Property Management Tips

What do you do when your tenant passes away?

When a tenant dies, a landlord has certain rights when it comes to regaining possession of the rental property. While you may be eager to get the property back on the market as soon as possible, California law requires landlords to follow certain steps. Once the next of kin or the deceased tenant’s executor notifies you of the death in writing, you can assist the family members, start the transition to re-renting and recoup any financial loss. So, what rights do you have as a landlord when one of your tenants dies?

If the deceased tenant had a lease agreement for a specified term, the tenancy continues to the end of the lease, even though the tenant is passed away. Responsibility for the lease agreement passes to the deceased tenant’s executor as named by the court. If the tenant had a month-to-month lease agreement, notice of the tenant’s death acts as the end of the lease, and the executor’s responsibility ends 30 days after the tenant last paid rent.

You have the right to reasonably secure the rental property upon learning of the death of the tenant, such as changing the locks. This is to prevent the theft of any possessions in the immediate confusion of settling the tenant’s estate. As friends or family members approach you asking to enter, always accompany them to the property to ensure that everything stays put. Ask any visitors to sign an indemnification agreement and provide a picture ID. This step protects yourself against any possible disputes surrounding the estate. Once an executor has been named by the court and you get copies of that paperwork, you can turn over the key and allow the executor to manage the deceased tenant’s property.