If you’re looking for housing in New York, your primary considerations are probably location and costs. However, a lot of people have another major factor to think about. They may be delaying homeownership and having children, but they haven’t stopped loving their pets.
As a pet owner, you owe it to your pet to understand your legal rights and obligations as a renter. After all, your animals depend on you for care, and you can’t provide it without a suitable home. 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, aka your landlord, can prohibit pets on the property. After all, they are ultimately responsible for the repair and upkeep of the dwelling, and while you might know your well-trained dog won’t hurt anything, some landlords have been burned by irresponsible pet owners.
It’s also vital to note that your landlord can limit the number of pets you keep. According to the city housing authority, for example, each household may keep one dog or cat in a NYCHA property. However, per the Humane Society, many domestic animals do better in pairs — negotiate with your private landlord if you have siblings.
Some municipalities also have pet breed bans in place. In New York, for example, NYCHA properties prohibit Dobermans, pit bulls and rottweilers that weren’t grandfathered before Feb. 1, 2010. Private landlords may also set breed restrictions or weight limits for their properties, which usually apply to the aforementioned breeds as well.
City dwellers with larger dogs may have a harder time securing a rental property that allows their pet. However, if you’re prepared to prove good training, provide references and introduce your dog, you can still try and win over a hesitant landlord. Just be prepared to work harder for each apartment search.
What Can Landlords Charge For Pets?
Recent rent reform measures in the Big Apple prohibit landlords 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 landlords charge a monthly “pet rent,” while others demand an upfront fee for your furry friend. Monthly versions average around $35 to $50 per animal, and most cap pet ownership at two.
Those who charge fees average anywhere from $250 to $500, although some climb as high as $1,000 or more. Typically, costs for dogs are higher, although it varies widely by landlord.
When apartment hunting, it’s best to prepare questions about pet fees 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.
Such animals are not really considered “pets.” These support animals are necessary and allowed into public spaces such as movie theaters and banks, and landlords can’t discriminate against service dog owners.
However, 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? Answering this question proves hairier, pun loosely intended.
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 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 have little leeway to change the rules. However, folks with private landlords can make pleas to keep their pets with a few negotiating tips.
The first step is to develop communication and trust with your landlord. Landlords 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 dog destroys a hardwood floor.
Another option is to pay some rent in advance. Landlords dislike uncertainty as much as anyone. If they have rent money upfront, they tend to become more agreeable toward tenant requests.
Understanding Pet Deposits and Pet Rent Policies in NYC
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.