Death of a separated joint tenant during pandemic?

Death of a separated joint tenant during pandemic?

9:32 AM, 20th January 2021, About 5 months ago 8

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Hello All, The rented property was originally let around five years ago to a married couple – great tenants and never had any issues with them.

During mid-2020, their relationship broke down and the husband left the matrimonial home. Both tenants worked full time and as such, the wife (together with her young children) was happy to continue to rent the property, funding this from her own salary. This was fine by me.

I’ve just heard that the lady in question has died unexpectedly about four days ago.

Obviously, this is a very difficult time for all concerned, but, I’m looking for some advice as far as how to proceed.

I will need to check but believe that the original tenancy agreement was in joint names and that updated paperwork has not been put in place in the lady’s sole name (I use a letting agent as I do not live local to the property).

So, there are no remaining adult tenants in the house, but the house will still be full of the deceased goods and assets – I believe that the mother of the deceased is looking after things just now.

Where do I stand in terms of the rent that is due for this current month and later months – they were on an AST? If the lease is still in joint names, can I go to the separated husband for payment until they vacate the property? Or does the estate of the deceased have an obligation to pay the rent until they have given notice and I do?

And, of course, given that we are in the middle of COVID lockdown, and I do not live locally, how do I go about visiting the property – should I simply rely on the letting agent to deal with things?

Any help gratefully received.

Thanks

Ian



Comments

by CazT

11:02 AM, 20th January 2021, About 5 months ago

Hi
I recently had to sell a house after the tenant left and as I live in Spain I had the same problem. I asked my agent to do a complete walk around of the property taking loads of photos. It was in need of a full paint job and an in-depth clean, including rubbish removal. Your agent should have contacts for these services. It wasn’t cheap but I recovered that by selling the property in immaculate condition. I will of course get hammered by the Spanish tax man but it’s just getting too complicated for distance renting. Good luck 👍🏼

by LordOf TheManor

11:31 AM, 20th January 2021, About 5 months ago

Hi Ian
How did you discover the lady had passed away? Could you go back to that source and ask to be put in touch with the father of the young children? As well as the lady's mother, of course.

Without knowing where the husband went, there is the possibility that he could return to what was the family home and raise the children there himself. They need to live somewhere - so keeping them where they are appears to be the logical choice to either pursue or eliminate.

If the children's father moves back in, his late wife's mother might be the one who would clear her daughter's personal possessions from the property.

Work with the family. It's early days for them.... be sympathetic and find out what the family's plans are. The children's father might well be happy to return to the family home - in which case a solution for the rent will emerge from that.

I hope it goes well for all concerned.

Lord

by Dinnage

11:58 AM, 20th January 2021, About 5 months ago

I have a similar problem, the tenants moved in 6 years ago as happily married couple. They had two children. She chucked him out 2 years ago and has just about paid the rent but since the pandemic hit in March has paid us approx a quarter of the rent. I don't know where he lives but as he has signed the original lease, does he also have the legal responsibility to ensure rent is paid (they are not divorced) and wouldn't any CCJ show up on his record too? I have warned her that I will be issuing a Section 21 in 2 weeks time if rent not paid in Jan.

by Steve Masters

12:32 PM, 20th January 2021, About 5 months ago

Oh my, how sad. These are difficult times for us all. I have just learned that one of my tenants died of covid yesterday.

From what I can gather a tenancy doesn't end when the tenant dies, for a sole tenancy responsibility for the rent passes on to the deceases estate or in the case of joint tenancies the tenancy continues in the survivors name.

I am in contact with my tenants family already. Once the funeral is over I will speak to them nicely to arrange removal of his possessions and return of the keys. I'll explain his estate will be liable for any rent during the interim period and say that I will not chase this if they can return possession in a reasonable amount of time. Hopefully that will be enough.

My tenants entitlement to housing benefit will cease upon his death. I'm expecting it won't be processed until after his next direct payment is made to me and expect to be asked to return any overpayment later.

I suggest you work very closely with your tenants family to sort this out cooperatively Ian. If you or I need to go to court to regain possession it will be a nightmare, especially if either of our tenants died without a will and therefore intestate, and we will need to deal with the Public Trustee in the absence of an executor!

Giving up a few weeks rent will be a small price to pay to sort things out amicably. Our loss will be nothing compared to the loss of deceased familys.

by Derek t

12:58 PM, 20th January 2021, About 5 months ago

Good luck sorting it out not a nice situation. I found one of my tenants dead just after Xmas and he had been dead about three months police are still dealing with relatives and I await an update soon so will follow this thread closely

by Housing Law

14:03 PM, 20th January 2021, About 5 months ago

Hi Ian

If no assignment has been made of the tenancy from joint names into the sole name of the gentleman, under the doctrine of "survivorship", upon the death of the lady, the gentleman becomes the sole tenant - it is only where a sole (or sole surviving) tenant dies that the tenancy passes to the Estate. However, he is not living in the property as his only or principal home so the tenancy loses its "assured status" because as per the requirement in s.1 of the Housing Act 1988 he is not "living in the property as his only or principal home". The tenancy therefore becomes a pure contractual tenancy terminable under common law principles by service of a Notice to Quit (NTQ). Assuming it is a periodic tenancy, you can serve a NTQ, giving 4 weeks' notice expiring on a last day of a period of the tenancy and then issue a possession claim. However, if the gentleman moved back into the property the tenancy could regain its assured status and the NTQ would be of no effect, so you need to serve a s.21 notice giving 6 months' notice marked "without prejudice to the NTQ" as well. You should seek to contact him to establish his intentions as per the very sensible advice given above. Because the tenancy was a joint tenancy he was jointly and severally liable for all of the rent prior to the death of the other tenant and is now liable for any arrears and any future payments of rent up to termination/possession. If he does not want to live in the property, it will be in his interest to arrange to terminate as soon as possible. The terms of the tenancy may make provision for a period of notice required to be given by a tenant but as landlord it is open to you to accept an earlier period if you so choose. I wish you luck.

by Ian Haynes

14:06 PM, 20th January 2021, About 5 months ago

Thanks to those who have responded thus far. The comments reflect what I had thought but wanted to know that this was the right direction.

I am waiting to hear from the letting agent on the current situation, but assume that he is trying to establish whether the father will take up residence again with the children or not. If so then this does resolve the issue to a degree and if not, I need to establish how to get the property emptied, get it reviewed for damages etc. and the keys back.

I don't know the exact circumstances of her passing, but for info, my landlord insurance advised that while they don't provide for lost rent due to the death of a tenant, they would cover the cost of any remedial costs - while not pleasant to think about it, the example they gave was the cost of replacing, repairing or cleaning items where loss or expense is due to their death.

Will try to update this feed as I learn more.

Thanks

Ian

by Ian Haynes

14:39 PM, 25th January 2021, About 5 months ago

Dear All,

By way of an update, I have heard back from the letting agent. The mother as executor will be continuing to pay the rent for the foreseeable future (at least the next two months), and in the meantime they are decorating through-out to put the house back to the state it was when the tenant first moved in. It looks like the paperwork wasn't updated, but the separated husband will not be returning. This does however mean that the property is being internally fixed up and gives some scope to find new tenants in the interim.

Thanks to all who have contributed.

Ian


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