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What Is an Apartment Lease Buyout?

Your landlord may want to buy out your lease if they want to sell or renovate. A tenant buyout deal is also sometimes called "cash for keys".

An apartment lease buyout is when your landlord offers to pay you a lump sum in exchange for you moving out—usually within a relatively short time frame.

A lease buyout is sometimes used to refer to lease break - when you pay your landlord a fee so that you can move out early. Explore our lease breaking guides if that is your situation.

Buyout scenarios tend to occur most frequently in rent-controlled or rent-stabilized apartments, where the landlord may want to get you out of the apartment in order to renovate the building or bring in a higher-paying tenant. In rent-stabilized apartments, the amount a landlord can increase an existing tenant’s rent is capped. However, when a new tenant signs a new lease, the landlord can set an entirely new rate that is usually higher in price.

A buyout can be proposed by either you or your landlord, but you’ll need to make sure you’ve done your homework before getting serious so that you don't get cheated. In some cities, including New York, buyout offers have to be approved by local officials in order to make sure that landlords aren't lowballing or harassing tenants. For example:

  • Los Angeles has a law that forces landlords to educate tenants on their relocation options as part of a buyout option.
  • In New York City it's illegal for landlords to harass or coerce tenants into accepting a buyout by making threats, late-night calls, or canceling essential services on the property.

If your landlord approaches you with a buyout or "cash for keys" offer consider speaking with a lawyer who would review the terms of the agreement and possibly negotiate on your behalf.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.