What happens if a tenant dies in a rental property? Tenant deaths are a somber topic but one that needs to be addressed.
Hopefully, you never have to deal with the death of a renter, but if you do there are certain steps a landlord needs to follow to make sure everything is handled legally.
Make sure to follow your state and local laws for how to appropriately handle a tenant death at your rental property.
When a tenant dies while under an active lease and leaves no surviving adult tenants, landlords will likely incur serious expenses; and if not done correctly, those expenses can add up quickly.
Here are some basics steps to take when dealing with a tenant’s death:
Despite what some might think, when a tenant dies the lease remains active. You should check with your state and local laws about your rights and responsibilities when it come to managing a deceased tenant.
Remember to be sensitive and professional when dealing with a tenant’s death. Always keep excellent records of any actions you take regarding the property and contact with the executor or family.
Get written notification of a tenant’s death.
You will typically find out about a tenant’s death one of two ways. Either the family or deceased executor will contact you or the deceased will be discovered at your property.
Make sure to get a written notice about a tenant’s death from next of kin or the executor, so you can start the transition to re-renting and recoup any financial loss.
If you discover the deceased body on your property call the police immediately. They will handle contacting the next of kin and direct you on how to retain a death certificate if there is no next of kin.
Once the tenant’s death has been established, you can start working towards getting the ready for the next tenancy.
Secure the Property
Make sure the doors and windows are locked. See to it that pets are taken care of. Other than that, do not touch anything unless you absolutely have to in order to secure the property. Further, take someone with you as a witness — or at the very least, use your smartphone to take a video of your entry.
What Happens to the Lease?
The deceased tenant’s property, debt, and contracts will transfer to the estate or next of kin. This means, that the lease agreement does not automatically end when a tenant dies. In most states a landlord can hold an estate accountable for any unpaid rent for the remainder of the lease terms. However, a compassionate landlord will work with the family and executor to allow them to end the lease and move the deceased tenant’s belonging.
What do I with the tenant’s belongings?
A landlord has no right to simply go in and remove the deceased tenant’s belongings. You need to work with the family or executor to get them to remove the deceased tenant’s belongings. Try to be compassionate about their feelings and what the family is going through.
Set a realistic timeline for the family to remove the belongings and clean the property. Anywhere from 2 weeks to 30 days is a good time frame. You can let the family know that they will be responsible for rent for the amount of time it takes them to clean the property and return possession back to you.
If there is no next of kin, follow your state’s laws for how to deal with abandoned tenant property, especially regarding a tenant’s death. You may be required to store the property for a specific number of days and then sell the property at auction and return the funds to the state if no next of kin can be found.
Release to the Rights of Possession
Once the property is cleared and cleaned to your satisfaction, ask the next of kin to sign a “release to the rights of possession” form. Once that is completed, you are then in pretty good shape at that point to go ahead and re-rent the property.
The Security Deposit
You may use the deceased tenant’s security deposit to pay unpaid rent, damages to the property beyond normal wear and tear, and cleaning costs. Any unused portion of the deposit should be sent to the deceased tenant’s executor, along with an itemized list of deductions. If the amount of rent, damages and cleaning exceed the total security deposit, you’ll need to petition the deceased tenant’s estate for compensation.
Knowing the steps to take if you ever have to deal with the death of one of your tenants can save you potential legal trouble and will help you keep costs at a minimum. Remember to be respectful regarding the death while taking steps to protect yourself and your business.
This article was originally published in March 2017 and has since been updated.
My nephew passed away, two day’s later the landlords of his mobile home park removed his belongings and put them in a dumpster, with no warning to the family. He was struggling financially and we are not sure if an eviction order was in process at the time of his death. this occurred in Flint Mi. can anyone tell us if we have recourse? There is no end to the amount of pain this is causing his family and especially his 15 yr old son.
Removing a tenant’s belongings and putting them in the dumpster is illegal in most states. The landlord would need to follow state laws for handling abandoned tenant property, which usually means contacting next of kin, and storing the belongings for a certain amount of time. I would absolutely work with a local attorney to find out your options.
