Dealing with Tenant Deaths 1st Feb 2016

Sadly tenant deaths are a fact of life. It is important you know where you stand as a landlord and what actions you can take.

If you suspect a tenant has died in your property, you should:

• Contact the local police station (999 or 101) and ask them to visit the property. If you have a set of keys, they may ask for them to access the property.
• You should not enter the property.
• Do not allow anyone else to enter the property.

The police will treat the death as suspicious until they have excluded criminal activity. If the death is suspicious, it may be a significant time before you can enter your property. You should check with your insurance company as to whether you are covered for loss of rent.

In a short assured tenancy, if the tenant who has passed away is the only named person on the lease, then the lease ends on the date of death. This means their rent liability ends on this date. If the tenancy is in joint names, the tenancy continues with the remaining named person/people being responsible for the terms of the lease. There are circumstances where a person/people living at the property but not named on the lease are entitled to take over the lease (such as if someone was living with the tenant as a husband, wife or civil partner). Legal advice should be sought here to clarify the position.

You must notify the deposit scheme of the tenant’s death, and provide information about the next of kin. If money is required to put right damage/cleaning/for rent arrears etc, then the landlord or letting agent can apply to the deposit scheme for deductions following the normal criteria.

If the tenant was in receipt of housing benefit, you should contact the local authority and notify them of the death. The right to housing benefit ends on the date of death. If the tenant had rent arrears and was receiving Housing Benefit, the local authority can pay the benefit owed up to the level of rent outstanding on the date of their death. Application for this must be in writing.

If there is a will, this states who the belongings should go to. If there is no will, the next of kin are responsible for the tenant’s possessions. The family should be allowed a reasonable amount of time to empty the property – the landlord or letting agent should try and agree a final date with them, preferably in writing. If you cannot find any relatives you must contact:

The National Ultimus Haeres Unit
Procurator Fiscal Office
10 Ballater Street
Glasgow G5 9PS

The role of this organisation is to trace any living relatives of the tenant. Following this, the belongings of the tenant will be collected by a representative and held until a relative can be found. You will be able to get rid of any items which were not taken once you have permission in writing from the Procurator Fiscal Office.

The landlord or letting agent must not take any rent payment offered by the family or by the executor as it could be argued that this creates a verbal tenancy for the person making the payment.

The Key Place will deal with the situation if we fully manage your property for you. However as a landlord, if you are in any doubt, seek advice from the Scottish Association of Landlords, or from a lawyer.