Death of a Tenant 1st Feb 2016

Sadly as a Letting Agent, The Key Place has had to deal with the death of one of our tenants on a few occasions now. Our first experience was a helpful introduction, as we knew the lawyer of the deceased and we could therefore work together to find a solution.

The tenant had lived in the property in Linlithgow since it was built 30 years ago. The current owner bought the property with the tenant in situ. The lawyer informed us of her death. If a tenant dies, the lease ends on the date of death. Whilst we could have asked the family of the lady who died to move all of her belongings out immediately, we were sensitive to their situation and so negotiated with the family, the landlord, and the lawyer in order for the family to have reasonable time to remove her possessions. The family were very grateful that they were able to deal with the flat in their own time.

The second time a tenant died, it was less straightforward. The tenant had a terminal illness and chose to deal with her affairs ahead of her death. She had requested that the family be allowed time after her death in order to deal with her possessions. Whilst the owners were very sensitive to the family’s situation, they had a mortgage to cover and so needed to re-let the property quickly. The family were understandably distraught and not able to deal with things quickly. We were unable to ask the family for rent as it could be argued that this creates a verbal tenancy in favour of the person making the payment. The situation became difficult to deal with as we had to urge the family to clear the property, whilst trying to manage the owners’ frustrations.

We have learned through these experiences and others how to handle the death of a tenant from a legal point of view. However the reality of the situation and the emotions involved are what need careful handling.

To find out where you stand as a landlord if a tenant dies, read the accompanying newsletter article.