There are only two thing that you can be certain of in life, death and taxes; and a landlord will be more than aware of this. If you have a tenant that passes away it is easy to assume that that brings the tenancy to an end, it doesn’t! Its really important for a landlord to understand their position if they find out a tenant has died, this can be quite a difficult time for everyone involved and landlord should always be professional.
First of all, you should check to see if the tenancy was a sole or join tenant.
If it’s a Joint tenancy – the tenancy, simply continues in the names of the other tenant/s. It is advisable to let the remaining tenants know that you are open to discuss the tenancy when they are ready, if there are changes to the household income or the tenant needs support you can sign post them to the Council for support.
If the tenancy is a sole tenancy and is still within its fixed term, then the remainder of the fixed term is a property right, the ownership of which will pass to the deceased tenant’s Personal Representatives as part of the tenant’s ‘estate’. If the tenancy is a periodic ‘statutory’ tenancy under the Rent Act 1977, then the tenancy will pass either to the spouse (if there is one living) or in some circumstances to a member of the tenants family living at the property at the time of death (for full details see the act) You should try and contact the deceased tenants Personal Representative to discuss the tenancy.
If unable to trace the Personal Representative, you will need to bring the tenancy to an end in the correct manner:
- If the tenancy is in a fixed term you should treat as abandonment
- If the tenancy is periodic you can serve a Section 8 notice using Ground 7
The Personal Representative
The Personal Representative basically inherits the rights that the tenant once held. You should contact next of kin and request a copy of the Letters of Administration confirming who is Executor of the estate. You should then discuss what will happen to the tenancy, and if agreed arrange a surrender of the tenancy. In theory the Personal Representative would become responsible for the ongoing rent and rent arrears (should there be any), however this would not necessarily be a personal liability (i.e. if the tenant owed money and the Personal Representative inherited money from the tenant the landlord could ask for the arrears to be paid out if that).
You should seek legal advice if you wish to pursue the Representative for rent or arrears.
If the tenant dies and are claiming any benefits these benefits will stop. If the tenant was claiming benefits, and some of those benefits are being paid direct to the landlord these should stop. If they continue to be paid you should contact Housing Benefits/ Universal Credit to advise them of the situation. They may ask to be repaid any over paid benefits.
If the tenancy is joint, the remaining tenant might be able to access help towards paying the rent if they cannot manage the full payments on their own. You should advise the tenant to contact the Council for advice.