Unforeseen Tragedy: What to Do When Your Tenant Dies

August 15, 2023

In a recent discussion, Krista and Seamus tackled the grim but necessary topic of handling a tenant’s death as a landlord. They emphasized the inevitability of such situations and provided a comprehensive guide for landlords to follow. The steps begin with contacting emergency services upon discovering a deceased tenant and extend through dealing with the aftermath, including communication with the next of kin, handling the tenant’s possessions, and addressing lease agreements.

Key points include the importance of immediate contact with authorities to confirm the death, the need for empathy when communicating with the tenant’s family, and the legal requirements for managing the tenant’s belongings. They also discussed specific scenarios, such as roommates’ responsibilities, the impact of ongoing investigations, and the role of insurance policies in covering unpaid rent.

The conversation highlighted the significance of having clear procedures outlined in lease agreements for such eventualities. This preparation not only aids landlords in navigating these challenging times but also provides clarity and support to the bereaved family. Krista and Seamus concluded by stressing the importance of preparedness and compassion, inviting landlords to share their experiences and questions on the topic.

Video Transcript

Krista: Hi, I’m Krista, and we’re here to make you a better landlord.

Seamus: I’m Seamus, and today’s topic is a bit morbid – we’re talking about death.

Krista: Yep, death is inevitable.

Seamus: That’s right. And that means there’s a possibility a tenant could die in your rental or you’ll have to deal with a tenant’s death after they’ve passed.

Krista: Absolutely. Experienced landlords know this will happen at some point. So, could you walk us through the steps if you find someone who has died within your rental?

Seamus: Sure thing. Let’s assume it’s a peaceful death, natural causes, and you find them. First, you’ll want to contact emergency services, likely the police. They need to validate the scene. Once authorities show up and move the individual, establish communication with the next of kin, showing empathy and compassion.

Krista: Right, because they’re going through a tough time. You’ll need official documentation of the tenant’s death, like a death certificate and obituary. If it’s a month-to-month lease, the death notice serves as the 30-day notice. For a longer-term lease, work with the next of kin.

Seamus: Right. Now, if the tenant’s belongings are still in the unit, assess the situation. If they lived alone, change the locks for security. Let the next of kin remove items, and if things are left behind, follow local laws on abandoned property.

Krista: And don’t forget to list external belongings like cars or pets, and communicate this to the next of kin. Document everything and use the security deposit for damages or unpaid rent, sending a notice of deductions.

Seamus: What about belongings outside the property or in an external storage unit?

Krista: Inform the next of kin about those as well. Provide a list and document it. If there are roommates, they’re still responsible for rent. If one of multiple tenants passes, work with the next of kin to transition.

Seamus: Got it. And what if there’s an investigation at the property?

Krista: Cooperate fully, don’t interfere, and wait until authorities clear the property. Then work with the next of kin to remove belongings.

Seamus: And does insurance help in these situations?

Krista: Landlord insurance might cover unpaid rent, but check your policy. Tenants’ renters insurance might help too, so look into both policies.

Krista: Finally, include clear language in your lease for these situations, outlining communication and procedures. This helps both parties navigate through a difficult time and allows you to prepare for the next vacancy.

Seamus: Absolutely. Being prepared and compassionate in these situations is crucial for a smooth transition. And remember, if you’ve gone through similar experiences or have questions, feel free to leave a comment.


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