I did not know how to post a new comment so forgive me. My boyfriend died over a month ago. His body was found 4 days after he died. They removed his body only. The lanlord was out of the county and did absolutely nothing until he came back to the USA Arizona last week. The room was sealed off but the odor and remains continued to grow/fester throughout the house. There are 3 other living individuals living in that home. One of them moved out immediately he was getting sick and couldn’t stand the smell. The other 2 have stayed and the landlord just had a bio hazard professional company come and remove all affected items (bed/Carpet etc) They only did the bare minimum, They did not spray sanitize or clean the room or the house. They put all of his belongs in plastic bags outside with a sign on them saying “health hazard do not open until a professional team properly cleans items. I called the company to ask if it was ok for the current tenants and landlord to live there. HE SAID ABSOLUTELY NOT. He said it was inhabitable, unsafe and unhealthy for anyone to even enter the property or live in the property until the proper steps were completed. So, my question is how does the current tenants living there get their rent back deposit back and move out ASAP? We are in Arizona. Any help is greatly appreciated.
Maria, I am so sorry your boyfriend passed away. I can’t even imagine having to deal with that grief and this situation. Each state and area have different laws and regulations about housing habitability. I would recommend you contact your local fair housing agency to ask them about the habitability but also the deposit. I wish you all the best. Warm Regards.
What is an emergency contact when the renter dies and management does not contact them? Is it not the right thing to do to avoid liability. They allow others in and belongings were removed.
You will probably need to speak with a lawyer to help you with this situation. Your state will have very clear steps a landlord must follow when handling a tenant death and their property. If the landlord tried to reach next of kin but received no response, he would still be able to remove the property and store it based on your state’s abandoned property laws. However, if the property was mishandled or the next of kin was not contacted, then they could be trouble and your lawyer will be able to help you figure out the next steps. Good luck. And my condolences for your loss.
My niece died and the land lord only gave us three hours to move her things, and we were not able to move everything.Are we still responsible for cleanig and removing things we had to leave since we weren’t given enough time.
Viola, I am so sorry for your loss. 3 hours certainly doesn’t seem like a lot of time to move belongings. As state and local regulations differ, I would suggest contacting the housing authority to find out the local/state laws where she lived that apply to your unique situation. Kindest Thoughts.
I want to rent an apartment, a house or unit.
I am the one that would be paying the landlord.
Where do I find and see the information (documentsand/or other) that prove that a person who is known as “landlord” however really and actually does own the property that I want to rent?
(if you need/needed to know, I don’t/am not renting any one of those varieties of property as business/company owner… I am an individual who is not employed (not self-employed) and is not using the property for charity/volunteerisms)
I don’t see why I m at fault on forclosed hone when my name was not on the loan agreement no deed or will left but I do reside in the home of deceased my mother so I don’t understand why I have to be evicted because of this situation and Everytime you try to get info mation on loan note you are told can’t dicudis because your name was not on the loan please help me
If a family member dies and the next of kin owner of the estate end up taking over the lease and lives there now. And there are a few things that need to be fixed up? If she was to email the real estate agent and list the things that need to he fix or replaced for instance the carpets which are really quite old? And she has little boy who’s crawling around an has asthma dosent help that all the dust and what not from the carpets? After not lonh ago the hot water system that’s in the laundry burst and water was all through the house and they didn’t replace the carpets but instead had industrial fans going for 2 days straight drying them to the point the house was so smelly no one could stand the smell Nd stayed elsewhere.. Do you think she should be I intitled to new carpet ? Also the cupboard doors in the bedroom are broken off hinges and the mirror has a crack in it from trying to open it. Blinds are old and dusty Nd snapped. The toilet is very outdated and the plumber that was sent to look at the piping said that it needs to be replaced asap as it’s leaking. Just little things? So now that shes the new tenant she should be able to have these things fixed right ?
