, too. According to the city housing authority, for example, each household may keep one dog or cat in an NYCHA property. But we all know—and the Humane Society confirms it, too—that many domestic animals do better in pairs.

Some municipalities also put pet breed bans in place. In New York, for example, NYCHA properties prohibit Dobermans, Pit bulls, and Rottweilers that weren’t grandfathered in before February 2010. Private landlords may also set breed restrictions or weight limits for their properties, too.

City dwellers with larger dogs may have a harder time securing rental properties that allow their pets. However, if you’re prepared to provide references and prove good training, you may be able to win over a hesitant home provider. Just be prepared to work harder for each apartment search.

What Can Landlords Charge For Pet Rent & Deposits?

Recent rent reform measures in the Big Apple prohibit home providers from charging more than one month’s rent as a security deposit. This does prohibit the pet deposit, an extra security deposit added on for a dog or cat that can be used to cover pet damage at the end of the lease.

However, this change doesn’t mean you won’t pay a premium to keep a pet in your apartment. Some home providers charge a monthly “pet rent,” while others demand an upfront fee or deposit for your furry friend. Monthly versions average around $35 to $50 per animal, and most cap pet ownership at two per unit. Those who charge deposits or fees average anywhere from $250 to $500, although some climb as high as $1,000 or more.

Typically, costs for dogs are higher than other domesticated animals, although it varies widely by home provider. When apartment hunting, it’s best to prepare questions about pet fees or deposits to get a clear idea of what you’ll be budgeting for when living with your pet.

What If I Have a Disability?

Exceptions exist under the law to protect disabled individuals who need assistive animals. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) covers service animals, dogs, and some miniature horses trained to perform specific tasks for humans, such as retrieving objects.

Service animals are not always considered “pets” as they're necessary companions to those with disabilities and allowed into public spaces such as movie theaters and banks, Home providers can’t discriminate against service animal owners.

But here’s where it gets tricky. For a request for an assistance animal to qualify as a reasonable accommodation, you must answer “yes” to the following questions:

  • Does the person seeking to live with the animal have a qualifying disability? Landlords may require medical documentation that their disability substantially limits one or more major life activities.
  • Does the person seeking to live with the animal have a disability-related need for an assistive animal?

The ADA doesn’t specify which disabilities you can use assistive animals to treat. However, the law recognizes mental disorders as conditions that substantially limit one or more major life activity.

Therefore, emotional support animals (ESAs) fall under HUD rules. Owners of such animals—which can be any species—can’t take them into all public spaces the way they do trained service dogs. However, when it comes to housing, landlords cannot discriminate under the Fair Housing Act.

Emotional support animals must be certified by a licensed medical professional. Courts do, however, recognize that many people can certify nearly any pet as an ESA by paying a nominal online fee. You should understand that claiming your pet is an ESA to avoid a fee or pet ban—rather than for a legitimate need—constitutes as an abuse of the rules and could result in someone who needs assistance being denied in the future.

Tips for Negotiating With Your Landlord

If you rent from public agencies, you may not be able to change or negotiate having a pet. However, renters with private home providers can make pleas to keep their pets with a few negotiating tips.

The first step is to develop communication and trust with your home provider as they benefit from tenants who are honest, timely and responsible—and displaying these qualities can make your pitch more palatable. Then, carefully lay out your pet’s degree of training and personal characteristics.

If you’re handy, offer to take over minor maintenance tasks in exchange for waiving the pet fee. Another option is to assume, in writing, full liability for all pet-related damages. Be aware—this route may open you up to hefty charges if your pet destroys a hardwood floor.

Another option is to pay some rent in advance. If home providers receive rent money upfront, they tend to become more agreeable toward tenant requests. Now that you know the rules, talk to your landlord about pet deposits and rent policies. It’s a small price to pay for your furry friend’s companionship.

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