My tenant has died and any advice would be greatly appreciated?

by Readers Question

14:57 PM, 23rd October 2015
About 3 years ago

My tenant has died and any advice would be greatly appreciated?

Make Text Bigger
My tenant has died and any advice would be greatly appreciated?

I am a new Landlord having inherited some properties last year. I have just become accredited with the NLA, I am learning fast and hoping some of your readers will be able to give me guidance or tell me what they would do if they were in my situation.lilies

I own a pair of semi-detached houses with an elderly Grandma living in one house and her Daughter and partner living next door. The Grandma’s health deteriorated significantly over the past few months. She had difficulty getting up and down stairs to the point where she virtually had to crawl. A Stannah Stairlift is fitted from a previous hip operation she had, it doesn’t work as it needs a new motor, but unfortunately she couldn’t afford to get it repaired. I raised my concerns with her Daughter; she too said she couldn’t afford to pay for it to be repaired. I tried to do what I could and made lots of enquiries (i.e. Adult Social Care, Charities, repair companies etc.) but didn’t get anywhere.

Last month I visited and noticed a big bruise and cut on her face, she told me she had fallen in the lounge and hit her head on the fireplace. I was extremely worried so rang the Local Authority and expressed my concerns that the broken stair lift was restricting her access and I was worried she may fall and injure herself. I insisted someone look into it and was told someone from Adult Social Care would contact her and arrange an Occupational Therapist Assessment. To my knowledge this never happened.

The Grandma previously got into difficulty with her rent so she arranged for her daughter to withdraw her HB/pension at the ATM, deposit into her own account and then send an electronic payment to me. The Daughter has a history of late and missed payments, hence she never pays the Grandma’s rent on time and I have to chase it every month. The rent was due on Friday 16th October but was not received, so the following Monday I sent a text reminder to the Daughter. She subsequently rang and told me that her mum had passed away as a result of falling down the stairs and hitting her head on a wall, she was found later that day by her Grandson.

I am extremely frustrated and upset; I know it is too late now but wondered in my capacity of Landlord is there was anything else I could have done! I would be interested to know?

To help me manage this situation and understand my rights and responsibilities I would be most grateful for any information or advice on the following points:

• Is there are any protocols/best practice that I should follow, for example; when is it deemed okay to contact the next of kin to discuss the situation further? Is it wise to grant a rent free period speeding up to move out process? I don’t want to come across as insensitive by making contact too soon!
• When and how do I ask if she had a Will? If there isn’t a Will, do I need to send papers to The Office Solicitor and Public Trustee?
• Outstanding rent – I don’t believe the Grandma will have any money in her Estate especially, if she couldn’t afford to pay for a lift repair. The Daughter has her ATM card so the account could be empty by now. If things go on for several months, how do I pursue outstanding rent if there is no money in the estate?
• On 01/10/14 I issued AST’s to both the Grandma and Daughter I also served them both with a S21 Notice at the same time, is the S21 still valid on the Grandma even though she is deceased? Would I need to serve a new S21 on the Personal Representative, if so I don’t have an EPC?
• Should I request a copy of the death certificate and Letters of Administration?
• In other situations when a tenant who lives alone dies, how long does it usually take for family members clear the house?
• I do not have deposits for the Grandma and Daughter.
• The Granddaughter and her children lived in the house as her Grandma’s guest for six months (without my permission) but moved out in July as the Grandma could no longer cope with them. I have just found out the Granddaughter is living with her mum next door (without my permission). I think she is likely to move back into the Grandma’s house and say she never moved out. Can she move back in legitimately and claim succession rights as she is a relative? Is there anything I can do to stop her moving back in?
• I have considered allowing the Granddaughter and partner to have a formal tenancy if they ask which I suspect they will, but they are both on benefits and it is unlikely they would pass credit checks or be able to provide references or make regular payments.
• The properties were bought at auction with the current occupiers as sitting tenants. The rent has not increased in 7 years and is low compared to other similar properties in the area. There is a lack of rental properties in the area so when I re-let it I will be charging more. Would this be the right time to increase the Daughter’s rent next door to match as she has much larger gardens and space?
• I would like to get a deposit from the Daughter to prevent a similar situation happening in the future. Could I serve notice on the daughter giving her plenty of time to raise a deposit but let her stay on under a new AST if she can stump up a deposit and pay an increase in rent?
• I really liked the Grandma and I will send flowers and a card to the funeral , what are your thoughts on attending the service?

I am very worried about the whole situation going forward, as it is very complicated (see my post “additional unauthorised occupants”). I contacted the NLA for advice. They gave me some advice on some legal aspects, but they couldn’t help me with managing the situation generally or answer some other questions I had, I was told to see a solicitor.

At this point I would just like to know what my options are. I apologise this is a long post, I just wanted to set the scene and give as much information as possible. If you only want to comment on one point please do, any information would be greatly appreciated however large or small.

I would like to say how I enjoy reading the articles and what an informative and great source of information Property 118 is. I would also like to thank members in advance for taking the time to read and comment on this post.

Helen



Comments

Neil Patterson

15:03 PM, 23rd October 2015
About 3 years ago

Dear Helen,

I am very sorry you had to go through this and it is obvious that it is upsetting for you.

I know some readers have been through the death of a tenant before and hopefully we can get some assistance for you.

We have missed Fridays e-news so please don’t be despondent if people don’t reply straight away.

