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When a Resident Passes Away

What to Do When a Resident Passes Away

Rental homes bear witness to the entire scope of human life. From birth to death and everything in between, it is important for a property owner to be prepared for all of life’s eventualities. When a resident passes away in a rental home, there are a number of steps that a landlord must take to satisfy the lease, manage the resident’s possessions, and fulfill their legal obligations.

While the specific actions you take may depend on both the language in your lease agreement as well as state and local law, in most cases a lease agreement doesn’t automatically terminate upon the death of the lessee. What this means is that you will need to do several things before you can legally take possession of the property.

As a landlord, one of your first tasks is to make sure the resident’s possessions are secure, once you have obtained the right to enter the home through proper legal channels, such as working with law enforcement and the courts as well as any executor or family present. It’s a good idea to document the home and all personal property by either taking a video of the premises or making a list of items. Change all locks to keep the premises secure and to comply with your due diligence to keep the property intact until legal possession of items can be determined. Accompany any persons who ask to enter the property, and document anything they request to remove, such is the case for items needed for burial such as clothing, photos, jewelry, or other items. Do not remove anything from the property yourself until you have clear instructions from the resident’s estate or have followed all local laws concerning abandoned property.

Another important task is to establish communication with the executor of the estate or other lawful entity to obtain written notice of the resident’s death. Once an executor has been named, you can give them the key to the property and let them manage the resident’s personal property. At the same time, you’ll need to communicate with the executor about the time constraints regarding the lease. In most cases, written notice of their death serves as a 30-day notice to end the lease.

The security deposit is another obligation that must be handled properly. Based on where your rental home is located, it may be possible to use the deceased resident’s security deposit to cover unpaid rent, repairs, and any other costs outlined in the lease. If using any portion of the security deposit, carefully follow state statute and be careful to give the executor or other named responsible party a detailed list of all deductions. If the security deposit does not cover the cost of repairs, it will be necessary to work with the executor to obtain payment, if lawful in your location.

The death of a resident is a delicate situation in many ways. Working with grieving relatives through a difficult process has the potential to go awry, as does dealing with personal property in a legal manner. You could negotiate these legal and emotional minefields yourself, or you could allow the professionals at Real Property Management Pittsburgh to do it for you. We have the experience and expertise to handle the most challenging situations on your behalf.

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