As a rental property owner, you will face a variety of tenant-related issues, such as lease violations, non-payment of rent, and so on. However, there is one scenario that will challenge even the most experienced landlords: when a tenant dies during their lease.
Death is always a depressing topic, but it needs to be addressed. While it is unlikely that you’ll encounter this scenario, you must know the necessary steps to take to handle the situation legally.
Here are factors to keep in mind when dealing with a tenant’s death on your Florida rental property:
What Should You Do If a Tenant Dies on Your Property?
#1 Obtain a written notice of death
The first and most important step would be to acquire a written notification of the tenant’s death from their family or their estate executor. Obtaining the notice of death is an essential step before you can legally proceed with terminating their lease, removing their possessions, and so on.
In the event that you are the one to discover the tenant’s death, immediately contact the authorities as well as the tenant’s emergency contact. If you do not have the latter, the police should be responsible for informing the tenant’s closest relatives.
#2 Ensure that the property is secured
After obtaining an official notice of the tenant’s death, the next step would be to secure the rental property. Enter the home to lock all of the points of entry. You might even consider changing the locks to keep unauthorized persons out. Be mindful of your actions within the property and do not touch any of the deceased tenant’s belongings. If possible, document the entire process both on paper and on camera so that you cannot be charged with theft.
The moment that you hand over the keys to the tenant’s next of kin or to the executor of their estate, you are no longer responsible for the safekeeping of their possessions. In the event that the tenant does not have any next of kin or executor, it would be ideal to follow your state’s laws regarding tenant property. Consider hiring a property management company with an in-house team of attorneys.
#3 Remove the tenant’s belongings
Even if you own the property, you have no right to enter the home and get rid of the deceased tenant’s belongings. You will need to coordinate with the deceased tenant’s family members or estate executor to legally remove their possessions. Do not forget to show compassion during this time — even if they seem uncooperative.
Give the tenant’s family a realistic timeline on when they should collect the belongings. Generally, two to four weeks is a reasonable time frame.
If the deceased tenant has no next of kin, refer to your state’s laws on abandoned tenant property. As the landlord, you may have to store their belongings for a specific period before you can dispose of the tenant’s items.
#4 Settle matters related to their lease
If a tenant dies during their lease, don’t worry — you won’t be at a loss. You should still be able to receive compensation depending on the duration of the lease agreement.
The written notice will serve as the thirty-day notice that prompts the end of the lease. Inform the deceased tenant’s next of kin or estate executor that the lease is about to end. They should cover the remaining rent owed by the deceased tenant. Set clear deadlines as to when they should remove the tenant’s belongings, clean out the property, and so on.
The death of the tenant does not automatically terminate the long-term lease. The next of kin or the executor of their estate is obligated to cover the rental payments until the lease agreement expires. In the event that the next of kin or executor plans to terminate the lease, you have the discretion to grant their request out of compassion. Consult a property manager to decide whether taking this road would be the best for your investment.
What Should You Do With the Security Deposit?
The deceased tenant’s security deposit may be used to pay for unpaid rent, cleaning services, property damage that exceeds normal wear and tear, and so on. Make sure to prepare an itemized list of all of the expenses and to give a copy to the next of kin or executor. The remainder of the security deposit should be given back to them, as well.
If the expenses incurred exceed the tenant’s total security deposit, you will have to petition the tenant’s estate to cover the costs. Keep in mind that the security deposit should be used only to return the unit to acceptable living standards.
Can You Find a Replacement Tenant?
Once the next of kin or executor agrees to terminate the lease, you should request them to sign a lease termination agreement. This should offer you the proper documentation to prove that the deceased tenant’s estate is no longer accountable for the property. Since it relinquishes the estate’s obligations, you may now legally bring the property back into the market.
After the deceased tenant’s belongings have been removed, and after the property has been thoroughly cleaned, you may now market the unit. Finding a replacement tenant with a proper tenant screening process can help you recover the losses that you may incur.
Landlords and property owners have to deal with a variety of complicated situations. If you are in the Florida rental business, you should accept that tragedies can happen at any time. While dealing with a tenant’s passing can be stressful, it pays to know what steps you should take so that you can quickly bounce back without suffering a great loss.
In challenging situations such as a tenant’s death, working with a property management firm like Luxury Property Care can help you deal with matters legally, professionally, and compassionately. Our property managers are trained to handle the most complex scenarios, keeping your best interests in mind at all times.