The practice of abandoning one's house and mailing the keys back to the creditor because the mortgage is worth more than the house itself.
Making it harder for people to discharge their credit-card debts has other drawbacks as well. Homeowners would once do almost anything to keep up payments on their homes, even if it meant falling behind on other debts. In the past year, though, economists have reported an increase in the number of people who are just walking away from their homes, because it's now often easier to abandon a mortgage than a credit-card bill. (The practice has even been given a name — "jingle mail," because people simply send their keys back in an envelope.)
—James Surowiecki, "Going for Broke," The New Yorker, April 7, 2008
What do banks call it when a troubled borrower abandons her home, sending them the keys?
And what do they call it when an irate borrower abandons his home, yanking electrical outlets from walls, leaving faucets running and otherwise trashing it on the way out?
'Taking the inside of the house with you.'
There's nothing like black humor to define — however sadly and starkly — the blows that keep on coming in this mortgage debacle. But make no mistake, lenders are only beginning to learn how to manage the onslaught of jingle mail and houses turned inside out.
—Gretchen Morgenson, "Cruel Jokes, And No One Is Laughing," The New York Times, January 13, 2008
Patricia Kosciuszko, spokeswoman for the Mortgage Insurance Companies of America in Washington, D.C., which represents mortgage insurance firms ... said the mortgage insurance industry coined the term "jingle mail" because homeowners whose mortgages were worth far more than their homes literally mailed their house keys in to lenders.
—Pamela Yip, "Haunted by debt," Houston Chronicle, November 1, 1992