In a recent Rent.com survey of 500 U.S. renters with pets, 48 percent said the pet deposit was the biggest headache when moving with a pet. Pet deposits are usually charged in addition to your security deposit before you move in to cover any damages that may be caused by your pet during your lease term. At the end of your lease, some landlords will refund your pet deposit if your rental is undamaged, while others will keep all or part of the pet deposit as a cleaning fee.
Why do landlords charge a pet deposit? Most landlords have legitimate concerns when it comes to renting to pet owners. Though you may be a responsible pet owner who takes care of your rental home, there are plenty of people who do not, so allowing animals can be risky for a landlord. Many property owners are reluctant because they fear pets will damage the unit, make too much noise or inconvenience other renters.
How much is a typical pet deposit? On a one-year lease, 71 percent of the pet owners Rent.com surveyed said they would expect to spend $200 or less on a pet deposit, while nearly a third (29 percent) said they would typically spend more than $200. In general, there is no typical pet deposit. Deposit amounts will vary depending on how many and what kinds of pets you have, the size, the breed, where you live and even the landlord's past experiences.
Can I negotiate a pet deposit? Given the inconsistency in pet deposits, they can be negotiable depending on the landlord. The best way to barter for a lower pet deposit is to build the landlord's comfort level with you and your pets, which can be done in several ways:
• Recommendation letters: You know that your cat isn't going to scratch at the walls, but your potential landlord can't be sure. Put his or her mind to rest with recommendation letters from past landlords stating that your four-legged friends were well behaved and left your previous rentals in good shape. You can also obtain letters from previous neighbors to reassure the landlord that your pets won't bother or harm other renters, as well as a letter from your veterinarian stating that your pet is spayed/neutered and up to date on vaccinations.
• Obedience training: The more evidence you can provide that you're a responsible pet owner, the better your chance of lowering the pet deposit. Written proof that your dog has completed obedience training will show your new landlord that your dog is well-behaved and socialized.
• Renters insurance: Renters insurance is always a good idea, but having a rental insurance policy – especially one that covers pet-related damages and has liability coverage – can be a helpful tool when discussing pet deposits. Your willingness to be financially responsible for your pet shows the landlord that you are respectful of their concerns and feel a sense of responsibility for your rental.
• Pet interview: Ask your landlord if he or she is willing to do a pet interview, so you can demonstrate that your pet is not aggressive, destructive or too energetic for an apartment. If you opt for an interview, make sure your pet has been walked, fed and relaxed so he or she is on their best behavior.
The bottom line: Don't be like the 10 percent of renters surveyed who have hidden a pet from a landlord. You could put yourself at risk for eviction or have to find a new home for your pet. Your best bet is to be honest and find an apartment that is happy to have you and your furry companion.
Niccole Schreck is the rental experience expert for Rent.com, a free rental site that helps you find an affordable apartment, gives you tips on how to move and then says, "thank you" with a prepaid $100 reward card.