Did she sign a new lease with the management company? When you move into a new property, you tend to accept the condition of the property as is, for the pre-move-in condition. Unless deals were made with management that things would get fixed as a condition of move-in, like a new carpet. Then if things break or get damaged during tenancy, it will be either the managers responsibility to replace the fixtures or the tenants, depending on who caused the damage. I think your family members need to negotiate to get these items fixed before signing a new lease with management.
When I can’t get my landlord to fix things like water leaks or broken windows/glass fixtures etc (things which are either dangerous or can cause extensive damage if left go), I put my rent into an escrow account and then tell my landlord that he will get his rent when he fixes the problems. I’m in PA. Here I can also fix it myself and take the cost off of the rent. As long as its not just a cosmetic issue. Same goes for pest infestations such as mice or roaches. Rent into escrow and this is important send a written notice where the escrow account is at and the issue that needs fixed.
Google landlord tenant laws in your state.
tenant dies. there is a relative on the property that is not on rental application or agreement. the rent is payable for another 15 days (until end of the month). does this person have rights?
If the relative isn’t on the lease but has been living there, you will probably have to go through the normal eviction if they will not leave voluntarily. I would begin the eviction process immediately if possible. Good luck!
I live out of state. My son was in the hospital when I arrived to AZ where he was hospitalized and died at the hospital on February 13. I was not given his address by hospital. When I did find this apartment I was told that his lease was up the middle of February. He had not paid his rent for the first part of February. He was going to move that middle of February. I went to the landlord and paid for the whole month. I told her that I wouldn’t be able to remove his belongings and clean his apartment by the end of the month. I asked for another month (March) but she told me that the apartment was rented as my son was not going to renew his twelve month lease. The apartment is a mess. It is dirty with every room filled with stuff. Furniture, junk, clothing, etc. Am I the mother responsible for what is not cleaned or removed by the end of February? I have an afficiative (spelled incorrectly). I can’t get any funds that he has available or change the title to his car to me for thirty days after death.
I am so sorry for your loss. If you are considered next of kin, you would be responsible for the cost of clearing out the apartment under the terms of the lease agreement. Is there a security deposit? If you do nothing, the landlord can use these funds to clean the place and remove the belongings. But you will ultimately be held responsible for additional charges this might incur. If you do nothing, the belongings left at the property will be treated as abandoned tenant property. https://www.rentecdirect.com/blog/what-to-do-with-abandoned-tenant-property/
My renter died only payed half. Of rent how long do I give family to get her stuff out so I can rent it again
Check with your state laws about dealing with a deceased tenant.
you might wish to gather some links instead of telling people over and over to check with their state laws. you are not a professional
Hi Rich, Thanks for your input. Unfortunately, because these legal matters are not simply limited to state-by-state laws, but also by local municipal jurisdictions, it would be nearly impossible to ensure a comprehensive compilation of relevant laws. Furthermore, because governing bodies amend legislation consistently, it is always recommended to use these types of articles as a starting off point and to direct any specific questions to a seasoned legal professional who is trained to ensure readers are following the letter and intent of the laws in their area. Simply misunderstanding (or following outdated) guidelines can cause a sticky legal situation that no professional property manager or landlord should risk.
You could mention 211, a free referral helpline. There also are key words that help finding the information. For example I may say check with the DMV, thus meaning the Department of Motor Vehicles. But where I live now it is MVD, Motor Vehicle Division and everyone should understand what I mean. Telling someone to go to the local housing authority or a legal professional is professional because what legal in L.A. CA can differ some what to legal in El Paso TX.
Rich, she’s a professional – offering any advice because folks have the whole internet available and shouldn’t be asking her questions to begin with.
Rich, get a picture – you’re unprofessional.
I’m a retired school teacher. I teach folks how to find what they need, not give it to them – or they learn nothing.
Suggesting folks go look is very professional.
