Dealing with a tenant death in a rental property can be very difficult. As a caring person, you feel sympathy for next of kin. As the landlord, you need to protect your interests. It’s a situation that’s easier to handle when you understand all the details involved.
This guide is designed to help you navigate the aftermath of a tenant death.
What Are a Landlord’s Responsibilities?
Have you ever asked yourself, “What happens when a tenant dies?” It’s a unique event that comes with specific responsibilities. You want to be ready to manage these parts of the process.
1. Notification of Death
In most cases, a family member contacts you and informs you of the death. Ask for a written notice so that you can begin the steps necessary to transition the unit to its pre-rental condition.
2. Securing the Property
Have an employee accompany you as you enter the property. Document the condition of interiors with photos and video. Avoid touching and moving things. Lock doors and windows, and arrange to have the locks changed.
3. Dealing With Next of Kin
Explain to the family that they’re allowed to take a few personal items, but they can’t remove the deceased’s belongings from the premises without court permission. Once an executor is named, ask for proof of executor status. Make a copy for your records, and give one key to the newly named executor.
What Are a Landlord’s Rights?
When your tenant dies, what happens to the lease? The answer depends on details in the signed agreement between you and the deceased. In general, the lease doesn’t terminate upon the tenant’s death. Tenant obligations transfer to next of kin or the tenant’s estate.
You have the right to hold the estate accountable for unpaid rent. You can apply any security deposits toward that amount as well as damages and cleaning costs. Work with the family. Your compassion makes it easier for them to finalize estate details including clearing out the unit.
Once you’re satisfied with the condition of the property, ask next of kin to sign a Release to the Rights of Possession form. This clears the way for you to lease the unit, and it protects you from future liability.
How Do I Comply With Illinois State Laws?
One of the questions most often asked is “When a tenant dies in my rental property, how long do I legally have to hold their belongings?”
It’s important to understand your potential liability under Illinois law. The responsibility to remove belongings from the unit generally resides with the estate executor and his or her agents. However, it must be done within a reasonable time frame.
Work with next of kin on a schedule for clearing things out of the rental. Agree on several weeks or a month. Do what you can to help them get the job done. The family needs closure, and this part of the process is important. Your goal is to legally return the unit to its original condition as quickly as possible.
How Do I Deal With an Unattended Tenant Death?
If you or someone on your staff discovers a deceased tenant inside a rental property, don’t touch anything regardless of the circumstances. Immediately report the unattended death.
- Call your local Police Department (click here if you live in Chicago).
- Notify the Medical Examiner (click here for the Cook County Medical Examiner)
- Arrange for certified trauma scene cleanup services.
Who Can Clean My Rental Property After a Death?
Trauma scene cleanup services include cleaning out rental properties after a death. This is especially important if the unit was the scene of a crime, accident or suicide.
These situations often result in hazardous property-wide contamination from bodily fluids.
Even an unattended death due to natural causes results in decomposition that poses health risks to everyone entering the premises. A certified biohazard cleanup team works according to rigorous health and safety standards. Your rental is cleaned, disinfected, deodorized and restored to its original condition.
We’re Here to Help
No one is ever fully prepared to deal with a death in their rental property. Unfortunately, it’s a reality all Chicago landlords face.
We’re here for you with specialized cleanup services that cover all situations. You can trust ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba to handle the job with respect and discretion. Give us a call at 773-647-1985.