Let’s imagine you’re planning a move to Nashville. You found a great rental property for your family in a nice area with an easy commute to work. It’s perfect. You hire Square Cow Movers and getting moved into the home is a breeze. After a few months your family has settled in, and you’re loving your new living situation.
Then your landlord passes away. It’s totally unexpected, and after the shock wears off you realize the untimely death could affect your rental property.
First and foremost, every state and city has their own rental regulations that dictate what should happen in the event a landlord passes away. It’s always best to contact your local housing authority for more information on the laws that are at play and your rights as renter.
That said, here’s a general rundown of what to expect and how a landlord’s death could affect your lease.
Your Lease Will Change Ownership
This one seems obvious, but it may not be straightforward. A lease is an agreement between you and the owner of the property (landlord). If the landlord dies the property ownership will change.
If the landlord had a will it should spell out who gets your rental property. But if the landlord didn’t have a will it could take time to determine who inherits the property, which could take months. If there’s a dispute among the heirs things could drag out even longer. If there are back taxes or some other type of lien on the property it can make ownership issues even more complicated.
In most cases, ownership of the lease will transfer to the estate of the deceased landlord. Typically, a probate court will oversee the change of ownership based on the points noted above. The executor of the estate should also send you Letters of Administration, which is a legal document noting the executor has power over the estate assets.
Even if the property is sold to settle the landlord’s debts, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to move. It simply means you have a new landlord.
You Still Have the Same Renter’s Rights
After a landlord dies the renters still maintain the rights they had when the lease was signed. The new property owners will still have to:
- Provide written, advanced notice if you have to move out. Typically, the landlord has to give notice at least 30 days in advance.
- Return your security deposit as long as the property has been maintained.
- Provide safe living conditions while you’re in the home.
- Respect your privacy and follow laws pertaining to giving notice before entering the home.
Even though the new landlord wasn’t the one who entered into the lease, these are basic rights that always apply.
You’ll Still Have to Pay Rent
Just because your landlord isn’t alive to collect rent doesn’t mean you can forgo making the monthly payment. If you fail to pay rent on time, you’ll be in breach of the lease and could get evicted for non-payment.
When the property is in an estate, the executor should send a lease addendum along with the Letters of Administration that specifies who the rent should be paid to moving forward. The payment should be going to the estate, not the executor. If it’s not clear who the new property owner will be, contact the probate lawyer handling the case. They can provide guidance on where to send rent checks.
At the very least let the probate attorney know you’ll put the rent money into an escrow account with your bank until they provide you with directions.
Your Lease Agreement Transfers With the Property
Once the property has legally changed ownership the new landlord may come knocking. Before you pay them a dime ask for legal documentation specifying they are the new property owner. At the same time you should provide a copy of the lease.
If your rental agreement hasn’t expired, then it’s still in force. Lease agreements transfer with the property and the new owner has to uphold them. But if you’re past the rental agreement period it’s now a month-to-month contract. The new landlord can make modifications, but they have to give you advance notice. You can either agree to the changes and remain in the home or decide the not to renew the lease.
Sometimes it’s best to hire an attorney in these situations if it’s unclear who the proper owner is or someone who claims to be the new owner is trying to modify an existing lease.
We may not be legal experts but the team at Square Cow Movers can help you get moved into a new home without any hassle. Call us today to learn more about our professional moving services or use the online form to get an instant moving quote!