My Tenant Has Died

by Mark Alexander

15:58 PM, 16th April 2012
About 7 years ago

My Tenant Has Died

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My Tenant Has Died

Today I received a very sad telephone call to say that my tenant has died.

Having been a landlord since 1989 and built a decent sized property portfolio you might be surprised to hear that this is a first for me. You may also be a bit shocked that I really don’t know what to do.

Dave* has been a tenant of mine since 2007, he was a lovely old boy. He was referred to me via one of my existing sale and rent back tenants when he desperately needed to raise some money. I purchased his house from him at a substantial discount and agreed to rent it back to him cheap for the rest of his life. There were lots of charlatans around at the time offering the same deals with no intention of honouring them but fortunately for Dave and I we did the deal on the back of good reputations and it worked well for both of us. I’ve never increased his rent and he’s never bothered me.

When I purchased the property it was very tired. I offered to get it modernised but he really wasn’t interested. It was his home and he liked it just the way it was and wanted to keep his rent to an absolute minimum as he’d had to give up work on the grounds of ill heath bless him. The last thing he wanted was workmen in his home and I fully respected that. I’ve not increased his rent since the day I purchased the property, he’s never missed a payment and apart from contacting him once a year to make sure everything is OK and to arrange the annual gas check I’ve never heard from Dave so today’s call from his son John was quite a shock. He didn’t say how his Dad had died and I didn’t ask.

His son called me a few hours ago to let me know that his Dad had died last Tuesday and that he’s in the process of clearing the house. He’d never had to deal with anything like this before so didn’t really know what else he needed to do. Trouble is, neither do I. We’ve agreed to speak again at the weekend so that I can have a bit of time to check with my landlord contacts what I need to do. He will let me know when the funeral is and I will obviously send flowers. I was able to assure him that his Dad was up to date on the rent and that I will do everything realistically possible that I can do to help him.

It’s at time like this that I’m so glad that I’m a member of a Landlords Association and that so many other experienced landlords read my blogs. If you have any advice to offer me please leave your comments below.

I will update this blog as matters progress. I know the property will require a complete refurbishment before re-letting so once it has been cleared I will record a video and post it here and on my YouTube Channel “Landlords Log”.

Thanks in advance for any useful tips you can share.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.



Comments

Ben Reeve-Lewis

16:31 PM, 16th April 2012
About 7 years ago

Mark my contribution to this is entirely pragmatic and housing advice based.

There is a rule called succession when a spouse or family member can 'Succeed' to the tenancy upon death but in order to qualify, the person succeeding must be elgible to do so and part of that is that they must have been resident with the tenant for at least 12 months prior to the tenants death.

A tenancy can be passed to another in a will or as part of intestacy conditions (not my area before you ask) but as long as the landlord obtains possession in the normal way within 12 months of the death of the tenant then a PO will be mandatory.

None of this applie to an AST that is still within a fixed term and none of this applies if the succession rules arent triggered.

So my take on this is, if there were no close family members (not extended family) living with your tenant for the past 12 months and he didnt leave his tenancy in a will, then there is nothing more to be done.

Mark Alexander

17:23 PM, 16th April 2012
About 7 years ago

Thanks for this Ben, all the family members had grown and flown many years ago. The son who called me is about my age. There is no intention for any other family member to move in. The son wants to know whether he has to serve notice. My brother manages the rents and I know they are up to date and I know that his rent was paid monthly in advance so I just need my brother to confirm when the last rent due date was. There was no damage deposit as the deal was a Sale and Rent Back so that's one less headache. I do wonder who the damage deposit would have been paid to if there was one though.

The other thing I've checked is whether the estate could have any claim on the property having been sold at well below market value just 5 years ago. I suspect this could be a problem if my tenant had died owning money. Fortunately though, even if this does turn out to be the case, I purchased an indemnity policy to cover insolvency related to a BMV sale at the time of purchase.

So far so good, although I could do without having to pay for a major refurbishment right now. That said, I knew it would need to be done at some point and fortunately I had made provisions. Threadbare carpets, purple bathroom suites and crappy old MFI kitchens are never an issue to replace but 70's artex and DIY brick built fire places always a complete pain in the ....!!!

I suspect I'll have to get the place re-wired too as he was a bit of a DIY enthusiast in his time.

