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What Happens If My Tenant Dies in San Francisco?

What happens if my tenant dies? Working as a landlord, it is important to know the answer to this question. While it is not a pleasant question to consider, landlords should know their rights and obligations if a tenant passes away while in occupancy of their rental unit.

When the unexpected happens, like a tenant’s untimely death, it’s good to know what your options are. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of discovering that your tenant has passed away, it is crucial to seek legal advice from our Home Home Home skilled San Francisco landlord-tenant attorney at Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C., to discuss your situation. Contact us now to schedule an initial consultation.

Why Do I Need a Landlord-Tenant Lawyer in California?

Tenant deaths are a somber topic but one that needs to be addressed. Any landlord or property owner who has had to deal with the death of a tenant knows this can be a major disruption of a landlord’s income, depending upon the circumstances of the death and if they were on a month-to-month or fixed-term lease.

California landlords, especially ones that have not dealt with the death of a tenant before, can be very overwhelmed by the sudden occurrence. If a tenant passes away unexpectedly while living in your rental property, it can be a confusing process to navigate. During this difficult time, our credible San Francisco landlord-tenant attorneys are here to help. At Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C., we are committed to:

  • Providing a wide range of legal services to our clients who are facing evictions, landlord-tenant disputes, real estate litigation, and other legal concerns in San Francisco and the Bay Area.
  • Providing legal advice to ensure that you follow the California law governing the process of how to appropriately handle a tenant’s death at your rental property.
  • Assessing your case and tailoring a legal strategy that strives to resolve your landlord-tenant dispute in a timely and cost-effective manner.
  • Ensuring that every option has been explored to your best advantage and minimizing your exposure to unnecessary risk, loss, and litigation.

Regardless of whether you are a landlord or a tenant, we can help you understand how the law works from both sides of the table. Contact us now and schedule an initial consultation with our California landlord-tenant lawyers to learn more about your legal options.

What Happens If My Tenant Dies?

Although tenant deaths happen at rental properties more often than most people realize, many landlords don’t know what to do when they are faced with this situation. As a California landlord, there’s a chance that you will have to face the task of doing business when a tenant dies in your rental property. Hopefully, you never have to deal with the death of a renter, but if you do, our knowledgeable San Francisco landlord-tenant lawyer can explain the steps a landlord needs to follow to make sure everything is handled legally.

Get Written Notification

The most important first step when dealing with a tenant passing is getting a written notice of the death. The notice may come from the tenant’s next of kin or the executor of the tenant’s estate. This documentation is vital in preparing your property for another tenant.

If you are the one to discover that your tenant has died, call the police immediately. Then, they can work to inform the tenant’s next of kin or give you direction on how to receive a death certificate if the tenant does not have a next of kin.

Secure The Property

Once you are informed of a tenant’s death, you have the right to secure the property from any potential theft of possessions. By securing the rental unit, you are keeping your tenant’s personal belongings safe until their loved ones are given the authority to collect them. It also protects you from liability if an item inside the unit is lost or broken.

When you learn of the death, check that all the doors and windows to the unit are locked. If the tenant lived alone, you might even consider changing the locks to make sure the home is secured against any friends or family members who also have keys.

Status of the Lease

Following the death of the tenant, the landlord will need to end or transition the remainder of the lease. The status of the lease ultimately depends on the terms set in the lease agreement.

Long-Term Lease

A long-term lease is generally not terminated by the death of a tenant. The lease will transition to the next of kin or the estate executor. When a tenant dies before the lease term ends, the tenant’s estate is responsible for any unpaid rent and owing under the agreement unless the estate returns possession of the unit to the owner.

Month-to-Month Lease

If the tenant who died were on a month-to-month lease, the tenant’s death would serve as a 30-day notice. The lease is deemed terminated 30 days after the last rent payment was made by the deceased. As the landlord, you need to notify the next of kin or executor of the date that the lease will end and coordinate with them regarding cleaning, transitioning the property, removing possessions, and all related deadlines.

Coordinate With the Tenant’s Executor

Once the property is secure, the next step is to coordinate with your deceased tenant’s executor or next of kin. If you have their contact information, reach out right away and inform them that you will work with them to gain access once you verify their legal authority to act on behalf of the estate. You’ll want to work with these individuals to remove your deceased tenant’s property during this process. If there is no known executor or next of kin, then the landlord treats the unit as an abandoned property and follows the procedures under California Civil Code

Return the Security Deposit

Landlords must handle the security deposit with a deceased tenant as they would with anyone else. It can be used for any property damage that the tenant caused beyond normal wear and tear. Treat the security deposit like you usually would deduct unpaid rent, damage repair, and any clean-up. Be sure to make an itemized list of all deductions and give that to the next of kin or estate executor when the remainder is given back. When there is no rental property damage, and the full security deposit is available, it should go directly to the tenant’s estate or next of kin.

Release to the Rights of Possession

When the property is cleaned thoroughly, and clear of all personal items, your tenant’s next of kin will sign a Release to the Rights of Possession form. It is a document that says that the tenant is no longer occupying the rental unit and that all the tenant’s belongings have been removed from the rental property. Once the tenant’s next of kin signs this form, you are free to re-rent the unit to the next tenant.

Prepare for the Next Tenancy

Once all the obligations with the previous lease and security deposit have been settled, you can start working towards securing a new tenant. The rental property should be thoroughly cleaned and cleared of any previous tenant’s property before a prospective tenant moves in.

In addition, landlords must inform a prospective tenant if a former occupant died within the previous three years. You must also disclose how the person died, whether from natural causes, suicide, or homicide.

Call Our Experienced San Francisco Landlord-Tenant Lawyer Now!

Dealing with death is tough in any aspect, especially when it affects your business. When you learn that one of your tenants has died in your rental, there are a few things that you will need to do regardless of the circumstances surrounding their death.

Landlords may need to familiarize themselves with the type of legal recourse they have and how to start the process of getting the property cleared after a tenant’s passing. Knowing the steps to take if you ever have to deal with the death of one of your tenants can save you potential legal trouble and will help you keep costs at a minimum. Our seasoned San Francisco landlord-tenant lawyers at Steven Adair MacDonald & Partners, P.C. can help you handle this situation properly with respect and legal compliance. Our landlord-tenant law firm will help you know your rights and responsibilities as a property owner in the event of a tenant’s death.

Knowing a California landlord’s responsibilities and potential liabilities to avoid mistakes is key to being prepared for this unfortunate but inevitable reality. Contact us now and schedule an initial consultation with our California landlord-tenant lawyers to save you from confusion, stress, and even potential legal problems. We can help you with the eviction process, wrongful eviction defense, and many other aspects of the practice area.

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We will do everything in our power to successfully resolve your landlord-tenant case or real estate dispute in as little time as possible. We have the resources to take on complex real estate cases and the size to keep you from becoming more than just a case file.”

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