How to Get Out of Paying Pet Rent (and other charges)

Pets can cause some serious damage to rental units that can cost landlords a lot of money to repair. To help mitigate this potential expense, a lot of landlords have started charging pet rent—an amount, usually $15-20, added to your rent each month. That might not seem like much, but it can add up to an extra $180-240 on a 12-month lease.

Since that money isn’t refundable, you won’t get any of it back—even if your pet is an angel and you leave your apartment in better condition than it was when you moved in. However, everything a landlord presents to you is negotiable. 

If you don’t want to pay pet rent, bring it up with the landlord before you sign the lease. With a little discussion, it’s possible to come up with a compromise that works for both of you.

Preparing for Negotiations

The landlord has their reasons for charging pet rent and they likely weighed several options before deciding to go that route. Before you bring up the issue, make sure you’re just as prepared to talk about the issue as they are.

Look at your budget and figure out how much wiggle room you have. If the addition of pet rent puts the apartment out of your price range entirely, you might want to consider some other options that aren’t cutting it so close.

Figure out the total you’ll have to pay upfront along with estimated moving costs. If you have some money available that you can offer upfront in lieu of pet rent, that might sweeten the pot and convince the landlord to drop the monthly charge.

Even if your ultimate goal is to pay no extra money at all, think of alternatives to pet rent that you’d be okay with. For example, if pet rent would add another $200 to a 12-month lease, maybe you could offer $200 upfront as a refundable deposit. You’d still be out the same amount of money, but there’s a chance you’ll get it back with interest when the lease is up.

Make things even easier for the landlord by showing up with your own pet agreement. You can find templates online then fit them to suit your circumstances.

If you’re thinking about several different options, draft an agreement for each. For example, you might have one with no extra charges that requires you to maintain renter’s insurance to cover pet-related damages. Then, you might have another in which you pay a refundable deposit upfront in lieu of pet rent.

Lining Up Your Evidence

Consider why landlords charge pet rent in the first place. They’re concerned about damage to the unit, certainly—but that’s not the end of it. They’re also worried about the nuisance caused by untrained pets and negligent owners. The more you can show that you and your pet won’t trigger any of those concerns, the more likely you are to get out of pet rent.

If you’re currently renting from a different landlord, see if they’ll write a reference letter specifically describing what a well-trained, clean, and disciplined pet you have and how the two of you are delightful renters who’ve never caused any problems.

Gather vet records to show that your pet has had all the vaccinations required in your city or state and is in good health. Landlords are often worried about flea infestations so if your pet is taking a flea preventative, that can help your case a lot.

For dogs in particular, gather any certificates from obedience training. If you haven’t put your dog through an obedience course, consider doing so! Successfully completing training is strong evidence that your pet is well-behaved and unlikely to cause any trouble.

Look into renter’s insurance that covers pet-related damages. If you have a renter’s insurance policy, it shows that you’re taking financial responsibility for your pet and feel a sense of ownership and responsibility towards the property. A renter’s insurance policy not only gives you peace of mind—it can make your landlord feel more comfortable as well.

Draft a resumé for your pet. Include a picture of your pet looking very mild-mannered and well-behaved and pattern the rest off of a regular resumé you might write for yourself. Under education, include any obedience courses or other training. For experience, you might list the other places where your pet has lived.

Making Your Case

Open negotiations by telling the landlord that you’d like to discuss pet rent. If they immediately tell you that it’s not negotiable, ask why. Sometimes, community managers at large apartment complexes don’t have the authority to negotiate the terms of a lease—but you might find out who does.

Assuming the landlord is open to talking to you about pet rent, start by stating your position clearly. Then, present the evidence you’ve gathered to demonstrate why you shouldn’t have to pay pet rent. Each of your pieces of evidence should show that the landlord faces little to no risk if they decide not to charge you pet rent.

For example, you might start by presenting your pet’s resumé, which shows that you have a mild-tempered, medium-sized dog that has been a model tenant for 2 previous landlords. Moreover, he’s neutered, has a Canine Good Citizen certificate, is up to date on all his vaccinations, and is taking a flea preventative.

Keep your tone calm and professional. Getting emotional or defensive won’t help you. If the landlord says they’re not convinced by your evidence, that’s the time to bring up alternatives. For example, you might offer to pay a refundable deposit instead of paying pet rent. But don’t bring up any alternatives unless it’s clear that your landlord isn’t moving from their initial position.

If you’ve brought draft pet agreements, let the landlord know. That can be a little push that will get them to agree with you.

Other Ways Around Pet Rent

If your pet provides emotional support to you and helps you stay balanced and calm, it might qualify as an emotional support animal (ESA). Landlords are required by law to make reasonable accommodations for ESAs, which often includes waiving pet rent. 

If you think your pet might qualify as an ESA, make an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss the issue. At a minimum, you’ll need a letter from your healthcare provider to the landlord specifying that the animal you own qualifies as an ESA.

What Not to Do

If the landlord won’t budge and you still don’t want to pay pet rent, you have basically one option left: rent somewhere else that doesn’t charge pet rent or is more willing to negotiate. What you don’t want to do is pretend you don’t have a pet.

Most landlords have generic leases that they use for all of their tenants. That means there will be a clause in the lease somewhere about the landlord’s pet policy. If you lie and say you don’t have any pets, the landlord will check a box on the lease next to a statement that you don’t have a pet, and then you’ll sign it.

Remember: Your lease is a binding contract. If your lease says you don’t have a pet and you do, your landlord can evict you for violating the lease. They might be nice and let you work something out with them, but you don’t want to take that chance and end up with an eviction on your record.

If you still want to take your chances, consider the amount of stress you’ll put on yourself by trying to hide your pet. This is even more difficult if you leave for work every day and aren’t there to keep your cat out of the window or quiet your dog that wants to bark at every delivery person. It’s just not worth it.