Mark Alexander

21:07 PM, 16th April 2012
About 7 years ago

FURTHER UPDATE

I have checked my My Deposits account and it turns out I did in fact take a deposit. Now who do I return it to?

Also, my tenant has paid rent up to 29th April. Did his tenancy end on the date of death, is his death to be taken as a months notice or is there a different procedure. 

Any answers anybody?

Mary Latham

21:44 PM, 16th April 2012
About 7 years ago

Mark the tenancy, if it was an AST, ended on the death of the tenant named since there are no other occupiers.

When this happens in the public sector the local authority give the family 14 days to clear out the property and I imagine that this would be a good model to follow and is since the rent is paid until 29th the 30th would be a good date to go for.

The deposit should be returned to the estate of the tenant to be dealt with along with his other monies

One thing to think about on the refurb side is that Artex can contain asbestos and you need to get a company in to take a sample for testing BEFORE you allow anyone to touch the asbestos and this includes Electricians touching holes around light fittings.  If there is asbestos in the Artex it will need to be removed by a company licensed to so do, they will remove and dispose of it safely and give you a certificate to say that the property is clear. 

Depending on the age of the property there are two other areas where asbestos may be found. 1. In the 1960's style vinyl floor tiles 2. Any cupboards/ducted areas that held a hot air heating system.

Someone needs to carry out a visual inspection and record that you have done so and depending on what is found you need to record the action you have taken and any susequent works/certificates. Do not start any work until this has been done.

When I removed one of those fire places I used the bricks to have a BBQ built in the garden this saved on the pain of disposal and added a nice "selling point" for letting. Before you throw the cooker out take out the racks and have them used on the BBQ with the oven tray or grill pan. as to hold the coals.

23:18 PM, 16th April 2012
About 7 years ago

Hi Mark,
Having attended a Landlord Accreditation course here in Wales, I was advised that legally, you have to actually serve notice in order to 'end' the tenancy.  As fate would have it, one of our tenants also died shortly after this course.  She had a partner living with her who stayed on a couple of weeks.  He was not a joint tenant and I had not served notice and felt in that short a time, I couldn't.  However, he moved out 3 weeks later but I think I should have served notice to the surviving family??
Regards,
Elaine

A Jenkins

3:07 AM, 17th April 2012
About 7 years ago

I had a similar situation with a council oap. I knew the tenant was on housing benefit, so I called housing and alerted them of the date of death.  I gave the family a generous amount of time to clear out the posssessions with a date of when  I would change the locks and start refurbishment. They ignored the 4 weeks given, I changed the locks without breaking in, on the advise of my solicitors.   The family called and set up a time to collect my tenants possessions within 24 hours. They left me with everything they did not want(12 mattresses and boxsprings and broken appliances). I was just thankful to get the property back without anyone wishing to continue the tenancy.
My solicitors said I had the right to regain possession of the property, for the sake of minimizing damage since no one had been living in the house since the date of death.  The house had all the heat turned off and it was in the winter months.  

A Jenkins

3:10 AM, 17th April 2012
About 7 years ago

What is a BMV sale? Thanks, Armella

Mark Alexander

6:38 AM, 17th April 2012
About 7 years ago

BMV = Below Market Value

7:52 AM, 17th April 2012
About 7 years ago

Regarding asbestos, often it is better to encapsulate it in position than attempt to remove it, as disturbing it can create more of a hazard. Artex has a low asbestos content and usually the best and easiest course of action is to get a decent plasterer to put a skim coat over it. I once saw a tv programme where they were using an electric sander to remove some Artex from a wall, creating a nice asbestos contaminated dust cloud!

Mary Latham

8:00 AM, 17th April 2012
About 7 years ago

If there is no one living in the property at the time of the tenants death no one has the right of succession - which incidentially can only happen once and gives the person suceeding the same terms and conditions as the late tenant which of course means that the landlord retains the right to take legal action to gain possession should he choose to do so.

Notice cannot be served on a person who is dead so I am assuming that the accreditation course spoke about "other" people living at the property.

It is never easy for a family to dispose of the belongings of a loved one and that is why 14 days are given by local authorities.  Make sure that you get a signiture from them to say that they have removed everything that they want, returned the keys and accepted the deposit. In my experience they will take only what they want and leave you to remove everything else and its important that they don't come back at a later date asking for something that you have disposed of.

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