Elderly tenant died last night rent is due in 4 days.

43 Replies

First time for me so I’m looking for advice on the best way to handle having an elderly tenant die. She was the only name on the lease and family is saying rent may be late

May be worth it for your reputation (at the very least) to allow them a grieving period - Wish them well, pass your condolences, then bring up the move later. The elderly are a massive group in FL and if the wrong person heard you were giving a family a hard time in a difficult emotional season the decision may turn out bad for you.

Maybe you could work with the family to move the belongings into a storage facility while you advertise the unit. Be extra careful not to let slip that someone died in your unit!!! I know I'd get the jitters LOL

It could also work out in your favor - If the stuff isn't old or worn that bad, you could offer to buy the furniture off the family at a very good price and then advertise the place as furnished, which could command higher rent.

Yes these are some of the things that are going through my mind as I weigh the responsibilities of a business owner on one end against the soft heart on the other

Originally posted by @Bjorn Ahlblad :

Where is Thomas S when we need him?

File for eviction! It doesn't matter whether the tenant is alive or dead, they are still a DEADBEAT! Don't let the tenant train you. You train the tenant. If you don't evict immediately, you must be a hobby LL. You're making it hard for real landlords to be successful because hobby landlords like you drive down rents and allow bad tenants to die without paying the next month's rent and you won't report it to the eviction court so real landlords can find out who the deadbeat dead tenants are. Sell your property, now and save yourself the embarrassment of failing at REI.

All due apologies to Thomas.  

If your an example of a “non hobby landlord “ with all that hate, ignorance and bile spewing from your keyboard then please put me in the “hobby” category

Originally posted by @Craig Ward :

If your an example of a “non hobby landlord “ with all that hate, ignorance and bile spewing from your keyboard then please put me in the “hobby” category

 My apologies, Craig.  It was a (bad) inside joke.

Seriously, I would be respectful of the family, allow a little time if requested but clearly state my expectation that the rent should be paid in full by whatever date you choose.  But be sure to mention a specific date.  Not being specific is the same as telling the tenant "pay whenever you can, or not, and I'll be okay with it."  If your too-late date is the 20th, tell them to pay by the 15th.  If your too-late date is the 10th, tell them to pay by the 5th.  With a recently deceased relative, if they don't live in the unit they may not pay at all.  Just keep the lines of communication open and be easy to talk to.

Good luck.

Proceed with caution. I would recommend checking in with an attorney on this one.

I cannot imagine there is any possible way to require anybody to pay the rent, except for either [1] the person who signed the lease (who of course cannot pay), or [2] her estate. If a family member offers to pay and you feel comfortable accepting their money, hey, go for it. But otherwise, you would almost certainly need to deal with the executor of the estate (who may not even know yet that they are the executor of the estate).

If you aren't careful, you could get into trouble. For example, her daughter works with you to remove the possessions, other family members could potentially sue you (just because the woman is her daughter doesn't mean that she is legally entitled to take the possessions out of the apartment).

If it were me, I would check with an attorney, and at least give the family some breathing room (time) to take care of arrangements. Don't expect to get a check in 4 days.

Originally posted by @Randy E. :
Originally posted by @Bjorn Ahlblad:

Where is Thomas S when we need him?

File for eviction! It doesn't matter whether the tenant is alive or dead, they are still a DEADBEAT! Don't let the tenant train you. You train the tenant. If you don't evict immediately, you must be a hobby LL. You're making it hard for real landlords to be successful because hobby landlords like you drive down rents and allow bad tenants to die without paying the next month's rent and you won't report it to the eviction court so real landlords can find out who the deadbeat dead tenants are. Sell your property, now and save yourself the embarrassment of failing at REI.

All due apologies to Thomas.  

Do we have a post of the month prize?

My policies are “DUE ON THE 1st, LATE ON THE 2nd AND I WILL HAVE A 3DAY NOTICE ON THE 3rd. ONCE I START I WILL NOT STOP! PLEASE DO NOT RENT FROM ME IF YOU DONT PAY ON TIME

@Craig Ward I am happy to not be in your shoes. I agree with some other comments on here. Give them a couple weeks and then have a new lease drafted for them to sign with their own names on it or help them move out.

Being dead is not a valid excuse to be late on your rent . Seriously though I’d just assume you won’t get paid in 4 days and give them a solid week to figure out their situation get her in the ground and grieve

Originally posted by @Craig Ward :
First time for me so I’m looking for advice on the best way to handle having an elderly tenant die. She was the only name on the lease and family is saying rent may be late

Are you truly this much of an insensitive a-hole?! She DIED.

Plan on get getting rent for 3 months, while the family figures out which way is up, and which down. IF they can do it faster, count your blessings. Some day it'll be your turn...

Originally posted by :

Are you truly this much of an insensitive a-hole?! She DIED.

Plan on get getting rent for 3 months, while the family figures out which way is up, and which down. IF they can do it faster, count your blessings. Some day it'll be your turn...

