Single tenant found “passed away” in her apartment

17 Replies

So the police want to keep the apartment untouched until after they get the results of the autopsy from my deceased single tenant. After googling how long autopsy results take that could be 4 plus weeks. Can they do that? They said they had concerns about how she was when she was found. This is a 4 unit apartment building in Minnesota My tenant was on assistance and was on a lot of prescription drugs. She was found during a welfare check since her caretaker wasn’t able to contact her and hadn’t heard from her in a couple weeks. When found she was in a chair and had been deceased “for a quite a while”. Can I say no to the police? Can’t they take pictures or do what they have to do? How do I get back possession of the property? She had 2 daughters that she rarely spoke to and hadn’t seen in a very long time. I spoke with one and they have asked to go thru her stuff.

I'm I'm guessing that this is going to vary state-by-state. I would also suggest that your easiest recourse may actually be an insurance claim. I don't know for sure if your insurance will cover that but it would seem that loss of rent due to this incident could be considered an insured loss.

If if you find legally that you are screwed, consider talking to your Mayor and city council.  Unfortunately autopsies take a long time because there is a huge backlog for forensic pathologist. But there's no reason you should have to pay the price for a delayed autopsy.

If by assistance you mean HUD, you will most likely get their Feb portion. Plus you have the deposit. An insurance deductible will be as much as a month of rent anyway, most likely.

I've never had a tenant die, but did have a 90 year old removed to an old folks home. It took next of kin a couple weeks to clear out her stuff, then another couple to turn it. You'll survive.

I wouldn't let the 1 daughter in to cherry-pick her stuff though.  Both of them, with the advocate, or be ready for serious drama later. Good luck

Something similar happened to us in Denver and we were successful in getting the insurance company to pay for $30,000 of repairs to the unit. We hired a good Public Insurance Adjuster to help us with the claim (otherwise we wouldn’t have been successful).

You can always ask your “what if I say no’ or ‘can they do that?’ questions to another police officer. Asking others as worked well in the past.

If it’s a crime scene there may be issues with entering as we had to wait for the police to finish their investigation

Originally posted by @Julie Dillon :
So the police want to keep the apartment untouched until after they get the results of the autopsy from my deceased single tenant. After googling how long autopsy results take that could be 4 plus weeks. Can they do that? They said they had concerns about how she was when she was found. This is a 4 unit apartment building in Minnesota My tenant was on assistance and was on a lot of prescription drugs. She was found during a welfare check since her caretaker wasn’t able to contact her and hadn’t heard from her in a couple weeks. When found she was in a chair and had been deceased “for a quite a while”. Can I say no to the police? Can’t they take pictures or do what they have to do? How do I get back possession of the property? She had 2 daughters that she rarely spoke to and hadn’t seen in a very long time. I spoke with one and they have asked to go thru her stuff.

 Refusing to cooperate with police on a potential murder investigation is a great way to get convicted of obstruction of justice.

I didn't say I wasn't going to cooperate or had any plans of such.  This just happened a couple days ago.  The police haven't "ordered" me to stay away from the apartment.  They just "asked" me if I would keep the apartment secure until the autopsy report was back.  If it is going to take 4 plus weeks to get it back then why can't they take this time to take pictures and do what they need to do if they suspect something other than natural causes.  

She was on alot of meds and was not a healthy person.  

It seems unreasonable to me to have to wait a month or so to start cleaning up the apartment.

I'm really wanting to hear from someone that would have an idea about Minnesota law.  The social worker indicated that their team would be able to remove her things and clean the apartment.  

I've also heard I should go to the court and ask for permission to remove and store her items.  Or file for abandoned property.

In bigger cities I know the city will cover damages caused by their police department. If the police are requesting to hold it you will likely be able to get payment from the city, (or crow wing county depending on who is handling it). It’s a matter of talking to the right person.

My guess is that the Crow Wing ME isn’t that busy and they will release it in a couple of days once they have a general idea of the cause of death.

@Julie Dillon Your question if for a very specific legal question regarding an infrequent occurrence, where the laws vary between jurisdictions.  BP is not the best place to get this sort of advice.  @Tim Joyce is an attorney and may be able to weigh in on the issue but you really need to ask the police or consult with an attorney.  Do you really want a LL you don't know, nor do you know their qualifications giving you advice on such a unique situation?  

Thank you.  I just appreciate the conversation and feedback.  I realize all situations are unique and will take any feedback in this forum as just that.  Thank you.  

@Julie Dillon so the best answer will come from a local attorney that specializes in serving landlords. Many of these kind of situations are based on case law so unless you regularly deal with such issues you won't know the "right" answer.

Also do not let family enter unless directed by a legal authority. Again ask your local attorney how to handle it. Most will provide free advise but you may want to pay them to have someone to point to if someone cries foul.

My recommendation is to contact your insurance company and a lawyer and ignore any opinions on this thread- including this one 😁

Originally posted by @Julie Dillon :
So the police want to keep the apartment untouched until after they get the results of the autopsy from my deceased single tenant. After googling how long autopsy results take that could be 4 plus weeks. Can they do that? They said they had concerns about how she was when she was found. This is a 4 unit apartment building in Minnesota My tenant was on assistance and was on a lot of prescription drugs. She was found during a welfare check since her caretaker wasn’t able to contact her and hadn’t heard from her in a couple weeks. When found she was in a chair and had been deceased “for a quite a while”. Can I say no to the police? Can’t they take pictures or do what they have to do? How do I get back possession of the property? She had 2 daughters that she rarely spoke to and hadn’t seen in a very long time. I spoke with one and they have asked to go thru her stuff.

 Julie, do you have an RE attorney, if not Im sure you can locate one on BP - but you may be able to get this moved along a little quicker, I dont know how things work in your state, but if its a murder scene, you will probably have to wait if it is simply a crime scene (not sure if this is the same thing: )) We had a crime sxcene last year at a property, we were able to enter fairly quickly within a few hours post investigation  - they got what they needed and left. Just be patient - Im sure it will be all good, looks like a lot of good feedback in this string

I'm wondering if they are just waiting for the autopsy to come back before deciding to process it as a crime scene. Why waste the time and resources if it was not a crime? If I were you I'd just be patient and wait. I know it's frustrating, but all of the other options will just cost more money. Keep in communication with the police and hopefully they'll get it done sooner than later.

That sounds like small town police work to me. If this turns out to be a crime and they left the crime scene in the hands of a landlord for a few weeks it would be very easy for a defense attorney to throw out any new evidence they collect after the fact. They should have been thorough up front, ridiculous that you and the family have to wait for weeks to clean out the apartment. Shoddy police work if you ask me, and I'm a cop. I'd check with a local attorney to know for sure, but based on my experience you don't have any legal obligation to wait for them. If the police walked away from it, its all yours.

@James Wise In spite of what they show on TV crime dramas she is under no legal obligation to cooperate with a murder or any other investigation. If a search warrant or court order is involved that would be a different story.

Pretty good chance she died of natural causes and may not even need an autopsy. The medical examiner will make the call. If there was a history of medical issues and her PCP can confirm, then there is a good chance of not needing the autopsy. How long the paper work and things of that nature takes is another story.

Great point Nolan M.!  Good news is they "released" the apartment back to me today.  So no waiting for the autopsy.  

I do not look forward to entering this apartment.  I am in touch with the immediate family and my attorney.  It appears from here things will be ok.  

That’s what I predicted would happen. This is a rare scary event for most landlords as they only own a few properties. As a regional property manager managing a dozen managers working for me each with a building full of renters I tend to see these things more often and the odd event becomes more normal.

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