DEFINITION of 'Key Money'
A payment made to a building owner, manager or landlord by a potential tenant in an attempt to secure a desired tenancy. Key money can be considered a type of deposit on a housing unit such as an apartment unit.
Key money also refers to a security deposit paid by a lessor or a lessee for a leased property.
BREAKING DOWN 'Key Money'
Key money is paid by a prospective tenant to a property owner or manager in the hopes of securing a rental contract in a particular property. In certain circumstances, key money can be considered a bribe to ensure that a property coming up for rent is secured by the payer of the key money, and as such, the transaction is conducted in an unofficial manner.