My Tenant Has Died

by Mark Alexander

15:58 PM, 16th April 2012
About 8 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

8:08 AM, 17th April 2012
About 8 years ago

I must admit I haven't read through all these comments, but the the question (moarl or technical?) that would haunt me is - do you invoke the guarantor into the equation ? I know some landlords who would without hesitation !

Don Holmes

9:48 AM, 17th April 2012
About 8 years ago

Not sure their is any point as I have left many and never been published but here goes.

First of all condolences to all concerned, as this seems to have touched Mark as well.
It is strange how we react so differently, I had a situation where we were advised by the neighbours of the flat they were experiencing rancid smell, when we broke in the tenant "bless him" had been on the couch dead for a couple of weeks and was stuck to it, The Landlord ask that we get the couch cleaned!!! The general legal principal has been made clear by some good advise here but it seems  is clear an AST expires with the tenant where there is no surviving shearing relative.But we have to remember to be practical this is not about the "property" it is a people business, speak to the son who I bet will be glad to get shot of what he probably believes is a liability to him, do a simple letter agreeing to surrender of the property and any left in contents, which indeed does happen, accept also his grief clear out the junk sort out Deco and move on! 

Good Luck
Don

Ben Reeve-Lewis

10:34 AM, 17th April 2012
About 8 years ago

Just one variation on the one succession Mary, and I make this point not as a contradiction just extra info for readers. There is one tenancy type which alows 2 successions, old style Protected Tenancies (tenancies which began with non-resident landlords prior to 15th January 1989)

A spouse, resident for 12 months prior to death would succeed to a protected tenancy, if they then died and there was another family memeber also resident for 12 months before death, then there would be a second succession, but to an assured tenancy only, so a market rent rather than a fair rent would come into force

15:13 PM, 17th April 2012
About 8 years ago

A slightly different point my tenant had a lodger who committed suicide, they were very, very close.
He was a 3rd party to the deposit as he contributed, and yes Mary I had him down on the form as a signed deposit contributer, phew!
mydeposits just wanted an email to confirm the situation from me which I have duely done.
Just a little thing to consider in the event of tenant demise.

13:09 PM, 18th April 2012
About 8 years ago

If you need to serve a notice to terminate the tenancy of a deceased tenant, you can only do so by serving it on the executor, or  "where a person dies intestate, his real and personal estate shall vest in the Public Trustee until the grant of administration." (Administration of Estates Act 1925 (as amended)) so a notice can be validly served on him.

21:31 PM, 18th April 2012
About 8 years ago

For the 4 (!) tenants that we have had who died, I believe that this is primarily an emotional time - especially when it is parents dealing with the death of an adult child. I let them know that we will consider the tenancy ended when they return the keys and try and get them to let us clean the property (and in one case the door that the police broke down to get the tenant out) and charge the deposit. I believe that avoiding the legalistic approach really benefits all. And the families seem to appreciate it as well. They have enough to deal with.

In terms of cleaning up after a tenant has died and been there a while, that is a very difficult and mainly specialist job which mostly involves gutting the place to get rid of the smell. No deposit covers this cost, unfortunately - and you can't clean the sofa!

9:18 AM, 24th April 2012
About 8 years ago

I have had one tenant die locked in the property and another die a day after being taken into hospital. I was also involved in assisting a friend/novice landlord whose tenant had had a very messy death in the property.

The first was rather fraught as he was only about 40 and I had to call the police to break in after the tenants in the downstairs flat could not get any response and I found that the door was locked on the inside. Worse still, his father was living in South Africa. Frank was in the middle of writing to his 8 year old daughter in London when he died but I was never able to get that letter delivered.

The second was sad but less fraught and the arrangements for ending the tenancy and repaying the deposit to the estate went smoothly.

In my friend's case, he had agreed to accept a tenant on the request of the council homeless dept. She was an alcoholic whose liver more or less exploded as she staggered through the house. Her adult son and daughter, who had thrown her out and refused her any help when she was homeless, then turned up and insisted that they were entitled to the deposit (which had been lent by a friend) and to the 3 x penalty because it had not been registered.My friend was totally ignorant of the legislation which was very new at the beginning of the tenancy.

A local District Judge, one of a whole bunch of b****s we suffer from in South Wales, insisted that the tenancy ended as soon as the keys were handed back, and gave the grasping offspring all they demanded.

With my help Landlord appealed and I acted as MacKenzie Friend. The Circuit Judge was of a far higher caliber and agreed immediately that the normal rules of tenancy termination applied - one month's notice from a rent due date (note that friends) - and that the deposit had been used to pay the last month's rent. I was also able to persuade him that as the Act was written at the time (it has now been changed) if there were no longer a deposit owing then there could be no 3x penalty. 

The malevolent offspring had to pay costs and damages. Their faces were a delight to behold!

I hope that these events will answer some of the questions raised in other comments.

10:00 AM, 29th June 2012
About 7 years ago

Hi Guys,
I Have just had this situation happen to me and I have read through your comments with interest. However I would like to clarify a couple of facts
1) AST was a fixed term only 4 month in, he lived alone and his ex-wife has returned his keys -The landlord wants the tenancy to continue and wants his estate to pay the remainder of the rent due on the tenancy agreement.. Where do we stand here as the amount is in the region of £10k
2) Does the tenancy end when the tenant dies? or does notice need to be served?
3) Can i make normal deductions from the depoist such as cleaning, without the tenants ok?

Mark Alexander

10:27 AM, 29th June 2012
About 7 years ago

Very good questions, sorry my response is not so good as I don't know the answers. My local landlords association were very helpful, I took the tenancy agreement in (it was one of theirs anyway) and they gave me tons of good advice. If you are not a member of a landlords association then it will be cheaper to join one and get advice than it will be to go to a solicitor or, perish the thought, make a mistake.

15:38 PM, 27th November 2012
About 7 years ago

Just wanted to say that I found this thread a good source of information. My tenant sadly passed away this week (not in the home) and fortunately for me the tenancy was in joint name. Non the less, great thread.

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