Tenant Scenario: Death of Tenant

Never really thought we’d need to create a checklist for this, but just got an email this morning from a client who had to deal with this. So, here’s our best suggestions should you find yourself in this situation.

Call 911 if You Discover the Deceased

If you are the one to discover your tenant and believe them to be deceased:

  • Check for vital signs if you are able to do so without disturbing the scene or body
    • Sometimes an injured or unconscious person may appear dead
  • Call 911
  • Follow the instructions provided by 911 dispatch

Tenant DeathUltimate Nomad Checklist

Secure the Property

Secure the property and protect yourself against anyone claiming you took any of the belongings.

  • Document the state of the property with photos or video
  • Lock all doors and windows
  • Change locks if legally permitted
  • Do not let the deceased's family or friends enter without accompanying them and don't let them take anything

Tenant DeathUltimate Nomad Checklist

Lease Termination - Month-to-Month

Review the lease regarding lease termination in case of a tenant's death.

With a month-to-month lease official notice of death generally ends the lease.

If the lease does not have any stipulations regarding tenant death then State Law prevails.

Tenant DeathUltimate Nomad Checklist

Lease Termination - Fixed Term

Review the lease to see what the terms are in case of a tenant's death. If there are specific terms in the lease then the lease prevails. Otherwise:

The tenant's estate continues to owe rent on the unit until officially released and has the right to occupy the premises.

In most cases, the executor will want to stop paying rent as soon as possible. You may want to consider an arrangement where the estate pays rent until a new tenant can be moved in.

Tenant DeathUltimate Nomad Checklist

Deceased's Personal Property

Review the lease to see if you are liable for disposition or storage of the deceased's personal property.

Generally the next of kin will handle this but if you have trouble finding the next of kin and there is no language in your lease specifying you are not liable you may be required to store the tenant's personal property for a specific period of time as dictated by state law.

Tenant DeathUltimate Nomad Checklist

Consult with Your Attorney

Consult with your attorney to determine your legal obligations and best course of action regarding the lease, tenant's property, and estate.

Tenant DeathUltimate Nomad Checklist

Contact Next of Kin

If next of kin has not already been notified by the authorities, notify them that the tenant has passed away.

Inquire as to who is the executor of the estate and get their contact information.

Tenant DeathUltimate Nomad Checklist

Contact Executor of the Estate

Contact the executor of the estate.

Discuss the terms of the lease and coordinate with them regarding disposition of the personal effects, lease termination, and security deposit.

Tenant DeathUltimate Nomad Checklist

Obtain Written Notice of Tenants Death

Obtain written notice of the tenants death. You must have this document in hand before the lease can be considered terminated or you take any legal action.

Contact the executor of the estate to get this documentation.

Tenant DeathUltimate Nomad Checklist

Obtain Written Notice of Tenants Death if no Executor

Obtaining written notice of the tenants death if there is no executor or if the executor is not responsive can be difficult.

If you find yourself in this situation you will need to obtain the notice of death yourself and then get a court order to take next steps.

Tenant DeathUltimate Nomad Checklist

Provide Key to Executor of the Estate

Provide the key to the property to the executor of the estate. Make sure you see proof of executor status.

Tenant DeathUltimate Nomad Checklist

Security Deposit

The security deposit may go toward rent, cleaning costs, and property damage. Any remainder of the security deposit should be returned to the estate.

Tenant DeathUltimate Nomad Checklist

Extensive Damage

If there is extensive damage caused by the tenant or the method of the tenant's death that exceeds what is covered by the security deposit you can pass some of the cost onto the tenant's estate should one exist.

You will need to provide a detailed list of all expenditures and submit a claim to the estate through probate court.

Tenant DeathUltimate Nomad Checklist

Repairs and Remediation

Complete any repairs or remediation necessary to return the rental unit back to it's original state.

If the tenant died inside the unit you should hire a professional company to clean and complete the remediation.

Tenant DeathUltimate Nomad Checklist

Contact Your Insurance Company

Check with you insurance company regarding any coverage for cleaning, repair, and remediation should a tenant die inside your rental unit. They may cover some of the costs.

Tenant DeathUltimate Nomad Checklist


Different states have different requirements for disclosing death inside a rental unit.

Come states require that any death inside a rental unit must be disclosed for a given period of time while others exclude it under psychologically stigmatizing exemptions. It is recommended to check with an attorney in your state to decide on the best course of action.

Tenant DeathUltimate Nomad Checklist

Additional Challenging Tenant Scenarios

Have another tenant challenge? Check out these other checklists.

More posts: Tenant Scenario

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