I am correct in saying that if a tenant lives alone with pets and then dies, the housing provider is responsible for ensuring that someone is caring for the pets until the estate’s executor has been appointed and distributes the decedent’s property? Under what circumstances may an individual take the pets into his own home or call animal control to hold the pets?
Each state and area have specific laws regarding abandoned property, and, specifically, what to do in the instance of a tenant’s death. I would check your local laws to find out the course of action a landlord or property manager needs to take in this instance. In many cases, the landlord is simply responsible to turn the pet over to an animal control agency or humane society, and they may not necessarily be required to turn the pet over to an executor. In some circumstances, specific property managers or landlords may have information on file for an emergency contact, and they will request that the person on file remove pets or animals.
My father passed away on June 22, 2019, he was on a month to month lease for his apt. The Landlord states bc he didn’t give 15 days notice she is charging him/me for any unrented days from July 1 on. My dad kept a record for everything, and was meticulous when recording anything. I found his lease, but it was expired on Jan 19, 2019, I don’t believe the Landlord renewed their lease after Jan. My father kept everything in a file. I have the original lease, and a secondary month to month lease which is the one which expired on the 19 of Jan. If there was no renewed lease, what will happen? The Landlord still has not sent me the deposit back with any details of deductions, and it has been almost a month now. We cleaned his apt out and turned in the key on the 29th of June. Not sure what my rights are to continue this process. BTW, we live across the country to deal with this. Thank you for any help.
Angie, I am so sorry for your loss. I am glad your father kept good records and that you handled his affairs quickly as that should help you in this circumstance. I would highly recommend contacting the local housing authority where he resided as they would be able to give you the best advice based on your unique situation. I wish you all the best and comfort during this time. Warm Regards, Heather
my ex husband died July 19th 2019 with no will or POA. He was a tenant in an apartment, and his rent was being paid by some kind of VA/Housing Authority Plan. He is survived by our son, and an older daughter from a previous marriage who lives out of state. They are both over 18, but neither has any experience with this. What do we/they need to do to be able to remove his belongings, which are of no monetary value just sentimental, family photos, and such. Landlady is talking starting the eviction process starting in August and says that will take 3 weeks or so. I’m not sure I can trust her about that time period. Can we just offer to pay August rent so we have some breathing room? She cannot just throw his stuff in the dumpster can she? She’s known for wasting no time doing this when she kicks people out, but can she do this if they die ? They are his legal next of kin, why can they just not go in and get his things ? This is in Tennessee.. can someone advise us? thank you
Beverly, I am sorry you are left with this complicated situation. Because of the complexity, I would suggest you reach out to the local housing authority in that state to ask about your unique situation. They will tell you more about Tennessee’s eviction process and any rights your children have over his belongings and timeframe for removal. I do wish you all the best. Warm Regards, Heather
I did a 2 year lease with a tenant who went to jail for 5 months, he paid thru his daughter, then came home for 3 days then committed suicide. The daughter and siblings want the lease but not live in the house which they have removed all essential services by removing propane tank, cutting kerosene heater line, removed A/C unit and shut off water, removed dishwasher. They claim they have a right to the house and lease and listed it as their dads asset in his estate. They offered a personal check with a wrong year date, I did not cash, they became angry that I did not cash. They mailed another that I did not pick up. I filed a summary evict against the tenant, decedent which was denied and now I must file a formal eviction. I’m not sure if I should file a 30 no cause or 3day nuisance waste. I don’t have a lease with them and the lease says it not assignable…not to mention he asked me to cancel the lease but then disappeared before signing the agreement, I googled to find him in jail. Not sure what to do. I’m not a landlord, the tenant talked me into leasing my house to give him time to find a mortgage which he never did.
It is probably time to speak with a lawyer to ensure you are handling everything legally in order to regain possession of your property. Alternatively, you might speak with a reputable property management firm in your area to see if they handle one-time evictions for owners. They should be knowledgeable of the local laws around renter rights and know how to handle the process of filing and going to court for a formal eviction. Good luck and let us know everything works out!
