So my tenant DIED this past weekend....

23 Replies

So I received a phone call from my property manager on Monday morning. He told me that he had just found out that a tenant in a my 4 plex was found unresponsive by her boyfriend.  He called 911 however before she got to the hospital she died in the ambulance.  The property manager was actually going to go to her apartment to serve the 5 day eviction notice, and another tenant told him about her death.  No foul play per my property manager.   I’m hoping her family will pack her things and take them with. I don’t want to rush them but I don’t know what I can do to give them a little bit of time or after a couple weeks can I put her things in a storage facility and let the family know?

Please let me know if something similar has happened to you as a property manager, landlord. Any words of wisdom are greatly appreciated.

Something similar happened to me in May. I had a tenant who O.D.'d. I learned when the funeral was (thanks to a Google search) and a few days after the funeral I contacted one of the daughters (emergency contact) and gave my condolences. 

She told me she would go over there to start packing the items up (I felt lucky I didn't have to ask her when she'd be doing this - she had stated it without me asking) and I told her she could take her time as long as everything was out before the end of the month at which point I had the locks changed on the first of the month. 

When I returned to town (I live out of state) I removed what was left in the apartment and rehabbed it for a new tenant (the woman who had died was an inherited tenant and that unit needed a decent amount of work/upgrading).

I hope this helps!

We had a tenant pass in the apartment. Luckily, the daughter packed up the home and got everything out within a couple of weeks. I would ask an attorney just to make sure you are following the law, and try to find out who their emergency contact is. Good Luck!

Some state will have you hold on the personal property until probate is done or a mandatory two months, whatever is less.
Also be very careful, who, if any, you should authorized to enter the property. I have heard many stories of estranged family members cleaning up the apartment, discovering later on that they had no right to the estate.
As suggested, check with a lawyer to see the specifics in you state.

@Nicole Heasley , I called my attorney the day after I found out, she wasn't in so left a messange and just received a call back.  She told my I/my PM could reach out to family (emergency contact) in a week or so give condolences and ask if family would be packing up her items.  That's the plan so far, hope it will go smoothly.  Thank you 

You have a property manager. It is there job to deal with it. I as the owner, wouldnt give it a thought, let the PM do their job.

Your PM should be handling most of this, but generally, the death makes the contract voidable, meaning you cannot hold the estate liable for lease break fees, re-rental fees, or days of vacancy, but the estate should still be paying for any days the unit is occupied. If someone has their key and comes in to clean out the apartment that is (usually) fine, but you open yourself up to a lot of liability if you let someone into the apartment to clean it out (unless they can prove they have legal right). As always, state law will govern many of the small details here.

@Mike S. From what I understand the property manager told me that her mother and other family members were in her apartment the day after this happened. So apparently they have a key and I’m hoping that they will take care of the packaging.

Always a little confusing for me when people have a PM and are asking what THEY should do.....

You are paying a premium to a PM to handle issues like this..... they need to handle this..... perfect example of WHY you pay them each month.

@Diana Dorantes in CA there is a process for this. If the tenant “abandons” the unit, the landlord is required to file a particular notice (can’t remember which off the top of my head) with the state and post a copy of it on the property for a certain number of days... something on the order of 21 days or so. Afterward they are required to remove and store the belongings for an additional amount of time before they can be legally claimed by the landlord or disposed of (again, something on the order of 30 days or so).

I’m not entirely sure the term “abandon” applies to the death of a tenant. You’d certainly want to confirm your states process before you took any action of your own.

Like others have stated too, you’ve hired a PM. This is his/her time step up and handle business to earn their next placement fee.

- Josh

RE Broker and Investor in East Bay, CA

This is going to be location specific. A quick search shows that in Illinois the death of the tenant only voids the lease if it is a month-to-month lease as the death is official notice that it will not be renewed. It appears that death waives the requirement of 30 days notice of non-renewal. However, it looks like a lease with a fixed term continues and now becomes the liability of the estate.

Be careful about other people entering the unit. Just because they have a key does not mean that they have the right to be there and remove property. You could be liable for not securing the unit. Assume the tenant's sister has a key in case of emergency and she goes and removes property. However, the tenant's Will gives all assets to her brother. Brother and sister hate each other. Who gets sued? You get sued!

You should add wording to your lease where a tenant can designate a person to remove property upon their death, incapacitation, or incarceration. 

@Diana Dorantes use honey more than vinegar. I had to deal with family and attorney when a tenant committed suicide luckily not in my unit. Sad part is she had her nephew living in the unit and he thought he could just occupy it but the nephews mom got involved and I was trying to be really kind and work with him for the month and then they vacated also had to work with her estate probate attorney is very tricky situation but it worked out how they been real mean about things they could’ve camped out for quite a while and it would cost me a lot more money. My son had somebody die in his four Plex in the man actually was D cane for approximately three weeks inside the unit. In his case country financial gave him complete rehab money for everything so it worked out his case

My wife and I used to wonder if Apartment 4 was cursed. Three tenants in a row died before their one year lease was up. These were all elderly tenants with health issues. 

After they passed we worked with the family members to to get things removed.

As I have stated before I am not an attorney and do not play one on television. Please consult an attorney who is licensed to practice in your state. If you do not have an attorney PM me and I will help you make a connection. Here are some layman's guidelines.

1. Do not touch or remove the tenants personal property. Their "Estate" may have rights to the lease in your state. 

2. Is there a co-signer on the lease? If so serve them the 5 day notice.

3. Find out who the estate attorney is. As a renter who is already late on the rent, they probably do not have much as far as a probate concern goes, but you never know. If probate is opened serve your notice of unpaid rent and damages to the court via probate.

4. Don't expect anything to happen in a couple of days. Families grieve in different ways. We had one who came in, emptied and cleaned the apartment and was out in two weeks. She was a co-signer for her father. The others not so much.

5. You may be out the back rent. If there is no estate the "heirs" have no obligation to make you whole.

Good Luck and Good Investing!

@Diana Dorantes how is the process going so far? Is the property manager doing a good job handling everything? A death in a unit is tragic and stressful (for all parties). We always want to make sure we are compassionate and empathetic in difficult times for the family but also clear on what you need for next steps. I have had to help a family through this situation as well, and i tried to handle everything and make it super easy for the family because, when they were in shock and grieving a lost loved one, the least of their concerns was handling the lease and items. It was a difficult situation, but I by doing everything I could to help with the apartment side of things, I hoped to have made a small, positive difference during those difficult times. With your property management company as your proxy, they should hopefully have some experience handling this with grace. Good luck :)

@Erik Stewart ,  property manager contacted me and gave me an update. Family has actually been in packing up tenants belongings. She was only a few years out of high school and was not married so parents and siblings are involved. PM Has talked with them and a couple of occasions and they seem from what I am told a very strong close family and are helping each other deal with the tragedy and what needs to happen next. I feel fortunate that PM is able to stay in the background.  The family did say that they would make sure everything is out within the next week or so.