A kitten playing with the toy wooden house

Best Way to Avoid Pet Deposit Fees and No Pet Policy

5 min read

More and more landlords consider offering pet-friendly properties for rent to attract a huge number of pet-lovers. But such a decision comes with a price sometimes. It is all great when a pet is well-behaved and makes everyone around happy. But sometimes, even the cutest pets can make life a living hell for a landlord and other tenants.

That is why there's no surprise that some property owners prefer to follow a strict no pet policy. Whilst the others are less resistant to let in a larger pool of tenants with pets, yet still, want to protect their properties from potential damage and provide so-called a pet deposit or a pet fee.

So, as a die-hard pet owner, what can you do to avoid overpaying fees or being refused to move in with your animal?

What’s the difference between a pet deposit and a pet fee?

A puppy sitting on dollars
Pet deposit is something you can get back when there is no damage to the apartment

First of all, let’s look at the difference between a pet deposit and a pet fee. Although these terms are often used interchangeably by mistake, they are quite contradictive by their nature. A deposit is refundable and in fact, must be returned unless any significant damage has been caused. A pet fee, on the other hand, is usually charged as a one-time fee onto move-in costs.

It is a common practice to use a standard security deposit with an additional pet deposit. Different states have different regulations in that matter but generally, they concern the total amount that can be charged either as a single deposit or a sum of various deposits and fees (pet deposit, cleaning fee, etc.)

However, the recent trend suggests that charging a pet deposit is often seen as an unpopular solution by many landlords. Here is how things can get a little tricky: if the damage caused to property was not a direct result of the pet’s activity, only a security deposit could be used. So property managers are advised to simply increase a security deposit if it’s not forbidden by the state law or charge a pet fee.

But deducting damages from either a security or a pet deposit is not as easy as it seems: it has to be proved that the damage has been caused by a tenant or his or her pet. And that requires significant efforts sometimes.

Does a no pet policy mean no pets at all?

Green No Pets Allowed Sign

Not necessarily. Sometimes only pets of a certain type, breed, size or weight can be prohibited. The only exceptions are service animals (SA) and emotional support animals (ESA) - they cannot be refused! Refusing to rent to a disabled individual, accompanied by SA or ESA, is a discrimination and a violation of the federal law. And that’s a kind of offense that a government takes very seriously.

What can I do to avoid pet fees and no pet policy?

  1. Check the law of a certain state before reallocating there. This way you will be better prepared and know exactly whether the landlord’s requests are lawful or not.
  2. You can save a lot of time by checking the pet policy of a certain property. If you have several options to consider, perhaps, you might want to check first those properties that have specifically pet-friendly policy.
  3. Even if renting a property that has a no pet policy is one of your very few options, it’s still worth having a chat with your landlord. Sometimes (specifically, if he or she is a pet-lover too), an exception can be made. Try presenting your pet and demonstrating its best qualities. You can even make a special CV for your pet with the references from previous landlords. But as a welcome step, be prepared to pay a slightly higher than average pet deposit.
  4. If for some reason you can’t pay the required amount, don’t get too desperate. Try trading it! There was a case when a landlord allowed to keep a pet without charging anything extra in exchange for doing housework around the rented house.  
  5. Oh, did we mention trading? No matter what, a landlord wouldn’t want to lose you as a potential customer. Perhaps, hinting at other rental properties that ask for smaller pet deposits can change his or her mind.
  6. Consider making your pet an emotional support animal (ESA). In case your pet is more to you than just a pet, you can certify it as an ESA. Individuals who often experience stress admit that their pets help them deal with their emotional conditions. If you think this might be your case, consider getting examined by a licensed mental health specialist. Once your condition is recognized as the one that requires an ESA as a part of your treatment, you can obtain an ESA letter that will allow your pet to stay in your property.

But what if I just … sneak my pet into my apartment?

Man playing with his pet dog in living room

That might sound tempting to some tenants but let’s look at this from a different angle. Sometimes pets are not allowed in different types of properties for a good reason. Even if your pet doesn’t do any damage, some people can be allergic to it. So, after you leave your apartment, your landlord would need to do an extensive cleaning to make sure it’s ready even for the worst allergic sufferers. If you secretly sneaked your pet in and no one noticed, your landlord wouldn't know that your property requires special cleaning. That means that you potentially put the next tenant in the risk of having an allergic reaction (that can be dangerous!) to your pet, should he or she happened to be allergic. 

Not even mentioning that if you get caught, you can face all the legal consequences: eviction, loss of the security deposit, damaged credit report, and, in the worst-case scenario, a lawsuit.

How come having an ESA can help me deal with pet fees and no pet policy?

An ESA emblem
If you certify your pet as an ESA, you get a legal right to live with it in any kind of the rented property

If you want to avoid paying pet fees or pet policy, you should stick to using legal means of doing so. And making your pet an ESA is one of them.

It’s been a while since there were no proper housing regulations. Back then, property owners could easily refuse to settle anyone, basing on their own preferences. A lot of efforts had been put into changing this until the ESA regulations came into effect, so we encourage you to use this legacy.

By making your pet an ESA, you become protected by the law. This is a far better and respectable way of handling a situation when you try to get on a plane or move in a new apartment: you don’t have to bargain your pet and can avoid being asked humiliating questions. Register your pet as an ESA and protect yourself from troubles!

by GetESA

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ESA Laws and Regulations