My father just died on 1-21-2020 in Michigan. He was living alone in an apartment that was paid until 2-1-2020. He had no assets and very little money in his checking account. We cleared out and cleaned his apartment before 2-1-2020 and turned in his keys and now they when asked about his security deposit, they advised that he owes $688 for replacing the carpet. when discussed with My siblings it was decided that we aren’t going to pay the $688 and that we are not responsible for such damage. Should we be responsible and if so, how?
Laura, I am so sorry for your loss and dealing with this situation. I did a little research and it appears Michigan requires that the landlord provide an itemized statement of deductions outlining the charges. Wear and tear is the responsibility of the landlord whereas excessive damage (by pets or tenant caused) such as rips and stains would be the responsibility of the tenant. Specifically, Michigan regulation says if they wish to charge for damages those must be a “direct result of conduct not reasonably expected in the normal course of habitation of a dwelling”.
If the damages exceed the security deposit, which it appears the landlord is claiming, it would be incumbent for the landlord to petition your father’s estate for compensation. If you feel this charge is in error and/or that the landlord hasn’t petitioned the estate properly, you may wish to seek legal counsel. I would also advise contacting the local housing authority in that area as they would have dealt with this scenario and may have some additional suggestions.
I wish you and your family comfort during this difficult time. Warm Regards, Heather
I rented a SFR to a handicapped person (only person on lease) who had a caregiver living with him… in addition, he had a girlfriend living with him. The tenant passed away suddenly. The caregiver has decided that she and the others will continue to live there… I have said no and sent them a letter to that effect… she and the sister of the deceased (the executor) have stated that because the lease passes to the estate, she (the Executor) can let whoever she wants to live there… at the time we were in the lease conversation stage, we discussed that the tenant would like to buy the house possibly by the end of the lease period… the caregiver and the executor of the estate say that because we had some conversation about the tenant buying the property, a tenant relationship was established with the caregiver… this is a NC property… would like to know how to handle this
This situation seems complex with so many different parties involved. I can not offer any legal advice and but highly recommend you do seek legal counsel on this issue. It is my impression that in NC a verbal agreement can be established for tenancy but I can’t say that discussion of purchase creates that relationship. Additionally, I have not found any information in my research that the lease passes on to the executor in any fashion except the responsibility to pay any amount due and to remove the personal belongings. Again, a real estate attorney familiar with rental properties would be your best bet. Wishing you all the best and a quick resolution!
Quick question (hopefully): Do landlords have the legal right to require a death certificate at the time of notice? What if the family refuses? I am in Michigan, if that matters.
I was unable to locate a regulation requiring a death certificate in Michigan, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one available. Because I am unable to offer legal advice and there are nuances to the situation (were they the only occupant, is there an executor of their estate, is there back rent owed, etc…. ) I would highly recommend contacting both the local housing authority and legal counsel familiar with rental property in Michigan to get guidance. Wishing you all the best in this situation.
MY SON’S FATHER DIED. We are trying to locate his landlords name, but don’t have a clue how to find that out. Can you direct us how to discover this info? Rental property is in Rockwall County, Texas
I am so sorry you have to deal with this difficult situation, Lynn.
I did a little research and found this article from the Texas Law Help website that might be helpful in your search: https://texaslawhelp.org/article/finding-out-who-owns-your-apartment — as well as this informational article: https://texastenant.org/who-owns-the-property/
If I find any additional information I’ll be sure to link it here. In the meantime, wishing you all the best.
What to do if you are a tenant and your landlord dies
That is a unique situation for sure. The deceased assets (your rental for instance) will need to go through a court process called probate. During that process the rightful owner (could be a surviving spouse, partner, or next of kin) are identified. Until then, you’ll want to take your rent payments and put them in an escrow account at the bank until the new or successive owner, the executor of the will, or the court appointed probate appointee contacts you with documentation.
