I'm not sure if my tenant has passed away, what do I do?

Question

My tenant has been seriously ill, and now a month's rent has been missed. I feel awful thinking it, but I'm concerned she might have died. What do I do?

Answer

What a horrible situation, especially if you are unsure about what is going on.

The first thing you must do is try and confirm the situation – although it is not going to be a very nice conversation, it’s vital to know where you stand. If you have any next of kin details, try to make contact. If not, a guarantor might be able to help, or even a next door neighbour. If you don’t have these details, the only thing you can do is wait until the person who is dealing with the tenant’s estate contacts you.

If the worst has happened, there are two options you can take.

Officially, the tenancy will transfer to the deceased executor, who will become responsible for the remaining duration of the term. Any unpaid rent should be paid from the estate, and the executor has the right to take on the tenancy and live in the property with all of the benefits of the initial agreement for the remainder of the agreement. If you do not want to accept this new tenant you can of course serve a section 21, however this will still leave you with the new tenant for two months.

Alternatively, you are also able to draw up a deed of surrender on the property. This is a document that legally confirms that the tenant surrenders their right and interests, to the property, and the landlord accepts the surrender. Both you and the executor would need to accept and sign the document in order for it to be valid. You should agree a surrender date with the tenant’s family, giving them plenty of time to spend as much time as they need in the property clearing any personal items, and then walk away without having to worry.

Don’t forget, any outstanding bills or maintenance concerns can be paid with the tenant’s deposit.

Above all, don’t forget that this is a very upsetting time for all involved, and whilst you obviously have concerns for your property, there is a family involved who may have lost a loved one, so whatever you do, remember to approach the situation with caution.

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