Originally posted by @Randy E. :
Originally posted by @Bjorn Ahlblad:

Where is Thomas S when we need him?

File for eviction! It doesn't matter whether the tenant is alive or dead, they are still a DEADBEAT! Don't let the tenant train you. You train the tenant. If you don't evict immediately, you must be a hobby LL. You're making it hard for real landlords to be successful because hobby landlords like you drive down rents and allow bad tenants to die without paying the next month's rent and you won't report it to the eviction court so real landlords can find out who the deadbeat dead tenants are. Sell your property, now and save yourself the embarrassment of failing at REI.

All due apologies to Thomas.  

Spot on imitation of Thomas S. :)

Sorry your tenant kicked the bucket, but from the baby born today to the oldest person living, we're all in line behind him.

Unless he's a family member or close family friend, you should not suffer financially for the tenant's death.

I would file and eviction notice right away and then keep a running total of lost rent and other costs.

Then there are additional actions you can take in the interim to ensure you come out okay.

Talk to your lawyer to make sure you understand and follow the rules (Google "lease obligation tenant death").

Put on your friendly customer service hat when dealing with the family and friends of your (former) tenant.

well first rule of BP is don't listen to me about how I handle tenants.

to me its done.. I would not expect any money and would not ask for any.

just help them move his or her belongings.. as fast as possible and be as nice as possible.

pretty tough to collect anyway from an estate if they don't want to pay your would spend thousands chasing dimes.

when my step daughters father died I was the trustee of his estate.. he left behind some pretty massive debt.

I negotiated it all for about 2 cents on the dollar.. and the creditors were happy to get it.. pretty easy to say well he is dead and his fico no longer matters.. here is what I will give  you other wise sue us.

@Craig Ward - I'm actually kind of confused. If the elderly tenant is the only person on the lease and died, why does the family have any obligation to pay you? Are they living in the apartment? If so, why aren't their names on the lease? I'm assuming you have a clause stating that "only the listed person(s) may live here" or something along those lines.

Next question: please please please tell me that you have been saving a percentage of your income for vacancy. If you're so strapped for cash that this is a huge setback, then you're in more trouble than just dealing with a dead tenant - you need reserves to run a business.

Suggestion: If the family is still living in the property, get a new lease written with their names on it. Hopefully you have a cash reserve and an understanding that they have other issues right now. Even if it's just an e-mail asking them to agree in writing that they will sign a formal lease and that they want to stay there - once you have that in writing, understand what they are going through and make your expectations reasonable (and considerate) - ask for rent due by the 15th this month.

If the family is not planning to live in the apartment and state that in writing, then ask them if they would like help moving her stuff. If they want her stuff, they can provide storage space (a storage unit would work) and can either agree to have you move it or they will send some cousins or nephews to help. Start posting the apartment on your choice of websites / local papers and start screening tenants. Since no one is on the lease, you should be fine to take potential tenants through the apartment, give the apartment some TLC, etc to get it ready to move in a new tenant. This will take time anyway, so it would give the family time to move their stuff out.

Be considerate. Use your vacancy cash reserves as it is intended to be used. Get a new lease signed by the family (if they want it), or start screening new tenants. Either way, you can probably have a new tenant in and pro-rated by the 15th or have the family paying full rent by then. Are you really so tight on cash reserves that 15 days will break your business? If so, you need to reconsider how you're using the income.

@Randy E. to me it wasn't a bad inside joke--I thought it was a really funny black humor remark, and it made me laugh!

@Craig Ward

Lighten up a bit--let that sense of humor get some exercise. 

Other than that, consider yourself lucky the surviving family was nice enough to let you know rent might be late this month.  Give them 5 days to mourn (rent will only be 1 day late), and then have a serious discussion with them.

Did the tenant die inside the apt?  Don't know your local laws so check them out.  Were police involved?  Anything suspicious.  If they died inside the unit, any bodily fluids or other medical waste involved?

The above questions are not my black humor--I've had tenants die inside units and it can be problematic.  Light a candle, say a prayer, and remember every day is precious... we'll all end up in the same place eventually.  Enjoy the trip!

Offer condolences and be professional. Contact the family right away, get right to the point of getting her stuff out, yet obviously allow the funeral to happen before you require the stuff out. In the meantime, you can go in the unit and start prepping for the new tenants. If they drag their feet, ask if they want to sign a lease/pay their moms rent. Last option is to evict, which I am sure there is precedent for, and you should start research on immediately. I think this will go more smoothly than you think, so long as you give some respect and be nice.

Originally posted by @Craig Ward :

Ok, sorry I completely missed it, and I was able to get good advice from it anyway.

 I was right there with you for a moment, haha.  Then I reread it and realized it had to be sarcasm or a joke. Which it was. haha

I agree with what everyone seems to already be echoing.  Give them time.  Not only for your reputation, but, as you pointed out with the soft heart bit, it is just the right thing to do.