Darlington Landlord

19:57 PM, 23rd October 2015
About 3 years ago

The Grandma's estate is responsible for the tenancy and bills after the date of death. If she did not leave a will I believe her children - is it only the daughter? automatically inherit and are responsible for sorting out the estate (if I've not got that quite right I hope the experts here will correct me).
However if there is no money and it was a shorthold tenancy in Grandma's name only, in practical terms you are best off being sympathetic giving them say 2 weeks rent free to clear Grandma's possessions and return the keys plus get the executor (probably the daughter) to sign a deed of surrender and give you a copy of the death certificate. You should point out they may be liable for the council tax and other bills untill this is done.
Unless it was a secure tenancy and the mention of a section 21 seems to imply a shorthold the granddaughter has no sucession rights. I assume she was not on the original tenancy agreement?
You may find it helpful to check what the Local Housing Allowence(LHA) is in your area at the level the granddaughter would qualify for. If she can't get a deposit (the local authority may be able to give her one) and you can easily let to a working tenant for a higher rent once the house is refurbished, why let to her?
In fact if she is helping her mother qualify for a higher LHA by being there it could lead to the mother having problems paying - The amount of LHA paid depends on the number of qualifying people living in the property. It would be a good idea to find out as much as you can about their circumstances and claims.
As Mum has been there 7 years you would probably have a fair amount of work to do before reletting so I would suggest only increasing the rent if she's on LHA and the rent is lower than what she is entitled to. As she's already a poor payer increasing it beyond that would probably only lead to higher arrears and much more chasing for you.
If she is 2 months in arrears you can ask for the LHA to be paid direct to you.

Romain Garcin

21:18 PM, 23rd October 2015
About 3 years ago

Helen,

You say that the tenancy is in both the Grandma and Daughter's name. Therefore the daughter is still a tenant and, I believe, the sole tenant now that the Grandma has passed away.

If so, she is directly liable for all of the rent and is able to end the tenancy by notice or by agreeing to a surrender without having to wait for probate.

Helen (up North)

22:07 PM, 23rd October 2015
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Darlington Landlord" at "23/10/2015 - 19:57":

The Daughter is the only next of kin. Yes the Grandma is on a shorthold tenancy agreement in her name only for her property. Likewise the Daughter has a shorthold tenancy agreement in her name only for the property next door. The Daughter has been in the house 14 years and the Grandma followed and has been in 11 years, so you are right there is a huge amount of work to do in both properties before I could re-let. I obviously need to learn how the benefits system works. You have made a very interesting point regarding the possibility of the LA paying the deposit. I will try to find out more about their claims and circumstances. Thanks for your response.

Helen (up North)

22:12 PM, 23rd October 2015
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Romain Garcin" at "23/10/2015 - 21:18":

The Grandma and Daughter both have a separate tenancy agreement for each property.

Neil Patterson

13:24 PM, 26th October 2015
About 3 years ago

I forgot to say Mark unfortunately had a tenant die and wrote an article as well >> http://www.property118.com/my-tenant-has-died-update/33975/

Graham Bowcock

13:50 PM, 26th October 2015
About 3 years ago

Dear Helen

I am sorry to hear about the death of your tenant. I think you need to have a dialogue with the family to find out their intentions. We recently had a tenant die just three weeks after getting married (her husband only moved into the house when they got married). Luckily we have been able to deal with the late tenant's sister and husband to agree what will happen and realistic timescales for action. We have had many others over the years.

I think you need to check what basis of tenancy your tenants have as you said you bought the houses at auction 7 years ago with "sitting tenants"; it strikes we as being likely that they are not AST tenants but probably Rent Act 1977. The main issue here is one of succession rights.

In terms of contact this is difficult but most people accept that a sensitive contact after a week or so is okay.

Strictly speaking rent is due up until the date the property is satisfactorily vacated - this is often enforced by housing associations when tenants die - but in practice you may need to cut your losses to get the house back quicker.

You have raised a number of very valid questions about the process and legal issues. Without dodging the issue it sounds to me like you could do with a good local agent to assist you. There are several advantages to this approach, not least the lack of emotional attachment to the matter and the ability to provide decent professional advice. Irrespective of the quality of the relationship you may have had with the tenant and their family you may find that they have their own agenda, particularly if succession is an issue or you are seeking (entitled?) to costs or losses.

Graham Bowcock

Helen (up North)

21:49 PM, 26th October 2015
About 3 years ago

I have checked and the tenants were on ASTs when the properties were bought. A local agent did look after quite a few off our properties for several years but they let the properties get into a terrible state and didn't do anything to earn their fee. It left a very bitter taste in my mouth.. hence I gave a well paid job to do it myself! You are right I need to have a dialogue with the family I just wasn't sure whether or not it was acceptable to make contact before the funeral. Many thanks Helen

Darlington Landlord

23:52 PM, 26th October 2015
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Helen " at "26/10/2015 - 21:49":

I was in a similar situation recently and kept up sympathetic communication with the tenants throughout. I did forego some rent and costs I could have claimed but morally felt it was the right thing to do.
Understandably they have a lot on their minds so its fine to explain the situation with the tenancy and probate as otherwise they wouldn't have a clue what needed to be done and would end up owing more to the utilities and council tax.
If you will be organising a refurbishment you will need a definate date when tradesmen can start.

If you have a local landlords association its worth joining when you are doing your own management - in almost any situation someone else will have "been there done that".
If you are in the North East I could make some suggestions

Helen (up North)

0:20 AM, 27th October 2015
About 3 years ago

Luckily my husband does the refurbs so that makes life easier! Thanks for the offer, but I am based in West Yorks. I have joined the NLA but never considered a local association, I didn't even know they existed. I will make enquiries - great advice thanks.

Helen

1 2

Leave Comments

Please Log-In OR Become a member to reply to comments or subscribe to new comment notifications.

Forgotten your password?

OR

BECOME A MEMBER

Change to Universal Credit rent arrears payments

The Landlords Union

Become a Member, it's FREE

Our mission is to facilitate the sharing of best practice amongst UK landlords, tenants and letting agents

Learn More