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Cash for Keys

Tenant screening is one of the most important things that a landlord can do.  You want to make sure that you selected people to live in your properties that can pay, will pay, will pay on time and will not tear up the place and cause trouble.  However, no matter how well you screen your tenants, every once in a while you will have a tenant that cannot pay.

Perhaps the tenant lost their job, or had some other unfortunate circumstance happen.  Whatever the reason, when you have a non-paying tenant you want to get them moved out and a good paying tenant moved in as soon as possible.  It is not that you are a mean person, but you have to eat as well and the bank really does not care that the tenant has stopped paying you, the mortgage payment is still due.

The first thing that most people think of when they have a non-paying tenant is the eviction process.  Yes, you can go that route, but it can be expensive, time consuming and just downright nasty.  It creates ill feelings on both sides.  Plus, crafty lawyers will be sending your tenants advertisements telling them how they can stop that eviction with a bankruptcy (and they can for several months!)

Rather than eviction, I prefer to use the cash for keys method.  What is cash for keys?  It is simple really.  You pay the tenant to move out and hand you the keys.

Why would anyone do that?  Shouldn’t the tenant be paying you the back rent?  After all, they owe you money.  Yes, that is correct, but by the time they get to the point where they cannot pay the rent they have likely exhausted their resources.  They may want to move, but do not have the money to do so.

So it seems to me that it is better to pay them a little bit of money, maybe even as little as $50 or even as much as $300 to get them to move their stuff out and give you the keys.  By using the cash for keys process you have control of the incentives.  You can even get the tenant to clean the place before they leave so they can get their money.  Evictions use the threat of the courts and we all know cash today is much more effective than the threat of a judge sometime down the road.

Plus, when using the eviction process you are going to have to pay a lawyer.  How much will that cost?  $300, $400?  Did you figure in the filing fees, process server fees, writ fees and set out crew fees as well?  Now which one makes more sense?

I know it can be hard to swallow giving money to someone who may owe you a substantial sum.  But the best thing for everyone is for the tenant to move on and for you to get possession of your property back so you can get it re-rented as quickly as possible.

One last thing, before you had them the cash for their keys, be sure to get them to sign a release to the rights of possession.  Otherwise you could be in for more headaches down the road.

2 Responses to “Cash for Keys”
  1. hi! Shouldn’t this also be used in conjunction with a “Release of Property,” a form that says you agreed to release the property back to the owner without recourse?

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