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December 17, 2018

Q & A: What Is A Landlord's Responsibility When a Tenant Dies?

A resident died two weeks ago in one of my apartments. A relative asked me to open the apartment so he could remove some items that she said belonged to her. I refused her request and she was furious. Was I wrong?

No, she may not have the legal authority to remove the possessions. The representative of the estate is the only person that has the legal right to remove any personal possessions. Contact an attorney for expert advice, training and legal representation in landlord/tenant matters ..

If a resident dies and we discover the body, should we call the police first or a family member? 

Call the police and give them the names and addresses of the family members. Wait for further instructions from the police.

If a resident dies and was on a lease, does the estate still owe rent up until someone new moves in? What about a month-to-month agreement? Obviously, the person couldn't give a 30-day notice. 

When the resident dies and the lease is month-to-month, the lease is terminated. For a fixed term lease that expires on a specific date, the estate is still liable for the rent until the lease expires or the premises are relet.

If the deceased person has no family, what should I do with the personal property? Sell it? 

Do not sell the decedent's property without specific legal authority. If the decedent has no family, the estate escheats to the state and the court will appoint an administrator to deal with the personal property.

One of our residents passed away last week and I thought I heard something about a law requiring me to disclose the death to all prospective tenants. Is this true and if so, does this apply to the entire apartment community or just that unit? 

If the former resident died while in the apartment unit, the death and its cause must be disclosed to all prospective tenants who want to rent that particular apartment for the next three years unless the death was AIDS-related, in which case, the cause should not be disclosed (California law).

You should disclose this information even though the applicant does not ask. 

*Intended to provide general information and should not be considered legal advice.

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