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Moving with a pet in NYC? You may have to pay a pricey deposit

Having a pet can cost you in more ways than one.

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New Yorkers love their pets. The city Economic Development Corporation estimates that there are at least 425,000 dogs and around 500,000 cats in apartments throughout the five boroughs.

Landlords and property managers, though, tend to see in pets the potential havoc claws and paws can wreak, and possibly, to see an opportunity to extract more cash from tenants. 

The laws governing pet ownership and pet deposits in New York can be a bit murky. Landlords and co-op and condo boards have the right to forbid pets in residential buildings, but the city's Housing Maintenance Code says that you may be able to keep one anyway, provided that you do so "openly" for at least three months, and your landlord or managing agent does not object. This applies to co-ops, condos, and rentals.

If your landlord isn't inclined to let a surprise puppy or kitten slide, you may be able to persuade him or her with an extra pet security deposit, says Adina Azarian, a broker for Keller Williams Tribeca.

"At a luxury high-rise rental building, usually their policy is firm," Azarian says. "But with smaller landlords you can negotiate."

There is no official statute, however, governing pet deposits or fees, according to Landlordology.com. People with registered service animals, which are permitted in buildings regardless of their pet policy, are exempt from having to pay a fee, as Nolo explains But otherwise, landlords may charge their pet-owning tenants an additional security deposit, and the price can vary significantly from building to building. 

"Pet fees are a concern of most pet owners," says Alexis Bogen, director of leasing for Mirador Real Estate. "Pet fees are typical in new developments, and most of the older, pet-friendly landlords do not charge a deposit."

She adds that for landlords who do charge a deposit, the amount can range from $250 to $1,000 per animal. 

Michael Rothschild, vice president of AJ Clarke Real Estate, says that in his experience, the typical pet deposit is half a month's rent, though that amount can vary for dogs depending on breed and size.

Azarian says she's seen the amount can go even higher: Up to $1,000 for a cat, and one extra month of rent for a dog.

"Many times, the landlord will ask for more information, such as if the cat is declawed or if the dog goes to doggie daycare during the day," she says. "Multiple pets are much harder, and [the deposit] can go as high as two to three months' extra security, depending on size and breed." 

Nick Bonello of Halstead Management says that some developments will charge non-refundable pet fees rather than deposits. He knows of one building that charges dog-owning renters a monthly fee of $100 to cover damage and stains.

"It's more effective than a deposit, because if building staff finds something on a given floor, they don't know whose dog caused the problem," he says. 

Bonello adds that the majority of the buildings in his portfolio, a mix of co-ops and condos, are pet-friendly.

Anecdotally, I recently moved to a no-pets building, a prewar rental, and my landlord agreed to let my cat come along for an additional $500 deposit. It struck me as a bit excessive, given that she's 14 and sleeps most of the day, but for those of us attached to our animal companions, it's a small price to pay.

Next time, though, I'll limit my search to pet-friendly buildings.

 

 

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