CASH FOR KEYS: Definition, How to Use, and Guide

Turbo Tenant

There are numerous occasions when you, as a landlord or property manager, must deal with unforeseen events in your rental property. The property owners attempt to avoid evicting the renter whenever feasible, although this may occasionally be necessary. Owners of rental property do have a choice, though. It’s known as a “cash for keys” arrangement. In plain English, a “cash for keys” agreement is when a landlord or property owner pays the renter to leave the rental. Although it seems easy, things could become tricky. In exchange for relocation funds, occupants of a foreclosed home must promise to leave the property in good condition and move out under the terms of “cash for keys.” Depending on how quickly the tenants vacate, a few thousand dollars in compensation are typically given.

In an effort to prevent drawn-out and expensive eviction proceedings, lenders may give cash in exchange for keys. Before signing the “cash for keys” arrangement, homeowners should confirm that it exempts them from making mortgage payments.

Cash for Keys

Cash for Keys is a program that offers homeowners cash in exchange for their keys to their property. The program is designed to help homeowners who are facing foreclosure or who have already lost their homes to foreclosure. To use Cash for Keys, homeowners must contact a participating lender or housing counseling agency. The lender or agency will assess the homeowner’s situation and determine if they are eligible for the program. If the homeowner is eligible, they will be offered a cash payment in exchange for their keys. The amount of cash offered will vary depending on the lender or housing counseling agency. However, most programs offer between $1,000 and $5,000. Homeowners who participate in Cash for Keys must agree to vacate their property within a certain amount of time. The amount of time will vary depending on the lender or housing counseling agency.

Cash for Keys can be a helpful option for homeowners who are facing foreclosure. The program can help homeowners avoid the stress and hassle of foreclosure, and it can also help them get back on their feet financially. The following advice is for utilizing Cash for Keys:

1. As soon as you can, get in touch with a participating lender or housing counseling organization.

2. Prepare yourself to share details about your financial status.

3. Plan to leave your property in a predetermined amount of time.

4. Recognize that the quantity of money supplied may fluctuate.

5. Before agreeing to participate, find out more about the program and make sure you are aware of all the rules. Make sure to do your homework and be aware of all your options if you’re thinking of using Cash for Keys.

Cash for Keys Agreement 

A written agreement between the homeowners and the lender declaring that they would vacate the property by a specific date and leave it in good condition is at the core of “cash for keys.” The residents agree in the agreement that they will not vandalize the house or take copper, appliances, or light fixtures out of it. They must also promise to clean the residence thoroughly—often referred to as being in “broom clean” or “broom swept” condition—and not leave any pets or personal things behind. The phrase “cash for keys” is sometimes accompanied by an eviction notice warning that the property’s tenants will be evicted if they don’t leave. Lenders are not required to offer “cash for keys” and do not do so automatically.

If the lender offers “cash for keys,” it will normally be a few thousand dollars; this will at least partially cover the costs of hiring a moving company and paying the security deposit at the new place. The price might change based on how quickly the tenants vacate. If they act right away, they could make far more money—let’s say $3,000—than if they wait a month, who knows what they would make—maybe $500. Additionally, some lenders could demand a swift exit and only pay cash in exchange for one.

The Cash for Keys Agreement Procedure

#1. Meet with the Tenant. 

Confronting the renter is the first stage in the cash-for-keys process. This entails going to the tenant and explaining that they are in violation of the lease agreement and face eviction. Then you can explain to the tenant the entire arduous eviction process. Explain in full the implications, costs, and how it may affect their future and security deposit.

#2. Explain Cash for Keys to the Tenant

Most renters are unaware of the concept of cash for keys, thus it is critical that the property owner explain it to them. Explain how, as a real estate investor, you are willing to make a monetary offer to the tenant in exchange for their voluntary departure. It is critical to check with your state and local laws before making an offer.

#3. Obtaining a Written Agreement

It is critical to get this in writing, just like any other contract or agreement in property management. This will benefit all parties concerned because it will reduce the likelihood of a future dispute. A cash-for-keys agreement form is the best way to accomplish this. This form normally consists of several sentences that detail how the move-out procedure will proceed. The document contains the move-out date, the cash offered to the tenant, and the property’s condition.

Cash for Keys California

During a foreclosure, your home is sold out from under you, typically while you are still living there. The new owner will want you to leave as quickly as possible. The good news is that they may offer you money to quit. With Cash for Keys, California has created a way to make the foreclosure process easy for all sides. When a home is sold in foreclosure, the most difficult challenge for the new owner is evicting the inhabitants. In certain circumstances, the occupant is the previous owner, while in others, the resident is a tenant. Regardless, many banks, as new owners, will employ a method known as “cash for keys” to promptly and successfully evict the tenants. It entails paying the current occupant a specified sum of money in exchange for the occupant completely vacating the property.

This is done within a certain time frame, maintaining the property until that time, leaving the property clean and “broom swept,” leaving all appliances, and eventually handing over all keys and any garage door openers to the new occupant. Tenant rights laws differ from state to state and even between cities. In California, for example, communities such as Los Angeles have passed local regulations to provide stronger safeguards to tenants facing eviction. Los Angeles has also approved an ordinance that temporarily extends this protection to non-rent controlled properties. 

