Cash for Keys Program

Rather than a lengthy and costly eviction process, some landlords are offering a “Cash for Keys” program to get problem tenants to move out.

Even the best tenants can run into some financial difficulties, and it’s up to each landlord to determine when to give someone a break and when to start the eviction process. When you really need your tenants to move out for non-payment of rent, but want to avoid the time and costs of the eviction process, consider offering the tenants a “Cash for Keys” incentive.

What is Cash for Keys?

The idea behind cash for keys is to provide an incentive for tenants who can no longer pay rent to move out by a certain date, then receive a cash reward from the landlord. While it seems counterintuitive to pay tenants who cannot pay rent, many landlords are finding that the program actually costs less than filing fees, attorney fees and lack of rent payments during the eviction process, which can drag on for a month or longer.

How Does it Work?

Once you’ve determined that your tenant is in default, you have two options. First, you can begin the unlawful detainer process by serving a notice to pay or quit—the first step in the eviction process. Second, you can offer Cash for Keys incentives to the tenant so you can quickly regain possession of the rental property and get it re-rented as soon as possible.

The amount of cash you can offer is between you and the tenant. A good rule of thumb is that you will pay an amount equivalent to a deposit on a new rental, or perhaps the equivalent of two weeks of rent.

Is Implenting a Cash for Keys Program Legal?

Is Implenting a Cash for Keys Program Legal?

Cash for Keys is legal. However, you must protect yourself and your property from tenants who agree to hand over the the keys for cash, but still don’t move out.

Make sure that there is a legally enforceable right for you to evict the tenants should they not comply with the written cash for keys agreement. In other words, the cash for keys agreement should specify that the tenants understand that failure to comply means they waive their right to a trial and are giving up possession of the property. This way, you can get a writ of possession quickly in case they don’t move out after all. An experienced attorney can help you draft comprehensive cash for keys agreement that is legally binding.

As a landlord, you’ll experience times when your tenants are having a hard time making the rent payments. You must trust your instincts and know when to be creative and work out an arrangement on unpaid rent and when it’s time to get possession of your rental property and get the tenants out. If you choose a cash for keys method, make sure it’s beneficial to you and your business and make sure that ultimately you regain possession of the property faster than you would via an eviction.

Cash for Keys Agreement Form

If you want to implement a Cash for Keys program, for legal purposes it’s important that you use an agreement form.

The cash for keys agreement form is a part of our landlord form bundle.

You can get the form bundle by clicking here.


    • Sindy, it’s not a government program or anything. It’s something a landlord would offer to get rid of a problem tenant in lieu of suffering through the eviction process and spending more money in the end to get someone out.
      Hopefully you’re not a problem tenant looking to get paid to move.. If you are, you should be open with your landlord and have good communication. I don’t know if you’ll get paid to leave, but it’s certainly easier working through this stuff when everyone is open and honest.

    • how do i get cash for keys being a renter and my aunt sold her property and only gave me a two day notice my number is 9092588451

    • Dana, I’ve never heard of an amount higher than $1,000. But I think it would largely depend on the monthly rent. If the rent is $3,000/month, then the cash amount should be higher than if they were only paying $1,000/month.
      Remember the idea is to give them incentive to leave peacefully and avoid the 7 years of having an eviction on their record.

  1. We have a landlord who passed and since then, her brother and her kids are both fighting over the property. Since then though have come to an agreement to sell the house. We are searching for a new home but the rent is ridiculous in the bay area, would we fall in the category of asking for cash for keys? To help with our moving fee?

  2. Vanessa, it doesn’t sound like you’d be a candidate for cash for keys.
    The premise of cash for keys is to avoid an eviction, and is really intended for “bad tenants”. You don’t sound like a bad tenant from what you’ve mentioned so far.
    In your case, you’re better off leaving the place in good condition and getting your security deposit back. Since they’re selling the property, I would also ask for a letter of recommendation from them to indicate that you’ve been a good renter. Once they sell, you likely won’t be able to get your hands on this and it may be difficult for future landlords to verify your rental history.

  3. I’m not sure there is a whole lot you can do if the mortgage is behind and the bank issued an eviction, which is what sounds like what is happening.
    It’s unfortunate but the landlord is about to, or already has, lost the property.

  4. You can’t say you’re not paying the rent because of roaches. You need to go through the proper steps before you can withhold rent. Otherwise you’re breaking your lease and can be evicted.
    But lets address the real issue here, you can’t pay the rent because you’ve fallen on hard times. Don’t reach for other things like roaches, when the bottom line is that you can’t pay the rent.

  5. Unfortunately Cash for Keys is NOT a government program that helps renters move out. It’s incentive for dealing with a bad tenant. So this would not apply to you whatsoever.
    However, don’t overlook the fact that you were essentially defrauded by your husbands grandmother! If the house was in foreclosure, what was she doing with all the rent money?
    I hate to say it, but you got scammed by family and once the house sells at auction you’re out a home.

  6. Upon final inspection of the property to ensure they held up their end to leave peacefully and without damage.

  7. No Mike, cash for keys is not for you. You need to find a place you can afford and move out of your current place immediately or you’ll end up being evicted.

  8. If the lease states a washer and dryer would be furnished, then the landlord would be responsible for providing one. Whether it be new or repaired. If you end up buying one for whatever reason, I would get it in writing that you will be taking it with you upon move out since it’s not your responsibility to furnish the unit.

  9. Sounds like your sister is squating and has no right to be there. So no, cash for keys would no be applicable for your sister, who was never on the lease in the first place. She needs to leave before being forced out by the local sheriffs through an eviction.

  10. Ok so I need some advice, I moved into a house that was already in the foreclosure process unbeknownst to me .the man I rented from knew this property wasn’t his anymore and rented it to me anyways….now a bank has told me they cannot give me my deposit back in order to move.they want me out by the 18th of this month…I would have never moved in if I would have known …what can I do if anything ….please help.

    • Not a whole lot you can do, you’ve been hustled. Scammed. You’ll have to go after the guy who accepted the security deposit. I try with the Police Department first, maybe the blatant fraud would be considered theft in your municipality. But even still, recovering the money is a different story. Ironically, it’s no different than a landlord trying to get a bad tenant to pay – just the other way around in this case.

  11. My landlord sold my building and called to tell me I have 30 days to move out . The new owners want a tenant free building. I paid this month’s rent on time like I have every month for the last 4 yrs. I know I don’t have to pay next months rent because I have to be out by the end of that month, but it still doesn’t give me enough time to find an apartment for my family of 5. And i have a disabled child. What can i do?

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