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“Cash for Keys” as an eviction alternative

Getting unwanted tenants out of your apartment units can be one of the most frustrating experiences a landlord can go through. Whether they need to leave in order to rehab the unit or you want them out because they aren’t paying their rent, its not a fun experience. You just want them out as soon as possible. The most common method used to do the job is the eviction. An effective method, for sure, but an expensive one. Legal fees, rent loss and value-of-time costs tend to rack up in a hurry. So before trying the eviction route, you should first consider an alternative: Cash for Keys.

This method, commonly used by banks in foreclosure situations, can be very fast and relatively cheap. The basic premise is that rather than going the route of eviction, you offer a cash settlement to the tenant if they are out of the unit by a specified time. The actual amount of the settlement depends on the situation. At first glance, many landlords scoff at the idea. Such an attitude is, however understandable, can shortsighted. Consider the following:

  • It’s fast – This method can potential get the tenant to move out in a matter days due to the financial incentive. Compare that to the three months a knowledgeable tenant can stretch an eviction out.
  • It’s cheap – Offering a tenant $250 to move out is far cheaper than any eviction. Paying a professional to handle the process will run you over $300 alone. If you account for lost rent and tenant damage accrued during the eviction process, the choice is obvious. Even if you have to offer more than $250 to get the tenant to move. Some tenants might actually want to leave, but not even have enough money to put a deposit down on a new apartment. This cash might help such tenants make ends meet. And for the others, it just might be enough to make them move on.
  • It’s easy – Going through the process of eviction not only takes time and money, its a pain in the butt. Especially if you are representing yourself in the eviction. It’s also easier on the tenant. Many tenants would be willing to cooperate with you and move out, but they don’t have the money to make a down payment or move to a new place.

When you come down to it, there is no reason not to try this method. It’s cheaper, it’s faster and it’s quite simply a better arrangement for both you and your tenants. It doesn’t always work and it isn’t for ever situation, but its usually worth a try. If it fails, you can always go with the traditional eviction.

For more options, you might want to read Friendly alternatives to evicting bad tenants

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2 Responses to “Cash for Keys” as an eviction alternative

  1. mark October 8, 2010 at 3:27 pm #

    This sounds great at first glance, but it doesn’t work in some communities, especially where it’s easy to develop a reputation. The problem is that renters figure all of this out and you become a target for a use.

    • Matt Kastner October 8, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

      While I agree that is a concern, what is to stop a tenant from doing that any time? It can easily take 3 months to evict someone. If a tenant wanted to take advantage of you, they could simply stop paying at any time and live for free. The way landlord-tenants laws are written, just about everything favors the tenant or squatter. No solution is perfect. The real key is screening tenants before placement to help avoid the deadbeats.

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