Many landlords never think about what to do if a tenant dies in one their rental properties. This is only natural, since no one rents homes with the expectation that a tenant will die in the property; however, from a business perspective, landlords should prepare for this eventuality, just like they prepare for the possibility of a fire or burst pipe. A death at a rental property may be unlikely and unpleasant to think about, but it happens across America every day.
Just like landlords have legal rights and responsibilities when it comes to collecting rent and fixing damages, they have obligations and rights when a tenant dies. These legal responsibilities vary based on the jurisdiction and manner of death. The process of turning over the unit may differ greatly based on what occurred.
Not surprisingly, when a tenant dies of natural causes, the landlord's job is much easier and less expensive than with suicide or homicide deaths. If someone else has not already alerted the authorities of the death, the landlord should do so immediately. Once the authorities have completed their work and the body has been removed, the landlord should secure the unit against theft or intrusion. All windows and doors should be locked and the alarm set, if applicable. Also, it is a good idea to change the locks in order to prevent anyone with keys from entering the unit and removing property.
The landlord should notify any emergency contacts, if necessary. The law regards the tenant's personal possessions as property of the estate. The estate's executor should coordinate the removal of the deceased tenant's property with the landlord. If no executor exists, a family member should coordinate this process.
Once the property is removed, the landlord should have the unit professionally cleaned by a restoration company that cleans homes after deaths or tragedies.
Suicides are some of the most horrific tragedies. As far as the landlord's responsibilities, the first is contacting the authorities if needed and providing them with any needed assistance as far as their investigation. Once their investigation is complete, the landlord should secure the property and contact a restoration company that specializes in suicide cleanup. Disposal of the tenant's property works the same way as with natural-cause deaths.
When a homicide occurs, your property becomes a crime scene. As such, the authorities will advise as to when the landlord can take back possession of the property. Unfortunately, authorities do not provide cleanup service, so a crime scene cleanup should be contacted once the investigators turn back possession of the unit.
In these cases, it is best to assist the investigation in any way possible and follow the directions of the investigating unit. Some personal possessions of the victim may be removed by investigators. Any remaining items are property of the estate and should be removed by the executor or family.
Rent payments after a death
Leases remain in force after a tenant's death, which means that the deceased's estate must pay the rent. Most landlords try to re-rent the unit as soon as possible. The security deposit can be used to repair damages and any leftover amount should be refunded to the estate.