FLA: We sadly had one of our tenants pass away in her apartment. Our onsite manager did a wellness check with the police when friends showed up asking to enter the apartment. She had been there for a few days. We came into to town and assessed the apartment. We videotaped removing food and items from the fridge and freezer as well as changing the locks and removing a 10X10 carpet in which the deceased was found. I have hazmat experience so we only removed and treated the areas necessary to destroy bacteria and contain any hazards to preserve the property. We have been bombarded by her “friends” claiming the need to enter, but we said no until we get legal proof they are the actual family member or executor. We had been told that the only next of kin was an uncle who has had two strokes and is in a health facility. Ironically the caretaker of the uncle showed up with police demanding entry but provided no paperwork. The police agreed, no proof, no entry. Today I ordered her death certificate hoping we can glean information on who is the real next of kin. She didn’t have much except she does have a vehicle taking up space. Should we secure the vehicle in our locked garage on site? or leave it there? Also if there is no information as to next of kin on the death certificate, what are our next steps? I’ve read a little about abandoned property and she did sign an abandoned property form when signing the lease. We are just sad she is gone, she was very sweet, but left no clues as to her life since she was so private. Ideally we would like someone to legally step up and take her things and car but we are totally at a loss right now. I’m just trying to glean what the remaining steps might be should we find no one. 🙁
That is distressing to hear Elizabeth and I’m sorry you have to deal with this situation. It sounds like you have a good start on protecting yourself legally by insisting on documentation. In some states, you are allowed to store belongings so you can make the unit ready again to rent out while this gets sorted. So, I would first recommend to contact your local housing authority or state housing board as they should be able to direct you to your rights and responsibilities in your unique circumstance. Secondly, you might have to contact a real estate attorney to seek advice while her ‘estate’ (small as it is) is in probate just to make sure you handle this in a way that doesn’t come back at you later. Wishing you all the best in having this resolve for you very quickly and I’m sorry your community lost such a nice person.
My best friend past away 1week ago. She was hit by a car. She and I had a agreement to rent a room from her I was not on the lease. I been here for 6 months almost 7. 3 days after her passing they were notified that I was staying here they contacted me on a Friday and told me I I had till Monday morning to be out they were changing the locks. Come Monday they did not show up. Tuesday I heard a drill at the front door. I opened the door and said u can’t just change the locks. She said I told u I was u need to get out. I said I was not going to 3 days was not enuf time. I am packing my best friends belongings cause her family asked me if I would do so cuz it is to hard for them than u expect me to just get all my stuff and be out with no where to go. This is the hardest thing I have ever been through have a little compassion and loose the attitude. Iean I know I wasn’t on the lease but I have rights. U can take me to court. I asked u for a little time when I spoke with u Friday. That’s all I was asking for
. I am not asking to stay forever but 3 days is not enuf time.she said actually I gave u 4 days . I said thY attitude is not good.. I just lost my best friend. I am not planning on staying forever all I need is atleast til the.emd.of.tjhe month. She said I will talk to my supervisor and give u a call. Today, 2 days later I get a text saying if I get out by Jan 20,2023 her boss will cut me a check for $510. Which is 3 months of my friends portion of rent. Why is she offering me money and what are my right?? Please let me know , Thanks.
From a technical standpoint, you probably have no right to be in the property… was there anything in the lease that said your friend has a right to sub-let to anyone else? With that, usually the landlord will have to authorize the sub-letting of the property… the reason the landlord is offering the money is that would be money otherwise spent to take you to court to remove you … if they take you to court to evict, please remember there will be a public record of eviction and could make it harder for you to rent anywhere else… take the money!
I rent my basement apartment in my home. My tented died on my back entrance and I found him. I called 911 for assistance. He was with me for 3 years and had fallen behind on his rent for 8 months. He was in the middle of selling stocks to pay me back and showed me the paperwork. What rights are available to me, if any, to receive any compensation for his past due rent? He had nothing of value in my home. I did not receive a security deposit from him when he moved in. He cleaned up the apartment after the last tenant in lieu of a deposit. Any advice would be appreciated.