#1. Cash for Keys in California

You may be permitted to stay in the property for the duration of your lease, depending on the sort of lease you have. In addition, new owners must follow all notice obligations. While your rights as a former owner may not be as wide as those of a tenant, you do have the right to notice and an eviction process. There are additional laws in California that govern who can make a cash offer for keys on behalf of the new owner. Those participating in soliciting a tenant to enter into a cash-for-keys agreement on behalf of an owner and/or a lender or its servicer must be a real estate broker or real estate salesperson operating under 10131 of the state’s Business and Professions Code.

Cash for Keys Foreclosure 

People who are going through foreclosure might cause significant damage to a home if they believe the process was unjust or the new owner is acting unreasonably. Furthermore, the legal process for evicting someone from a foreclosed property is frequently expensive and time-consuming. As a result, in order to encourage former homeowners to leave quietly and voluntarily, the new owner (typically the bank that foreclosed) would sometimes provide them a lump sum of money. 

If your mortgage is in default and you have been advised by your lender that foreclosure proceedings are impending, a deed in lieu of foreclosure may be an option. If your lender agrees to a deed in lieu of foreclosure, you may be eligible for a cash-for-keys settlement of up to $2,000 if you abandon the property, according to HUD guidelines. Negotiating and carrying out a deed in lieu is a difficult task. If this is an option you want to pursue, you should speak with a real estate attorney that specializes in pre-and post-foreclosure matters. This ensures that you have all of the facts before deciding whether or not to pursue this choice. It will also guarantee that you have proper representation when negotiating a cash-for-keys offer in conjunction with the deed in lieu.

Cash for Keys Squatters

Because of the housing crisis, many residences now purchased at auction had been abandoned for months or even years, making them excellent targets for opportunistic squatters. Squatters frequently retain possession after the auction by utilizing adverse possession as a shield. To evict someone from the property, the new owners must engage a lawyer and begin the lengthy eviction process, which increases their expenditures and ties up assets. The government is essentially encouraging squatters with this approach. The state’s adverse possession statute features a one-of-a-kind court procedure that gives squatters 30 days’ notice to appear in court after receiving a summons and a 30-day leave when objections are filed.

At that time, they can file an eviction objection, provide forged leases, and postpone the eviction for months. In many circumstances, a squatter in Florida can be quite certain that he can occupy a house for at least six months before eviction. Squatters are well aware of this. Due to the slowness of eviction tribunals, the number of squatters continues to expand across the country. These laws are fraught with additional complications. Squatters have turned to extortion knowing they have months until a court ruling forces them to depart. Property owners agree to pay squatters in this black-market method known as “Cash for Keys” in order to bypass the lengthy legal process. Homeowners have been known to pay squatters more than $12,000 to leave their property! 

Many owners believe they have no choice but to accept the agreement since they will otherwise have to pay legal expenses and have their property seized for months. Recognizing that purchasing an empty property may result in months of problems and thousands of dollars in legal bills, as well as extortion by cunning squatters, many prospective buyers may decide against purchasing abandoned property at all.

What Is Cash for Keys? 

A landlord can use cash for keys to persuade a renter to leave a property in return for money. This is frequently less expensive than pursuing eviction proceedings.

How Much Money Should I Offer in a Cash for Keys Agreement? 

Amounts in cash for keys. In most cases, the price is half a month’s rent plus a security deposit, or a full month’s rent. Another alternative is to offer the amount of court expenses that would have been charged if an eviction notice had been filed – normally, this might vary from $1,000 to $3,000.

How Do You Calculate Cash for Keys? 

Typically, the sum is equal to either a full month’s rent or half a month’s rent + security deposit. Another choice is to state the amount of court costs that would have been incurred had an eviction notice been filed; these costs normally range from $1,000 to $3,000.

A cash-for-keys arrangement is an enforceable contract that both the landlord and the tenant must uphold.

How Much Can You Get for Cash for Keys in California?

The sums provided to tenants vary generally and are frequently adjustable. According to anecdotal reports from people who have used “cash for keys” programs, the minimum and maximum amounts provided to tenants for their keys are typically $500 and $5,000, respectively.

To evict current tenants legally, a new owner or investor in a rental property may offer cash in exchange for the keys. A tenant would have to give up their rights under the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009 in order to do this.

Is Cash for Keys Money Taxable? 

You might need to file Form 1099, yes. If you receive “cash for keys” relocation aid, should you 1099 it? The type of payment and whether it goes over already paid rent will determine the answer. Before making any decisions that can have an impact on your return, always get the advice of a tax accountant.

Is Key Money Negotiable?

The good news is that rent and/or key money are typically negotiable, at least in part. If you want to stay for a while, you might discover that it is preferable to take the key money and save money on rent in the long run, and vice versa.


Owners should consider the tax repercussions of a “cash for keys” arrangement as well. Homeowners must declare the payment as income and your lender will report it to the IRS. Anyone receiving help of any kind should confirm that accepting “pay for keys” won’t affect their eligibility. Additionally, property owners ought to think about saving 20% to 30% of their “cash for keys” payment for taxes.

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