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

by Readers Question

14:57 PM, 23rd October 2015
About 5 years ago

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

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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

Charles King - Barrister-At-Law

8:47 AM, 27th October 2015
About 5 years ago

Dear Helen

This situation must be rather distressing and worrying for you but undoubtedly you have done nothing wrong legally – in fact as far as your legal responsibilities are concerned you have gone far above and beyond what you are obliged to do to support the family.

If the tenancy was in the Grandmother's sole name no-one has succession rights. You don't need to engage with the personal representatives or trouble yourself about a will.

If any family members move into the property they are squatters and may be committing a crime for which the police would help, or otherwise they would be liable to eviction by court order within 24 hours under the squatters possession procedure in the county court. You certainly don't have to take them in as tenants, and it is up to you whether you want to take the risk of doing so without positive credit checks.

As far as regaining possession of the late Grandmother's house is concerned: there is an extremely strong argument for saying that you can go back into the property and change the locks straight away without any formalities. Although an Assured Shorthold Tenancy is 'property' which can be passed on in a person's a will or upon intestacy, this is only ever of any practical significance if the deceased had a spouse living with them (section 17 of the Housing Act 1988). The tenancy does not automatically end when the tenant dies, but an Assured Shorthold Tenancy must by definition be the tenant's 'only or principal home', and a deceased person does not have a 'home'. No-one else has a right to be in the property at all apart from the tenant or anybody you have directly permitted to be there, and even they would have very few rights. As has been suggested is this string, giving the relatives 2 weeks to clear the property of the Grandmother's effects is one idea. Rent will continue to be payable until you have regained possession. The chances of you obtaining any further rent are quite slim, and reminding any relatives that the rent continues to be due for every day the property has not been returned to you may be a way to speed things along. It might be worth suggesting arranging further generous time for the family to remove belongings after you have changed the locks: that is a sympathetic way of allowing the family time to grieve whilst relieving them of the responsibility of liability for rent, and protecting your interests. Perhaps you could find a way for them to sort through belongings whilst you are there assessing the redecoration work?

Attendance at the funeral is a matter of your personal preference, but it might be blurring the personal/professional boundaries. You may be in a situation where you are taking other family members to court soon. Alternatively the family may be worried themselves and may want the opportunity to talk about the practicalities now.

I hope this is of some help. Please do feel free to ring Cotswold Barristers for an initial free consultation if you want more advice (01242) 639 454.

Charles King

Helen (up North)

14:07 PM, 27th October 2015
About 5 years ago

Thank you for such a helpful and informative reply. This is such a relief, now I can move on to the next stage and make contact … fingers crossed!

Helen (up North)

16:32 PM, 27th October 2015
About 5 years ago

Is it true the Landlord is responsible for paying Council Tax when a tenant dies, if the tenant was out of the fixed term period and on a periodic (rolling) AST?

Darlington Landlord

19:38 PM, 27th October 2015
About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Helen " at "27/10/2015 - 16:32":

While there is still a tenancy the estate is responsible for council tax and standing charges from utility bills - ie. where the executor has not signed a deed of surrender and returned the keys (legally I am not 100% sure if this means probate has to have been given so hopefully those with legal expertise can advise).
Some local authorities still give a free period if the property is substantially unfurnished, of 1 month, or if you are lucky more.
If you inform the water company the property is empty they usually will suspend charges untill there is a new occupant (if there is a meter they just use the readings).
After the tenancy has ceased the electric and gas will be your responsibility but if no units have been used you can ask providers to waive standing charges on that basis. Most will if pushed agree.

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