San Francisco Cash for Keys is it legal?

Asked by William, Daly City, CA Wed Mar 28, 2012

I heard that it is illegal to offer cash for keys. I am thinking of starting an Ellis act eviction process for some of my under performing properties. I would much rather offer my tenants a sum over their relocation money to keep the Ellis off the record. But I also heard I can't offer Cash for Keys because it is considered harassment? So go directly to Ellis, do not pass go, do not collect $200?

-Both unit has one protected tenant
-Only 2 units for the building, so even if I do an Ellis and can't do a condo conversion I don't think it would effect the price much. (Let me know if i am wrong)

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Steven West, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Sun Sep 2, 2012

Although offering cash is not illegal if done through an attorney (usually just over $5100 per tenant), the process for protected tenants is different (case by case).

Unfortunately there is no easy answer for this. Get a good real estate attorney to investigate your particular situation, but because of the protected tenants, this is really up to a the San Francisco rent court.

I hope this helps!

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William, Home Buyer, Daly City, CA
Wed Mar 28, 2012
Thanks for the advice, going to work with an attorney with this. Still a little apprehensive knowing that if they fight the eviction/ or decide to stay after the ellis, it could cost up to $30,000 in legal fees, as if paying the $35,000 relocation fee wasn't bad enough.
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Sara Elich, Agent, Scottsdale, AZ
Wed Mar 28, 2012
William, I am with the rest of the gang on attorney recommendations. Proceed with caution. Hire an attorney. In today's world the law protects the tenant more than the owner. You need a good eviction attorney that specifically handles these types of circumstances. I have not worked with Jeff Woo, but Jed seems to think highly of him. Best of luck
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Matthew Goul…, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Wed Mar 28, 2012
Hi William, I second the recomendation to Jeff Woo. But whatever you do, you need to use a San Francisco Tenant attorney.

good luck
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Jed Lane, Agent, Petaluma, CA
Wed Mar 28, 2012
you need the advice of an attorney not real estate agents. We can not advise you. Contact Jeff Woo who is an attorney and specializes in this aspect of tenant buy outs. He can be reached at and by phone at (415) 433-1900.
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Matt Ciganek, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Wed Mar 28, 2012
William -There is absolutely, positively no way to get around hiring an attorney to assist in these matters. The repercussions from an incorrect action by a property owner / landlord can be absolutely devastating. Please contact me or another agent in San Francisco to get a list of attorneys who specialize in tenant law in San Francisco. You need an attorney who handles tenant situations on a daily basis as the laws are so complex and subject to constant change. They also strongly favor the tenant. When you have protected tenants, you've entered into a new realm of complexity.

To answer your second question, yes the value would be affected significantly in most cases. I'd be happy to provide you a complimentary market analysis taking each scenario into account for your property specifically. Thanks and hope to hear from you-

Matt Ciganek
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